About the weather and other disturbances
What a way to scoot out of April. Last week’s weather cycle may have rivaled any one cycle this winter.Let’s hope the continued bulletins from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) are heeded this week when the clouds are supposed to lift for a few days. Remember, there was a lot of wind with this snow.Speaking of snow and weather, the season-ending issue of the CAIC’s publication “The Beacon” presents a most amazing finding. It’s hard to forget what the first half of January brought to the Southern Mountains: up to 8-1/2 feet of snow in the San Juans, 124 inches at Wolf Creek, closures of 158 hours on Red Mountain Pass between Jan. 8-15, avalanches running to historic proportions – cutting off Silverton from the outside world for three days.The CAIC’s Knox Williams and Spencer Logan were looking for a link among similar storm cycles: Feb. 12-24, 1986, (up to 7 feet of snow, 750 avalanches), the first use of the term “Pineapple Express” to describe it’s genesis in the Tropical Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii; Feb. 8-14, 1995, (7-9 feet, 850 avalanches), which began farther north in the Pacific; March 17-20, 2003, (5-8 feet in four days in the Front Range foothills, 200 avalanches, some 50-year events); and this winter. 1995, 2003 and 2005 were classified as “weak” El Niño winters: the Eastern Pacific ocean is warmer than normal, the storm track is farther south and large storms often track from southern California right through to Colorado. Anyone remember the record rainfall in Los Angeles and the mud slides?But what Williams and Logan unearthed is a phenomenon discovered by the National Climate Center: the Madden Julian Oscillation or MJO, a cyclical period of disturbed weather patterns over the Central Pacific ocean.On a time scale of 30-60 days, it is marked by warmer sea surface temperatures and an increase in deep atmospheric moisture. It seems that an MJO can enhance an El Niño to produce spectacular storms.”Between Christmas and mid-January, an MJO episode resulted in a three-week period of disturbances that brought heavy precipitation to much of the western U.S.,” they reported”The 2005 storm had pummeled and devastated southern California before taking aim on southern Colorado, and we can lay blame on our old friends, El Niño and the Pineapple Express, and our new friend, MJO.” I particularly enjoy the quotes opening this article (to read this piece, go to http://geosurvey.state.co.us/avalanche) from CAIC Silverton forecaster Mark Rikkers: “If you weren’t nervous, you weren’t paying attention.”Then this from Jerry Roberts, Silverton forecaster, while photographing a Class 5 avalanche on Red Mountain Pass’ Battleship path: “Run!” to the dozen people beside him. So, now to take this newfound weather pattern one step further, and I apologize to the staff at the CAIC, especially the authors, I’ve been trying to figure a way to explain certain local disturbances which are, well, disturbing, but maybe not so much in a meteorological sense.I find letter-writer Ruth Hertzberg’s rantings about gifted student athletes and a supposed paucity in quality education at Summit High to be highly disturbing. I know a number of these young adults and I would put money on any number of them to not only succeed at universities and beyond, but to actually pass their advanced placement tests and put college credits under their belts as I was able to do. Letter-writer Robert Cooper has been weighing in lately. Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinions, which is why the Daily’s opinion page has flourished since the 2000 election. So I’d like to ask Mr. Cooper his views on Tom DeLay and, gulp, dare I ask, Dr. James Dobson. These guys are right up Mr. Cooper’s alley; maybe he can help me out because I just don’t know what to think anymore.Then, there’s this disturbing annexation talk between the town of Dillon and Mark Thaemert regarding his Fishhook Ranch property.Of course, it’s just a metaphor for oscillations in land-use planning, land ownership and just how much money is enough.I want to think that Mr. Thaemert’s recent change of heart is just an oscillation, that he’ll look on this issue as “what kind of a legacy do I want to leave behind?”
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