Average air temperature looks at how warm or cool a year was overall. This is a helpful metric in comparing conditions across years. For the Forest Health Index, average air temperature is measured using a combination of air temperatures from across your watershed.
Shockingly high: The annual average temperature in 2018 was extremely high. Few or no other years with such hot average temperatures exist on record for this watershed. Extremely hot years can cause human health problems, impact agricultural production, and increase heat and water stress for wild plants and animals.
Air temperature plays an important role in many natural cycles. Warming temperatures in the spring or cooling temperatures in the fall signal to plants and animals when to wake up, hatch, bloom, and find food. Long periods of cooler than average temperatures mean a shorter season for many plants to grow and may create challenges to survival for species not well adapted to cold. Warmer than average years mean a longer growing season for some plants, but they can also mean higher fire risk, lower water supplies, and heat stress for many species, including humans.
Colorado is already experiencing a trend of warming average annual temperatures, and average temperatures are projected to continue rising in the years to come. This warming is a consequence of climate change, which means that how rapidly we warm is something we have the ability to influence, which means that how rapidly we warm is something we have the ability to influence. Choices such as reducing energy use, producing less garbage, driving less, and using renewable energy sources can help slow the speed at which the Earth is warming.