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Heat dome brings sweltering conditions to Southwest Colorado

Temperatures expected to reach 96 degrees this weekend in Durango
The National Weather Service says a “heat dome” will settle over Southwest Colorado this week, sending temperatures up to 96 degrees this weekend in Durango. The outdoor splash pad at the Durango Community Recreation Center is a cool way to beat the heat. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

A heat dome will settle over Southwest Colorado this week, intensifying temperatures to a scorching 96 degrees in Durango.

June is typically the region’s hottest month. But a two-week delay in atmospheric conditions has pushed those sweltering temperatures into July, said Brianna Bealo, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

The National Weather Service predicts temperatures in Durango to hover in the low 90s until Friday, followed by a peak of 96 degrees through the weekend and into Monday. Cortez is expected to reach 98 degrees on Saturday.

“June is actually our warmest month, so these kinds of temperatures are not unusual for mid- to late-June,” Bealo said. “But our warmest days this week are between 5 and 10 degrees above normal for July.”

A heat dome sitting over Southwest Colorado is responsible for the soaring temperatures. The high-pressure system traps and concentrates hot air, causing it to stagnate and intensify in a particular area.

Bealo said the heat dome is an important feature when it is in the right position, which is typically over the southern plains. It attracts tropical moisture, which plays a key role in driving the Southwest monsoon.

“It’s not in the correct position right now,” she said. “It is further west, and so the region is just seeing very warm and dry conditions.”

For the monsoon to commence, the high-pressure heat dome must shift eastward. However, Bealo said there are no signs of that happening.

“When it (the heat dome) is over the desert Southwest, it blocks a moisture tap that we really want to see,” she said. “If it sits here for the whole summer, then we won’t see a monsoon.”

In 2022, the heat dome had a relatively short stay over Southwest Colorado, lasting only a couple of weeks in June. However, in 2020, it lingered over the region for almost an entire summer.

Utah is expected to experience the hottest temperatures in the Four Corners, with temperatures reaching triple digits.

According to the National Weather Service, heat-related incidents kill more people in the U.S. each year than any other weather event. While extreme heat can impact anyone, certain groups including children, the elderly, pregnant women, outdoor workers and people with existing conditions are particularly vulnerable.

glanderyou@durangoherald.com