Has spring sprung?

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The beginning of spring this year has been the warmest ever recorded in Northwest Colorado.

"It looks like as far as a long stretch of warmth, there may be no days since 1948 that have done this," said Bill Pringle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Weather wasn't recorded in Craig prior to 1948. Although the temperature has climbed as high as 68 degrees this early in the year as recently as 1999, it has been at least more than 56 years since the region has experienced such an extended warm spell.

The warm spell began on March 18 when the temperature climbed to 64 degrees. The temperature peaked on March 22 at 76 degrees. Though the temperature dipped to 64 degrees on March 24, meteorologists predict that warm and dry conditions should continue next week after a weekend storm.

But Nolan Doesken, senior research associate at Colorado State University's Colorado Climate Center, warned sun worshippers from counting on the continued warmth for too long.

"Weather patterns are known to change, flip flop, reverse. It's not unusual to stay in a pattern for a week. But in the spring it's extremely unusual to stay in a pattern for a series of weeks," Doesken said.

The recent warm weather pattern has been caused by an unusually strong high pressure ridge that has been sitting in the upper atmosphere over Colorado.

Normally, weather this time of year is caused by storm systems coming off the Pacific Ocean. Pringle described the weather as a "neutral" pattern, meaning it is driven by neither El Niño nor La Niña air currents that generally drive weather in the West and make forecasts possible. There's really no way of predicting what way the weather will go.

But if more typical systems were to come into the area, Pringle said he wouldn't be at all surprised if it snowed in April.

That news comes as no surprise to Bob Meckley, who has seen it snow in Craig every month of the year. But for now, the owner of Tunies and Such Nursery and Landscaping is enjoying an early boost in business as his employees fill daily orders for trees.

Meckley said it's a good time of year to plant trees, because the ground is soft but trees haven't leafed yet. A late frost could kill the leaves, but they would grow back.

Now is the right time of year to rake the dead grass, leaves and sticks off the lawn to prevent bugs from laying eggs under the debris, Meckley said. It's also a good time to aerate the lawn to let water and nutrients into the soil.

It's still early to plant annuals, because just one killing frost could ruin them. Meckley said it's usually safe to plant perennials after May 1. Perennials, because they come back year after year, can be planted anytime.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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