Year rises to one of warmest on record

On Thursday, the National Weather Service in Grand Junction tweeted that as of the previous day, Grand Junction was having its fifth-warmest year on record, dating all the way back to 1893 when such records were first kept.

The fifth-warmest year. Yikes! Call the cooler guy. Make some ice. Turn on the ceiling fan. Prepare to melt like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Now now, friends, don’t fret, 2017 is no longer the fifth-warmest on record.

It’s tied for third.

As of Saturday, the average temperature for the first 105 days of 2017 was 42.5, said Jeff Colton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. That ties with the first 105 days of 1995, and is beaten out only by 1934 (44.2 degree average) and 1907 (43.8 average).

“We’ve been trending above normal,” Colton said. “The daytime highs have been fairly close to what we’re used to, but overnight lows have definitely been on the warmer side, so our average temperatures are climbing as a result.”

He said much of the western United States has seen high pressure and hasn’t had cold fronts sweeping through. Also, he added, the high cirrus clouds hovering over the Grand Valley have helped keep overnight lows up because they trap heat, prohibiting it from radiating out.

For example, he said, Sunday’s forecast overnight low was 48, whereas the normal low for this time of year is 37. He said that overnight lows are forecast to be 10 to 15 degrees higher than normal through Tuesday, when Pacific storms will begin rolling through the region, bringing precipitation and lower temperatures.

That may mean a return to mountain snow showers and the possibility of further reducing the risk of summer wildfires.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Michael Morgan, executive director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, announced Friday afternoon that the winter’s abundant snow in the mountains was a good sign for the upcoming wildfire season, helping mitigate some risk.

However, other parts of the state aren’t faring so well, with the eastern plains enduring drought or near-drought conditions and a March wildfire in the northeast corner of Colorado that burned 50 square miles.

At a press conference in Denver on Friday, Morgan said an average Colorado season sees around 45 wildfires that burn an average of 160 square miles. Hickenlooper said the goal is to reduce the number of fires by 10 percent by 2019.

Last year, Morgan said, just 7 percent of Colorado’s wildfires were started by natural causes. The rest had man-made causes including campfires, prescribed burns, arson and debris.


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