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Summit County: October precip close to average


October snow. bberwyn photo.

Temperatures much cooler than average at the National Weather Service observation site in Dillon

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The 2014 water year started with above-average snowfall in Summit County — a good sign for the winter according to Breckenridge-based weather-watcher Rick Bly, who measured 20.5 inches of snow during October. The average snowfall for the month is 12.3 inches.

According to Bly’s historical records, dating back to the late 1800s, above-average December snowfall is followed by an above average winter 70 percent of the time.

That snow melted down to 1.33 inches of water, just slightly above the average 1.27 inches of precipitation in October, which is the driest month of the year in Summit County. Continue reading

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Climate: Laser technology helps unravel the mystery of ice-nucleating bacteria


So many snowflakes, so many mysteries …

Proteins found to remove heat and order water molecules

More Summit Voice snow stories

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Snowmakers at Colorado ski areas have long known that some species of bacteria can help the process of crystal formation, so they use additives derived from those bacteria to help boost output.

The bacteria’s outer membranes include special proteins that help ice crystals form. That helps the bacteria trigger frost formation at warmer than normal temperatures on plants, enabling them to invade through the frost-damaged tissue. When the bacteria die, many of the proteins are wafted up into the atmosphere, where they can alter the weather by seeding clouds and precipitation. Continue reading

Morning photo: Leaves

falling …


Ever since the U.S. Forest Service added this fence, this has become one of may favorite spots for landscape photos. The fence adds a strong linear element to the scene.

FRISCO — Getting one last look before the incoming winter season knocks the last of the colors off the branches, and trying to look for these spectacular autumn leaves in a new way … Continue reading

Powder? On Mars?

Study suggests orographic precipitation patterns on the Red Planet

 Mars from the Odyssey spacecraftWater-carved valleys on Mars appear to have been caused by runoff from precipitation, likely meltwater from snow. Early Martian precipitation would have fallen on mountainsides and crater rims.Credit: Images from NASA

An image of Mars from the Odyssey spacecraft shows water-carved valleys that appear to have been caused by runoff from precipitation, likely meltwater from snow. Early Martian precipitation would have fallen on mountainsides and crater rims. Photo courtesy NASA.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A close look at erosional scars and other landforms on Mars provides more evidence that water once flowed across the planet — and some of it may have come from melting snow that accumulated during orographic precipitation events, the same dynamic that often drives snowfall in the Colorado high country.

Orographic snowfall occurs when moist air is lifted up the side of a mountain by winds, cooling until it condenses into precipitation. The new study published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that four different water-carved valleys on Mars appear to have been caused by just such a pattern.

The research project was led by Kat Scanlon, a geological sciences graduate student at Brown University. Scanlon studied orographic precipitation effects on Hawaii. When she looked at the structure of some of the valley networks on Mars, she suspected that similar forces may have been at work. Continue reading

Summit County: May moisture well above average

Summit County was wet, but much of the state was dry


The central and north-central Colorado mountains were a bullseye for May precipitation as well as below-average temperatures.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The two official National Weather Service observation sites in Summit County both reported above-average precipitation in May, helping to bolster snowpack and runoff in the Blue River Basin.

In Breckenridge, weather-watcher Ricky Bly reported 22.9 inches of snow, nearly double the long-time average of 10.9 inches based on records going back more than 100 years. It was the second month in a row with double the average snowfall. In April, Bly tallied nearly 50 inches of snow, making it the fifth-wettest April on record. Continue reading

NASA mission targets more accurate snowpack data


NASA Airborne Snow Observatory measurements of snow water equivalent (top image) and snow albedo, or reflectivity (bottom image) for the Tuolumne River Basin in California’s Sierra Nevada on April 21, 2013. The snow water equivalent measured the total water contained as snow in the basin on that date at 375 million cubic meters, or enough to fill the Rose Bowl about 1,180 times. The albedo map expresses the percentage of sunlight reflected back to space by the snow. The lower the albedo, the faster the snowmelt rate and runoff. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Aerial surveys with high-tech instruments will create detailed snow maps, yielding better runoff forecasts

FRISCO — Data from an ambitious new NASA aerial program could help resource managers get a jump on global warming, with more precise and timely snowpack measurements.

By Summit Voice

NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory began it’s three-year demonstration mission in April, with weekly flights over the Tuolumne River Basin in California’s Sierra Nevada and monthly flights over Colorado’s Uncompahgre River Basin. Scientists involved in the program hope to start covering the entire Upper Colorado River Basin.

The data is already paying off for power companies and water managers, who can use real-time updates to allocate water resources more efficiently, for storage, irrigation and municipal supplies.

Most snowpack measurements are currently collected via ground-based surveys and from automated SNOTEL sites. Airborne mapping can cover more ground and gather data from areas without observation stations, resulting in more accurate forecasts. Continue reading

Morning photo: Mountain light

First snow, last snow …


Mt. Guyot sunlit above the shadows after one of the last snows of the season.

FRISCO —A little mix and match in today’s photo essay, with some shots from one of the last snowstorms of the season juxtaposed against early season snow images. It may just be that time of year, but the light feels a little warmer in late April than it does in October, but the feeling it evokes is similar. And while we may not have had the best snow season, it’s worth remembering that the storminess began more than seven months ago, and may well go into May, which would be month eight. Just sayin … Continue reading

Morning photo: Winter … in April

Springtime in the Rockies


Morning light highlights the texture of fresh spring snow on the frozen surface of Dillon Reservoir in Summit County, Colorado.

FRISCO —It’s not unusual to get April snows in the high country. After all, when you live at 9,000 feet you have to willing to accept the fact that there are really only two seasons — snow and non-snow. But this year seems a little unusual, especially compared with last year, when spring weather went to the other extreme, with a March heatwave that broke records. The cool and showery weather this month won’t break any records, but it’s been fun going out to capture the late winter scenes around Summit County. Continue reading

Morning photo: Going with the flow …

Winter hangs on


No, it’s not cotton. It’s fresh snow piling up on aspen catkins.

FRISCO — Another day, another snowstorm in Summit County, but the good thing is, you don’t really hear anyone complaining about the snow. Well, maybe a few good-natured comments about flip-flops and bikes, but for the most part, people are quite aware that these April storms are the only thing standing between us and extreme summer drought. As far as photography, you just gotta go with the flow — or with snow, in this case. Continue reading

Morning photo: Insta-snow

One more sparkly winter morning!


This big boulder along the shore of Dillon Reservoir is always much more interesting when it’s covered with sculpted snow.

FRISCO — It’s not every year that you can get up on an April morning and find scenes that look like mid-winter, but after a snow-sparse year like this, I’ll take it whenever I can get it. Probably the most amazing thing was how fast all that new snow melted, probably helped by the dark-colored dust that settled on the surface. Continue reading


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