Houston Weather Forecasters Exploring Ways To Improve Heat Warnings

Forecasters with the National Weather Service regularly warn us about bad rain storms and hurricanes. But now, in Houston, they’re hoping to improve warnings about a less-discussed, but no less dangerous, weather risk: heat.

By Travis BubenikJuly 8, 2019 1:28 pm, , , ,

From Houston Public Media:

Even in Houston, a city that has a long love affair with air conditioning, heat kills.

The city’s health department says there were 15 heat-related deaths in Houston and Harris County in 2018, and that Houston alone sees anywhere from four to six heat-related deaths every year.

Nationally, more Americans have died in recent years from extreme heat than any other single form of severe weather.

The Weather Service’s Houston-area office is exploring ways to make sure people better understand the risks of heat. One of the things the office is rethinking is how forecasters calculate “heat indexes” – also known as “feels like” temperatures – that are generally higher than actual temperatures when it’s muggy out.

Lance Wood, science operations officer for the local office, says the heat index equation forecasters use was developed back in 1990. It isn’t ideal for the Gulf Coast, Wood says, because it uses an assumed constant wind speed, whereas Gulf winds can vary a lot.

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