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Long Term Climate - Colorado

Summary of Climatic Conditions - March 2002

Nolan Doesken
Research Associate
nolan@ccc.atmos.colostate.edu

March came in like a lion with a major snow storm across northern Colorado and an arctic cold wave statewide on the 1st. As skies cleared, temperatures dipped to some of their lowest readings of the entire winter on the 2nd. Subzero readings were widespread across both the mountains and plains on the 2nd and 3rd. Sterling dipped to -15 on the 2nd. High mountain valleys were even colder with many locations recording temperatures of -20 or colder. Taylor Park and Antero Reservoir tied for the honors of the coldest location in Colorado with a low of -38 on the 2nd. Leadville dropped to -30, the coldest temperature there in at least a decade and one of the coldest readings in history for so late in the winter. Midwinter-like temperatures remained for several days, and surges of arctic air moved out of Canada across Colorado's eastern plains several more times during the month. Each cold front brought abrupt temperature drops of as much as 40 degrees F. Significant snows fell again on the 8th and 14th with, especially over the northern mountains and along the Front Range. But as the sun climbed higher in the skies, powerful sunshine began to melt some of thin mountain snowpack. Temperatures east of the mountains shot up briefly into the 70s with locally a few low 80s on the 12th, 23rd, 27th and 28th. Campo, in extreme southeastern Colorado claimed the highest temperature for the month with 86 on the afternoon of the 23rd only to see temperatures tumble 65 degrees overnight.

For the month of March 2002 as a whole, temperatures were below average but ranged from near average over extreme southern Colorado to four to five degrees below average at Craig, Yampa and Rifle, The coldest area of the state compared to average was the northeastern plains. Near the Nebraska border, Holyoke ended the month nine degrees F. below average.

Despite cold temperatures and several shots of snow, the month still ended up much drier than average. With the exception of last November, every month has been below to much below average in terms of precipitation since last summer. March precipitation as a percent of average ranged from near zero over portions of southeastern Colorado and less than 50% of average over most of the southern and eastern half of the state to locally above average in a few areas of northern Colorado such as Kremmling and Walden


Water Year Summary

March was the fourth consecutive month with below average moisture over the state. The only major widespread and lasting episode of stormy wet weather this entire winter came during the last week of November when the mountains rejoiced in deep snow. Dry weather has now been the rule statewide since early September. Colorado is not the only area facing drought. From southern Alberta, Canada to New Mexico and Arizona, precipitation has been in short supply. For the first 6 months of the 2002 water year, precipitation varies from near average in a few parts of northeastern Colorado and a very small area of northwestern Colorado near Rangely to much below average over most of the rest of the state. The driest areas of the state reach from southwestern Colorado (Cortez, Durango, Pagosa Springs) northeastward to the foothills just southwest of Denver where precipitation has been less than 50% of average. Another extremely dry area is southeastern Colorado. Areas of Baca, Prowers, Kiowa and Cheyenne Counties have barely received a total of one inch of precipitation since mid September.

A dry winter and early spring this year, following on the heels of the past two years which have been both warmer and drier than average over many parts of Colorado, is resulting in the most widespread drought conditions here in Colorado since the 1970s. As concerns of drought continue to crescendo, we are now reaching our most critical time of year when temperatures and day length increase along with evaporation and water use. The period from later April into mid June usually produces several opportunities for widespread and sometimes heavy precipitation, especially over northern and eastern Colorado. It is unlikely that sufficient precipitation could fall at this late date in the mountains to make up for the deficits in the mountain snow pack, but there is still an excellent chance that precipitation could fall in the next few weeks that would relieve some of the immediate risks of wildfire, blowing soil, and poor rangeland conditions.

 


Data Access Links > Current Weather: ColoradoUSAWorld  | Water Year Data: Colorado  |   Long Term Climate: ColoradoUSAWorld  



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