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Utah expected to break many temperature records as 'heat dome' arrives ahead of Labor Day



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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's capital city has reached triple-digit heat only three times in September since 1874, but federal meteorologists say Salt Lake City has a shot at doubling that 148-year total this week as a result of a heat wave coming Utah's way to begin the Labor Day weekend.

"We expect temperatures to reach 101F (degrees Fahrenheit) on the 1st-3rd (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) at the SLC Airport, with temperatures a bit cooler on the bench areas of SLC where this forecast point is," the weather service tweeted on Sunday.

Salt Lake City won't be alone in feeling the heat this week, either. Valley temperatures are expected to reach the mid and upper-90s across central Utah, the Wasatch Front and northern Utah, possibly reaching triple digits in areas like Salt Lake City possibly as early as Tuesday or Wednesday to close out August.

Triple-digit temperatures are also forecast throughout most of southern Utah this week.

The hot forecast is based on a "strong, dry" high-pressure system currently building in the Southwest by the California-Arizona border. It is expected to strengthen throughout the week as it slowly moves northeast toward Utah, says KSL meteorologist Matt Johnson.

It'll cover the Beehive State and most parts of the western half of the U.S. by midweek, likely spiking temperatures all over the West and even in parts of the Midwest trapped under the "heat dome."

"This is a huge high — abnormally strong for this time of year," Johnson said, adding that the high-pressure system will push monsoon moisture away from Utah this week.

Full seven-day forecasts for areas across Utah can be found online at the KSL Weather Center.

Adding to the heat records

The forecast tacks onto what has already been a hot year in areas like Salt Lake City. High temperatures in Utah's capital have reached 100 degrees a record 25 times already this year, snapping the previous record of 21. July was also the hottest month ever documented in 148 years of record-keeping — the National Weather Service began collecting the city's weather data in 1874.

This month, which ends on Wednesday, is currently on pace to be the fourth-hottest August in Salt Lake City history. The next record to fall could be the hottest temperature ever recorded in September, which is currently 100 degrees. It was originally set on Sept. 8, 1979, before it was matched on Sept. 1, 2019, and again on Sept. 5, 2020.

The weather service notes that weather models indicate the city could break the current record on three separate days this week alone.

The agency also has tips for people to avoid heat-related illnesses:

  • Avoid strenuous activities during the heat of the day. Save them for cooler times of the day, such as the morning or evening. Children, seniors and anyone with health concerns should stay "in the coolest available place," which may or may not be indoors.
  • Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing to reflect heat.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat light, easy-to-digest foods.
  • Never leave children, people with disabilities, or pets in vehicles unattended.

How long will the heat last?

It's not yet clear how long the heat will linger in the state. The weather service's Climate Prediction Center does, however, list places throughout Utah as having a 66% to 75% probability for above-normal temperatures again between Sept. 5 and Sept. 11, down from this week's 70% to 90% probability. The normal highs for next week are listed to be in the 80s and 90s for most valley areas in the state.

The projections aren't as certain about precipitation, giving many locations almost an equal probability of normal, above-normal or below-normal rain totals. Normal is considered at least a quarter of an inch of rain for most parts of the state.

Another outlook — Sept. 10 to Sept. 23 — is more promising. It lists Utah as being within a 50% to 60% probability for above-normal temperatures through the mid portion of the month but also projects most of the state within higher odds of above-normal precipitation.

Normal temperatures will also begin to cool down as Utah goes further into meteorological fall, which begins on Thursday. The Climate Prediction Center's fall outlook states that Utah has a stronger probability of a warmer and drier-than-normal season.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

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