When red-hot isn’t enough: New government heat risk tool sets magenta as most dangerous level

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. meteorological / ˌmi ti ər əˈlɒdʒ ɪ kəl / (adj.) – related to weather conditions

    The meteorological data indicates that it will rain tonight.

  2. worsening / ˈwɝː sən ɪŋ / (adj.) – becoming very bad or unpleasant

    The worsening pollution levels are a growing concern for residents.

  3. hydration / haɪˈdreɪ ʃən / (n.) – the process of absorbing or consuming liquids, such as water, to keep one’s body in good condition

    Proper hydration is essential, especially in hot weather.

  4. reverberate / rɪˈvɜr bəˌreɪt / (v.) – to have a strong effect on people or on things over a period of time

    The effects of the pandemic are reverberating in both large and small businesses.

  5. come into play / kʌm ˈɪn tʊ pleɪ / (idiom) – to have an effect in a situation

    Supply and demand dynamics can come into play when setting product prices in the market.


Read the text below.

Forget about red hot. A new color-coded heat warning system relies on magenta to alert Americans to the most dangerous conditions they may see this summer.

The National Weather Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented a new online heat risk system that combines meteorological and medical risk factors with a seven-day forecast that’s simplified and color-coded for a warming world of worsening heat waves.

“For the first time, we’ll be able to know how hot is too hot for health and not just for today but for coming weeks,” Dr. Ari Bernstein, director of the National Center for Environmental Health, said at a joint news conference by government health and weather agencies.

Magenta is the worst and deadliest of the five heat threat categories, hitting everybody with what the agencies are calling “rare and/or long-duration extreme heat with little to no overnight relief.” It’s a step higher than red, considered a major risk, which hurts anyone without adequate cooling and hydration and has impacts reverberating through the health care system and some industries. Red is used when a day falls within the top 5% hottest in a particular location for a particular date; when other factors come into play, the alert level may bump even higher to magenta, weather service officials said.

On the other hand, pale green is little to no risk. Yellow is minor risk, mostly to the very young, old, sick and pregnant. Orange is moderate risk, mostly hurting people who are sensitive to heat, especially those without cooling, such as the homeless.

“Heat is a threat to our health,” CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen said. She said last year more than 120,000 people were taken to the emergency room in the United States because of heat. Last year was one of the deadliest years in decades for heat, according to government records.

“Heat waves are getting hotter, longer, more frequent and you’re getting less relief at night,” National Weather Service Director Ken Graham said, citing numerous studies in the past decade. “So it’s becoming increasingly serious.”

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • What do you think are the advantages of having a color-coded weather warning system? Discuss.
  • Do you think people in your country take weather warnings seriously? What makes you say so? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • The National Weather Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are two different agencies that worked together to develop the new online heat risk system, which combines meteorological and medical risk factors. What do you think about this collaboration (ex. it is praiseworthy, it sets a good example for future collaborations between agencies)? Discuss.
  • Which agencies in your country do you want to collaborate (ex. Department of Education and Department of Agriculture)? What kind of projects do you think they can do together (ex. initiatives related to school nutrition programs)? Discuss.