Winter temperatures up despite chill
As furnaces struggle to keep up with Northwest Colorado’s extended cold snap, residents might think the area is heading into another ice age, but the opposite appears to be true.
Data collected by National Climatic Data Center suggests Colorado will have a warmer-than-normal annual temperature for the year 2000 when the final numbers are crunched.
When the temperatures for the past six years are grouped into seasons and compared to the same time frame 100 years ago, the rise in temperature in winter is higher than other seasons. The average temperature from December through February for 1995 through 2000 is 28.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 4.1 degrees higher than the six-year average 100 years ago. February’s high for the past six years has been particularly warmer, with a 32.2 degree average, which is 7.7 degrees higher than the average 100 years ago.
“For 2000 as a whole, up until the fall, it was a very warm year. That has just changed in the past two months,” said Nolan Doesken, the assistant state climatologist at Colorado State University.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts the 2000 national-average temperature will be the seventh to 12th highest of the 106 years on record. The organization expects the average to be 54.1 or 54.2 degrees, which is warmer than the 52.8-degree average, but down from 1999’s 54.5-degree average.
“I think when it’s all said and done, with the help of that cold November and December, you’ll [Craig] be below that average, but not that far below the country as a whole,” Doesken said.
Sometimes the overall weather pattern doesn’t control local conditions.
“For the past few days, weather outside the Yampa Valley has been quite warm, but it’s been cold as the dickens in the valley,” he said. “Folks in the western valley of Colorado tend, in the mid-winter months, to be way above average or way below average based on snow cover,” Doesken said.
If the Yampa Valley receives a deep layer of snow, the cold tends to settle into the valley. Without the snow, the area tends to be warmer than average, Doesken said.
“This year you got it, last year you didn’t; huge difference in temperatures,” he said.
Climatologists expected last year’s La Nieather pattern to have ended by this winter, but while it took a break in August, it resurged again in November, said Jay Lawrimore, the chief of the climate monitoring branch of the National Climatic Data Center. As of Dec. 11, the country was back in a weak La Niattern, which could be causing cooler temperatures, he said.
“We’re still in La Nibut it is supposed to be weakening,” said Doug Baugh, a weather technician with the Grand Junction National Weather Service Office “It isn’t weakening as fast as expected, so we’re kind of in the same pattern as we were last winter.”
Last year La Niad a strong effect on the country’s weather, he said.
Some people are calling this year’s La NiLa Nada,” which means “nothing,” Doesken said.
Not even a La Nir El Nieather pattern gives climatologists exact information on future weather.
“You can have La Nior two years and have different weather in winter,” Lawrimore said.
According to Doesken, Northwest Colorado’s weather is particularly difficult to predict because of the Rocky Mountains, so forecasters tend to not make specific long-term forecasts.
Doesken believes the past three years have been warmer than average for Northwest Colorado.
“In general, especially in terms of temperature, much of the state has been doing the same thing at the same time,” he said. “A majority of the time we’ve been warmer than average.”
Precipitation is another story. Parts of the state have been facing drought conditions while others have been wetter than usual.
Right now Northwest Colorado is getting a break from the snowstorms.
“The storm track isn’t over Colorado,” Doesken said.
According to Baugh, recent storms have been taking a southerly route through the desert southwest, keeping Craig from getting hit by the white stuff. Most storms are coming in from the Pacific Northwest, moving along the northern U.S. border, and turning to the east and hitting Montana and the Dakotas before traveling to the Great Lakes. Several storms have also been pounding the East Coast with snow.
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