Salt Lake’s “hottest summer” designation may require an asterisk

Sep 8, 2021, 3:40 PM
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File: Rain is in the forecast for much of Utah on Friday. Photo: Paul Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY — According to the National Weather Service, the summer of 2021 was one of the hottest summers in Salt Lake history.

But at least one Utah meteorologist says the temperatures will need to be followed by asterisks when they go into the record books.

“When we look at the overall numbers for the summer,” said KSL meteorologist Grant Weyman, “you can see places like the Bountiful station, the Tooele station a little closer to average.

“Nowhere near the spikes in temperature that we saw at Salt Lake International Airport,” he continued.

And therein lies the rub. Because the official temperature station for Salt Lake City is located at Salt Lake City International Airport. But in the year 2000, Weyman said the station was moved from a grassy area to an area closer to the airport where there’s more pavement.

“So a lot of meteorologists will look at those temperatures from Salt Lake International and scratch their heads a little … because of that station moving years ago,” Weyman said.

Another factor to consider is the presence of urban heat islands.  Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, indeed much of the Wasatch Front have all experienced dramatic population growth in the last 20 years. 

All those new people are in new buildings with new driveways and new roads. They shop at new shopping centers that have big new parking lots. According to NASA, all of these new non-grass (and often dark) surfaces absorb light and exude heat.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t hot in Utah this summer. It was. Temperature records were broken twice in June and then again, in July.

But Weyman said it’s undeniable that temperatures at other locations along the Wasatch Front seem a lot closer to average than those that came from the airport this year. 

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Salt Lake’s “hottest summer” designation may require an asterisk