Tag: El Niño-Southern Oscillation

Colorado snowpack off to a poor start

Precipitation lagging behind last year

Last year’s line is green; this year’s is orange.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s still early in the season, but so far, this year’s snow pack in Colorado is running behind even last year’s meager totals for this time of year, as the little bit of snow that fell last month melted away some of the SNOTEL sites.

The Copper Mountain SNOTEL site was reporting 4 inches of snow a few weeks ago, but is now back to zero, for example, and numerous other SNOTEL sites are also reporting at zero.

Exceptions are in the far north, where the Tower site is reporting 5 inches on the ground, and the Never Summer site, leading the state with 10 inches. Grizzly Peak is reporting 3 inches, while Fremont Pass is at 4 inches. Continue reading “Colorado snowpack off to a poor start”


Colorado: Forecasters still grappling with winter outlook

An El Niño often brings decent October precipitation to the high country, but signals are mixed this year.

No clear signal means water managers will be biting their nails for a few months

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Without a strong El Niño or La Niña signal, Colorado weather watchers are struggling even more than usual to get a sense of how much snow to expect this coming winter, critical information for water managers who have seen reservoir storage dwindle to below 70 percent of average for this time of year.

Even if winter snowfall is close to normal, some reservoirs are unlikely to refill completely next spring, leaving utilities in the position of hoping for an above average winter.

“We’re far from through this. The story has yet to unfold,” Blue River Basin water commissioner Troy Wineland said after participating in a weekly statewide water webinar, explaining that many local streams are flowing well below seasonal averages. A few others are close to average due to upstream releases of stored water, he said. Continue reading “Colorado: Forecasters still grappling with winter outlook”

Summit Voice: Weekend headlines & most-viewed stories

Climate costs, ski area expansions and poaching


Study challenges pesticide link with bee colony collapse

Honeybees may be dying from ingesting remnants of insecticides, but that in itself may nor be causing the widespread colony collapse being observed in many areas, according to new research published in the journal Science.

Study: Many nuclear power plants in tsunami risk zones

The Fukushima disaster might not be the last time a tsunami damages a nuclear facility, according to a team of Spanish researchers who there are a total of 23 nuclear power plants at various stages of operation or construction in high-risk areas.

Colorado biologists planning statewide lynx assessment

Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists say they’re close to finalizing a plan to monitor the state’s lynx population by assessing habitat occupancy. If successful, the strategy would enable researchers to determine whether the population of endangered wild cats is sustaining itself over time.

Climate: Ice-free Arctic ahead?

SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite a steady trend of melting Arctic sea ice, experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aren’t yet willing to make any predictions as to when the region will be completely ice-free during the summers.

Colorado: Elk poacher hit with $11,500 fine

SUMMIT COUNTY — A West Virginia man will pay an $11,500 fine for poaching Colorado wildlife. The fine includes a $10,000 penalty that applies when trophy-quality wildlife is poached — in this case a 6×6 bull elk taken on Devil’s Thumb Ranch property in Tabernash earlier this month.

World Tourism Day focuses on sustainable energy

SUMMIT COUNTY — In an era when reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been targeted as a critical priority, it’s more challenging than ever to reconcile tourism with environmental concerns.

Climate: El Niño stalls, outlook uncertain

SUMMIT COUNTY — This year’s El Niño is likely to be one of the weaker versions of the event in recent memory, according to experts with the National Climatic Data Center, who discussed the fall outlook and reviewed the long, hot summer at teleconference last week.

Global tourist visits on track to pass 1-billion mark

FRISCO — Travelers from some of the world’s biggest countries helped spur global tourism to a new record level during the first half of 2012, keeping the industry on track to pass the 1-billion mark for the first time this year.

Most-viewed stories

Climate: El Niño stalls, outlook uncertain

Above-average temperatures to persist across much of the country

Sea surface temperature anomalies as of Sept. 20. Graphic courtesy NOAA.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — This year’s El Niño is likely to be one of the weaker versions of the event in recent memory, according to experts with the National Climatic Data Center, who discussed the fall outlook and reviewed the long, hot summer at teleconference last week.

That could weaken potential impacts, particularly across the southern tier of states, where an “average” El Niño often brings above-average precipitation.This could be especially important for states like New Mexico, which just experienced its driest and warmest 24-month period on record, and farther east, where Oklahoma was also parched during a record-hot summer.

During an El Niño, sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific surge to above average, often shifting the storm track to the south. It’s part of a cyclical shift in sea surface temperatures and related wind patterns that can affect weather patterns worldwide.

Sea surface temps have hovered at slightly above average the past few months in the region where El Niño formation is measured, but haven’t reached the formal threshold yet. An area of cooler water in the north Pacific may be a factor.

The North Pacific is not cooperating … there’s a cold area near Alaska. It’s not quite a perfect setup for a warm event in the tropics,” said NOAA scientist Huug van den Dool.

“It’s probably too late to get a major El Nino … it’s going to be somewhat weaker than we expected a few months ago,” he said, explaining that there’s still a chance for enhanced precipitation across the South. An average El Niño footprint would normally also result in below-average precipitation in the northern tier of states.

A map from the National Climatic Data Center shows where the summer heat wave was centered. Click on the graphic to visit the NCDC online.

El Niño or not, the Climate Prediction Center says there’s a good chance the next three months will bring mostly above average temperatures to a big swath of the country, from the eastern edge of the Great Basin through the central and northern plains, up into the Great Lakes region and New England.

The three-month precipitation outlook is for near-normal total for much of the country, with a chance of above-normal rainfall in the southeast, and drier-than-normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest.

Looking back, Jake Crouch, of the NCDC, said it was the third-warmest summer on record for the U.S. and second-warmest summer for the northern hemisphere. A total of 33 states reported their warmest year to-date on record.

The year to-date is the ninth-warmest on record globally.

Colorado: Does El Niño bring early snow?

Historical stats don’t show big impact on date of first snow

Summit County and a small surrounding area dodged the drought bullet in late July and early August, with rainfall anywhere from 130 to 200 percent of normal, but rainfall maps show that most of the state still experienced well-below average rainfall during that span.
A similar pattern was evident for the three-month precipitation history in Colorado, with just a few pockets of above-average rainfall in the north-central mountains and the western San Juans.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Talk about living in a bubble — the latest three-month summary and outlook from the National Weather Service in Boulder shows that the rainy conditions in Summit County, and a small surrounding area, were the exception in Colorado the past 30 days. Much of the state continued to suffer through extremely dry conditions, especially the eastern plains, where precipitation was just 5 to 50 percent of normal. As a result, much of the state is still experiencing serious drought. Visit the Boulder NWS website to see the full power point presentation. Continue reading “Colorado: Does El Niño bring early snow?”

Climate: Global July temps the 4th-highest ever

Cooler than average readings reported from Australia, South America

Red areas mark above-average temperatures, with blue designating areas that were cooler than average in July.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Already on record as the hottest month of all time in the U.S., July 2012 will now go into the books globally as the fourth-warmest on record.

According to the global temperature analysis released today by the National Climatic Data Center, the average combined land and sea surface temperature for July was 1.12 degrees above the 20th century average. The land surface temperatures alone was the third-warmest on record at 1.66 degrees above the 20th century average.

Last month marked the 36th consecutive July with above-average temperatures and the 329th consecutive month overall with higher-than-average readings. According to the NCDC, the last time July global temps were below average was in 1976.

The warmest temps were reported from southeastern Europe, Canada and the U.S. Much cooler than average temperatures continued in Australia, northern and western Europe, eastern Russia, Alaska, and southern South America.

Even in a transition phase between a cooling La Niña and an emerging El Niño, global ocean temperatures were well above normal, with the highest monthly departure from average since July 2010.

For the year to-date, the combined average land and sea surface temperature is the 10th-warmest on record.

Information compiled from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Global Analysis for July 2012, published online August 2012, retrieved on August 15, 2012 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2012/7.

Climate: Extreme rainfall events increasingly common

Increased atmospheric water vapor seen as key ingredient

Extreme rainfall events have increased in the past few decades.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Parts of the U.S. have seen clear statistical trends more extreme precipitation events in the past few decades, according to a new paper from the American Meteorological Society based on extensive research from federal and state agencies, as well as academic sources.

Increased water vapor in the atmosphere, as outlined by many climate change models, may be one of the key factors in the the observed changes, according to the researchers, who said that weren’t able to measure statistically significant changes in severe thunderstorms.

But for extreme precipitation, “there is strong evidence for a nationally-averaged upward trend in the frequency and intensity of events,” the paper concludes. About 76 percent of all stations reported increases in extreme precipitation. Continue reading “Climate: Extreme rainfall events increasingly common”