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Climate: U.S. temps cooler than average in 2013

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Cooler than average temperatures were widespread across the U.S. in December 2013.

California drought intensifies

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — December 2013 won’t go down in the record books for cold temperatures even though cooler-than-average readings prevailed across much of the country.

The average temperature across the lower 48 states was 2 degrees Fahrenheit below the 20th century average, making it the coldest December since 2009, according to the monthly summary released this week by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Continue reading

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Summit County snowfall near average through December

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January snowfall in Summit County, Colorado.

2013 ended up as 2d-wettest on record for Dillon weather station

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A quarter of the way through the 2014 water year (which started Oct. 1, 2013), snowfall and precipitation in Summit County are just about average, according to data from the two official National Weather Service observation sites.

In Breckenridge, long-time weather watcher Rick Bly measured 27.3 inches of snow in December, just a bit more than the long-term average of 22.4 inches. But the water equivalent in that snow was just 1.43 inches, slightly below the average 1.51 inches, Bly said. Continue reading

Sen. Udall helps secure funding for snow surveys

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NRCS snow surveys help water managers plan ahead.

Temporary budget fix ensures program through August 2014

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For decades, hydrologists have been tromping through the high country of Colorado and around the West to make detailed snowpack measurements. Together with data from automated SNOTEL sites and other tools, the monthly snow-course readings help water managers develop accurate projections of spring stream flows, and  how much water will be available for irrigation and storage.

The information is critical in arid regions, which rely on the winter snowpack as the ultimate reservoir. Federal budget cuts have threatened the program, raising concern among western resource managers, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that it has found a way to maintain funding for the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program — at least through the end of Aug. 2014. Continue reading

National Weather Service revamps winter storm warnings

Experimental forecasts will acknowledge varying threat levels at different elevations

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Graphics issued with winter storm warnings will change to make it more clear that elevation is a factor in winter storm conditions. Graphic courtesy NWS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Planet Earth may be warming steadily, but a few pockets — including right here in Colorado — have been experiencing some chilly temperatures recently.

That includes Grand Junction, Colorado, where forecasters say December 2013 is headed for an all-time record low average temperature. Through Dec. 12, the West Slope town has averaged just 12.8 degrees Fahrenheit, 1 degree colder than the previous record set in 1978.

But don’t let the local cool temps fool you — NASA data released Dec. 13 shows that, globally,  November 2013 was the hottest since 1880, pretty much when accurate record-keeping started. All three record-warm Novembers have come within the past four years, putting to rest the global warming denier myth that there’s a pause in global warming.

Continue reading

Colorado weather: Soggy September

Near-record rainfall at Dillon and Breckenridge

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It was that kind of month …

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — If September felt a little soggy, it wasn’t just your imagination. The official  stats from the two National Weather Service observation sites in Summit County show that it was a month for the record books.

At Dillon, there was measurable precipitation on two out of every three days, totaling to 3.86 inches of water in what is usually one of the driest months of the year. And in Breckenridge, longtime weather observer Rick Bly measured 3.35 inches of precipitation, tied with 1908 as the second-wettest September of all time based on records going back to the late 1800s. Only September 1961 was wetter, with 3.74 inches of water. Continue reading

Colorado: Winter storm watches and warnings issued for the northern mountains Thursday night and Friday

Widespread snow expected across northern mountains

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An active weather pattern in the northeastern Pacific Ocean has spawned a storm that could give Colorado a taste of wintry weather in the next few days.

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Here we go!

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Parts of Colorado’s north-central and northwestern mountains could see up to a foot of snow Thursday night into Friday, courtesy of a strong winter-like storm that buffeted the Pacific Northwest earlier this week and is now heading for the northern Rockies.

National Weather Service forecasters say they’re still not sure exactly how far south the storm will drop, but have issues winter storm watches and warnings for the mountains around Meeker and Steamboat Springs, east to the Winter Park area.

Before moving into the Rockies, the storm dropped several feet of snow across the higher elevations of the Cascades, along with gale-force winds. The storm’s central low pressure was lower than any of the tropical systems that have formed in the Atlantic Ocean so far this year. Continue reading

Morning photo: End of summer …

Changes

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Dusk light on Dillon Reservoir.

FRISCO — Slowly, almost imperceptibly, summer is giving way — but not without a fight. Some years, a sudden cold snap at the end of August, often accompanied by a dusting of snow on the peaks, brings a sharp reminder of the fact that we live at 3,000 meters elevation. But not this year. Instead, the flow of moist, subtropical air out of the southwest has persisted, bringing moist relief to the forests of the Colorado high country. You can almost see the young trees drinking up the water. When the monsoon eventually ends, it’s going to be a rude awakening, at least for photographers who have been enjoying the rich play of clouds in the sky nearly every day. Continue reading

Climate: With no Niño — what’s a forecaster to do?

Fall and winter outlook still murky

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Seasonal weather forecasters look out to sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific to get an idea of what weather patterns may bring.

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Without a stron El Niño or La Niña in the outlook, forecasters are not confident of projecting pronounced temperature or precipitation anomalies.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With no strong El Niño or La Niña on the horizon, forecasters are struggling even more than usual to develop seasonal outlooks for the western U.S. The periodic El Niño-La Niña cycle is a large-scale shift in the Pacific involving a complex interplay of winds, ocean currents and sea surface temperatures.

In the U.S. the warm El Niño phase is associated with wetter than average conditions in the Desert Southwest and California, and can result in below average precipitation in the Pacific Northwest.

La Niña, on the other hand, has been linked with Southwestern drought conditions and heavy precipitation in the Pacific Northwest. That persistent moist flow off the northwestern Pacific can also favor parts of Colorado with good winter snows, but the ENSO climate signal is more marginal in Colorado than in other areas. Continue reading

Hurricane experts still see active season ahead

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Hurricane Sandy as seen from NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite on October 28, 2012. Photo courtesy NOAA/NASA.

Warm ocean temps, strong West Africa rainy season boost chances for tropical formation

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal weather experts this week reaffirmed their earlier projections of an active hurricane season in the Atlantic, with hemispheric patterns similar to those that have produced many active Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995.

Ingredients for tropical storm formation include above-average Atlantic sea surface temperatures and a stronger rainy season in West Africa, which produces wind patterns that help turn storm systems there into tropical storms and hurricanes.

The peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is just ahead, from mid-August through mid-October. Continue reading

Climate: Drought expanding again in Colorado

Odds favor above-average temps the next few months

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June brought dry and warm conditions to Colorado.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After a short-lived burst of late spring moisture, much of Colorado is veering back toward drought conditions, with soil moisture declining in many parts of the state.

Even the north-central mountains, which saw above-average precipitation in late April and May, are drying out again, and parts of Summit and Grand counties are once again designated as experience “moderate” drought conditions, according to the June 18 drought monitor. The far southwestern corner of the state slipped back into “extreme” drought conditions.

And while Denver Water recently eased its watering restrictions, the drought monitor shows that moderate drought conditions have returned to the Colorado Front Range, including Denver, Boulder, Longmont, Loveland, Fort Collins and Greeley. Continue reading

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