Summit County records three days of record-breaking high temperatures
Summit County recorded a rare, mid-March heat wave when Sunday, Monday and Tuesday saw record-breaking high temperatures.
According to data produced by Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center, Sunday’s high temperature was 58 degrees, which broke the record of 57 degrees that dates all the way back to 1916.
Temperatures and other weather data is officially recorded every day by Denver Water staff at the weather station on the northeast edge of Dillon Reservoir.
Monday’s high temperature rose to 60 degrees, besting the 1994 record of 57, and then Tuesday’s high climbed to 61 degrees, higher than the 58-degree record set in 1921.
Wednesday morning’s low temperature of 27 degrees tied for second warmest on record for the day, behind the 30-degree record set in 1974.
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With this week’s high temperatures, snow coverage shrunk rapidly around parts of the county.
“You’ve been melting quite swiftly here just the last few days,” said Nolan Doesken, state climatologist with the center.
In Silverthorne, the Ravens Golf Course closed to snowshoeing and Nordic skiing Wednesday and the North Pond Park ice rink closed about 10 days ago.
Looking at the winter from December through February, average temperatures for the season haven’t broken any records like the highs and lows on specific days.
The mean high temperature for those three months was 34.2 degrees, which is the 25th warmest on record.
Low temperatures came closer to setting a new record. The winter’s mean low temperature of 8.7 degrees is the second warmest.
The overall mean temperature, which is the average of the highs and lows for the season, is the fourth warmest at 21.5 degrees. The warmest winter was in 1980-81 with a mean temperature of 24.2 degrees.
Summit’s winters have not been growing warmer every year, Doesken said, “but in a general way since the early 1990s, the majority of winters have been on the warm side in the Colorado Rockies.”
In Summit’s Blue River Basin, four official monitoring sites recorded high-altitude snowpack on Wednesday, March 18, at 101 percent of median, or almost exactly at the 30-year average for the date.
Lower in the valleys, Doesken said, the data produced by the roughly 10 volunteers in Summit County who measure snowpack for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network dropped quickly out of the top 50 spots in the U.S. and Canada for most backyard snowpack with the heat wave.
“Today it’s down to just the Breckenridge station,” he said Wednesday. “Downtown Boston still has more snow today than Frisco.”
Addressing climate change concerns, Doesken said ski areas in Summit County are uniquely positioned compared to the rest of the country because of their high elevation.
“Those 9,000 feet and above are in good shape for a long time,” he said. “When the climate changes so much that we’re not holding snow at those altitudes then things are crazy.”
Local ski area officials, however, have expressed long-range concerns about how a drop in interest in winter sports nationally over the next few decades because of warm, dry weather elsewhere could negatively affect Colorado resorts.
The National Weather Service forecasted a 50 percent chance of rain and snow for Frisco on Thursday with a high of 40 degrees and placed a winter storm warning in effect until Thursday at 6 p.m.
Friday and Saturday will be sunny with highs in the upper 40s, and Sunday through Tuesday will see similar temperatures with chances of precipitation.
Winter sports enthusiasts wishing they could take snow from the east coasters who would surely give it can hope for a return of the snow similar to what happened in the spring of 2013.
“Temperatures weren’t quite as warm, but the snowpack was pitiful,” he said. “Then starting the end of March it turned around, and you had some of your best conditions as the ski areas were closing.”
March is typically Summit’s snowiest month, he said, followed by April.
In February the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted above average precipitation for Colorado in March, April and May, and NOAA will release an updated forecast Thursday.
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