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Climate: Bioparticles in dusty air may be key to rain and snow formation

Tiny bioparticles in atmospheric dust play a big role in the formation of raindrops and snowflakes. bberwyn photo.

Tiny bioparticles in atmospheric dust play a big role in the formation of raindrops and snowflakes. bberwyn photo.

Researchers starting to take nuanced look at chemical composition of aerosols

Staff Report

FRISCO —Scientists have long known that tiny grains of airborne dust are key players in the formation of rain and snow, driving precipitation patterns across the drought-stricken western U.S. and other areas.

New research suggests that  the exact chemical make-up of that dust, including microbes found in it, is the key to how much rain and snow falls from clouds.  The information could help better predict rain events, as well as explain how air pollution from a variety of sources influences regional climate in general.

“We’ve learned that not all of the particles in the air at high altitudes have the same influence on clouds. We’re starting to think that these differences contribute to how rain gets distributed,” said Dr. Kim Prather, who presented her findings at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society last week in San Francisco. Continue reading

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Morning photo: Monsoon season!

Misty mountains

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Early morning cloudscape pano near Frisco, Colorado.

FRISCO — For a few weeks every summer, Colorado’s weather pattern experiences a seasonal shift that gives us a taste of the tropics. As big high pressure areas move around, moisture often streams into our mountains from the south, keeping the air moist and temperatures relatively warm at night, since the clouds, or even just the moist air, act as a blanket and prevent the day’s warmth from radiating back into space at night. It may be hard to believe, given how much snow we get in the middle of winter, but our monsoon season is actually the wettest time of year in Colorado. And, of course, it’s one of the best times to snap pictures of dramatic cloudscapes. Continue reading

Morning photo: May snow

Springtime in the Rockies …

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Blades of grass in roadside puddle catch the spring snow in Frisco, Colorado.

Even though it feels a bit weird every time it happens, May snow is not really all that unusual in high-elevation mountain climates. In fact, when I look back through the Summit Voice archives for the past few years, I see that there have been at least one or two May snowstorms almost every year, with 2012 as a recent notable exception. The wet snow that falls in May sticks to everything, and the opening buds on many of the trees also help provide platforms that catch the flakes so even just a couple of inches can look pretty impressive. And it’s always a good time to get out and enjoy the fluff because by this time of year, each snowfall could easily be the last for the next 5 months or so. Visit our online Summit Voice gallery at Fine Art America for more Summit County nature and landscape images. Continue reading

Morning photo: Best of April

Month of contrasts …

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A straight out of the iPhone HDR shot, Meadow Creek wetlands, Frisco, Colorado.

FRISCO — What a month! Seemingly endless snowfall, at least for a while, with a major meltdown under way at valley elevations at the same time. As always, April was a month of contrasts, reflected by the images in our monthly compilation. From fiery sunrise to icy mornings and full moons, you can find more Summit County landscape and nature photography at our Fine Art America online gallery. Continue reading

Morning photo: Sunday set

Got color?

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Summit sunset.

FRISCO — After a snowy start to April, winter finally relaxed its grip late in the month, with warmer days and at least a handful of clear mornings and evenings. Nothing against plentiful snow — I love it — but after months of shooting gleaming white snowscapes, it’s nice to get some color back in the scene, and it feels good to hike around on bare ground. Plus, the first wildflowers are starting to show (pasque flowers along the Ptarmigan Trail), and even though the early displays are modest, all the winter moisture should translate into a brilliant display of blooms the next few months. Click on the photos to see them full size, and check our online gallery at Fine Art America for more Summit County nature and landscape photos. Continue reading

Morning photo: Here and there …

April awesomeness

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At the edge of the meadow.

FRISCO — A couple of quick jaunts through Summit County this weekend yielded a few decent snapshot, including the muted sunset in the first image, brought to life with th iPhone’s HDR option, not to mention some Instagram editing. Along with the scenic shots of Summit County, I got up close and personal with a couple of roadside embankments, exploring the emerging mosses and icicles. If you enjoy our daily snapshots, please visit the online Summit Voice gallery at Fine Art America. Continue reading

Breck snowfall above average 4 months in a row

Fourth-snowiest year on record in Summit County

Big snows coated the Gore Range in March 2014. bberwyn photo.

Big snows coated Colorado’s Gore Range in March 2014. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Another month of above-normal snowfall has put Breckenridge on track for its fourth-snowiest winter on record, according to National Weather Service observer Rick Bly, who measured 37.4 inches at his backyard gauge.

That makes it the 10th-snowiest March, a month that sees average snowfall of 25.5 inches. Bly said precipitation has been above average for four straight months. During the current water year, which started Oct. 1, only November saw slightly below normal snowfall. Precipitation (the combination of melted snow and rain) for the water year to date is already at 15.2 inches, nearly six inches more than average. Continue reading

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