If you live in Idaho, you’re no stranger to seeing colors on an air quality map. It seems like every year high school sports practices and other outdoor events get canceled or postponed due to “unhealthy” air quality. You may be familiar with each of the air quality colors, but now there’s a new color system that you need to be familiar with. 

Especially as Idaho gears up for a very uncomfortable string of triple digit days. At press time, the longest streak of triple digit weather in the Boise area stands at 9 days. It has happened in 2003, 2006, 2015 and most recently June 28-July 6, 2021.

READ MORE: 11 Things You Should Never Leave in Your Car on a Hot Idaho Day

There’s a very real possibility that we’ll break that record in the coming weeks. While the National Weather service only predicts high temperatures out seven days in advance, Weather Underground has their predictions posted through July 21. If their forecast is accurate, we could see 14 straight days of triple digits. Those temperatures can be extremely dangerous. 

Thermometer Reading One Hundred Degrees On A Weathered Wall Of Wooden Shingles
Ingram Publishing

The United States Department of Health and Human Services explains that in a typical year, about 702 Americans die from heat-related illness. In 2023, Phoenix alone saw more than 560 people die during a heatwave. The Texas Tribune reports that more than 300 people in the Lonestar State died due to extreme heat, too. 

That’s why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and CDC are teaming up for a new experimental HeatRisk map in 2024. The whole goal is to provide a forecast of how dangerous heat could impact activities over a 24-hour period. To make that forecast, they look at how unusual the temperature is for the time of year, the duration of heat during the day and night and if the temperatures could post a risk of heat-related impacts based on data from the CDC. 


The map officially debuted at the beginning of May and the forecast is shown using a color system similar to the one you know for air quality. The colors are green, yellow, orange, red and magenta. 

Stay Inside If You See This Color on the HeatRisk Map

Traditionally, people think that the color red represents the worst case scenario on weather maps, magenta is the worst color on the HeatRisk Map. Magenta means “extreme” which the NOAA describes as:

This level of rare and/or long-duration extreme heat with little to no overnight relief affects anyone without effective cooling and/or adequate hydration. Impacts likely in most health systems, heat-sensitive industries and infrastructure. 

In other words, when Boise DOES end up in the magenta this summer (most likely this week), these are the days that you’ll want to skip that afternoon walk on the Greenbelt. Stay inside and enjoy the AC. Wear light-colored and light weight clothes if you have to be outside and keep yourself as hydrated as possible.

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As you’re watching your hydration, make sure you’re getting the proper amount of electrolytes, too. This author is prone to heat-related illness and once washed all the salt out of her body by drinking nothing but water leading up to an evening cross country race on a hot day. She collapsed at the finish line. 0/5 stars. Do not recommend. 

11 Things You Should Never Leave in Your Car on a Hot Idaho Day

From fire hazards to burns, there are good reasons why these things should NEVER be left in your vehicle on a hot summer day in Idaho.

Gallery Credit: Michelle Heart

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