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Climate: What’s up, El Niño?

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A NOAA map shows warmer than average ocean temperatures in red developing off the coast of South American during the past few months, but sea surface temps are also remaining warmer than average across the western Pacific, hampering development of a full-fledged El Niño.

Widespread ocean warmth may hamper development

Staff Report

FRISCO — This year’s brewing El Niño may be dampened by widespread warm sea surface temperatures across the Pacific Ocean, according to weather experts. Specifically, ocean temperatures across the far western Pacific have remained so warm that one of the key ingredients for a full-strength El Niño is missing — a significant difference in temperatures between the western and Eastern Pacific.

But so far this summer, warmer than average temperatures are spread across the Pacific from east to west. Just last week, the National Climatic Data Center announced that the average global temperature for June was the warmest on record, driving in large part by warm oceans. Continue reading

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Environment: Emerging El Niño triggers call for fishing restrictions to protect endangered sea turtles

Loggerhead sea turtle. Photo courtesy NOAA/Marco Giuliano.

A loggerhead sea turtle swimming over a coral reef. Photo courtesy NOAA/Marco Giuliano.

Ocean advocates say warming ocean drives sea turtles into floating gillnets

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with the potential for affecting weather over North America, the emerging El Niño conditions on the Pacific Ocean could pose a  threat to endangered loggerhead sea turtles, conservation advocates say, calling on federal fisheries managers to implement legally required restrictions on gillnet fishing to protect the turtles.

When ocean waters in the eastern Pacific get warmer, the loggerheads tend to move into commercial fishing grounds, where they often die after getting tangled up in nets. When El Niño is occurring or forecasted, the Pacific Loggerhead Conservation Area (California ocean waters east of 120 degrees latitude) is, by law, closed to drift gillnet fishing during June, July and August. Continue reading

What does El Niño mean for Colorado?

Wet summer possible across much of Colorado

Staff Report

FRISCO — El Nino may bring above average rainfall to Colorado this summer, Grand Junction-based forecasters with the National Weather Service said in their latest update. The cyclical shift in Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures affects the path of moisture moving off the Pacific and across the western U.S.

Visit NOAA’s El Niño page, where weather experts are maintaining an El Niño blog to track the developing pattern.

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NOAA maps show a classic El Niño pattern with a streak of warmer-than-average sea surface temps extending along the equator from the South American coast westward.

Based on computer model projections and comparisons with past years under similar emerging El Niño conditions, probabilities are tilted toward above-average precipitation for much of the summer, especially in late summer going into early autumn.

The biggest effects of El Niño are often felt during the winter months, but right now it’s unclear how strong this year’s El Niño will be or how long it will persist. Looking at the series of most recent El Niños, forecasters detect an overall trend of drier than average conditions, with periods of good snowfall scattered throughout the winter months.

Strong storms in late fall can put down a good base in the Colorado mountains, but El Niño winters are also often marked by long spells of dry weather in between stormy patterns.

 

 

Climate: May temps near average across the U.S.

Year-to-date readings also close to average

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A temperature sandwich across the U.S. in May.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The average temperature across the U.S. was 1 degree Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, making it the 32d-warmest May on record, according to the latest report from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Both the East and West coasts were warmer than average during May, while much of the central U.S. had near-average temperatures.

For the spring season (March- May), the average temperature was 0.2 degrees above the 20th century average, ranking the season near the middle of the pack for the 120-year period of record. Continue reading

Climate: Average April across the U.S.

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Temps for year-to-date still running below average

Staff Report

FRISCO — Despite a few cold snaps here and there, the average April temperature across the U.S. was remarkably close to normal, at .7 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, according to the latest monthly report from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

Most of the country saw near-average readings for the month, with a narrow belt of above-normal temps along the West Coast and pocket of cold in the upper Midwest.

For the year to-date, however, the average temperature across the contiguous 48 states is .4 degrees below the 20th century average, making in the 36th-coldest January to April period on record, and the marking the coldest start to the year since 1993 — mainly due to very cold readings in the eastern U.S. Read the full report here. Continue reading

Study: Birds have highly developed weather ‘radar’

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Study offers new insight into long-distance avian migration.

‘We think that these behaviors represent a previously unknown cognitive ability …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some migrating birds may be able to sense weather patterns on a hemispheric scale, helping them optimally time their nonstop transoceanic flights.

Bar-tailed godwits, the ultra-marathon champions of migration, breed in Alaska and spend winters in New Zealand and a recent U.S. Geological Survey-led study suggests that these birds can sense broad weather patterns.

Careful monitoring of the birds suggest they time their departure  to match the best possible atmospheric wind conditions possible within a two-week window. Remarkably, not only were the conditions optimal for take-off, but they almost always provided the best possible conditions for the birds’ entire flights, as far as 7,000 miles in eight days between Alaska and New Zealand.

Continue reading

Near-record snowpack in parts of Colorado River Basin

A faint sheen of color above Buffalo Mountain marked sunset, with more moisture rolling in from the West.

A faint sheen of color above Buffalo Mountain marked sunset, with more moisture rolling in from the West.

Colorado’s north-central mountains favored by this winter’s storm track

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Summit County remained a target for above average precipitation in February, with both official weather stations reporting surplus snowfall for the month. The Upper Blue in particular benefited from the storm track, with the snowpack now approaching record levels.

To date, the snowpack  in the Blue River Basin is the third highest on record, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Chad Gimmestad, who said there is a moderate potential for spring flooding in the basin. Continue reading

Colorado: March 1 survey shows healthy snowpack

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Big parts of the West are experiencing a moisture deficit this winter, with drought continuing in California.

Northwest flow favors Colorado’s northern mountains

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — For the third month in a row, Colorado snowpack is tracking above average. February, ended with the snowpack at 116 percent of median, with snowfall to-date for the water year (starting Oct. 1) at 133 percent of average.

A series of wet storm cycles pummeled the mountains during the month, with the bullseye over the north-central region, where some stations reported nearly double the average monthly snowfall. The no-Niño weather pattern has left a moisture deficit in the southwest part of the state, where the Upper Rio Grande and the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins, are still experiencing below normal snow conditions for this time of year. Continue reading

Climate: A tale of two winters

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Colorado stands out as one of the few western states with above average precipitation during January 2014.

January 2014 cool and dry across the U.S.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The monthly summary from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center tells a tale of two winters across the United States, with cold conditions and big snows in the eastern half of the country and record drought and warmth in parts of the West.

Overall, the nationally averaged temperature across the contiguous 48 states was 30.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 0.1 degrees below the 20th century average, making it the coldest January since 2011, according to the state of the climate report for January 2014. Continue reading

Climate: Storms bolster Colorado snowpack

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Colorado’s snowpack is above average as of Feb. 1.

Feb. 1 snow survey results suggest decent spring runoff for most of the state

By Summit  Voice

FRISCO — Colorado’s snowpack surged to above average in late January thanks to a strong storm that brought snow statewide, federal water experts said last week. The Feb. 1 snow survey showed the average snowpack across the Colorado mountains at 107 percent of average, and 152 percent above last year’s Feb. 1 reading.

As of Feb. 1, only the Upper Rio Grande (82 percent) and San Juan (79 percent) basins in the southern part of the state were below average, according to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Continue reading

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