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Is Northern Colorado Hotter Than Normal This Winter? Signs Point To Yes

Natural Resources Conservation Service
Snow levels across the West are mostly below average, although Colorado is not doing as bad as other states.

Yes, it has been crazy warm. For 2015, Denver broke high temperature records on February 6, 7, and 8, each day above 70 degrees. Fort Collins also had a record high Saturday at 71.

While a winter warm-up is not out of the ordinary, what is unusual is just how warm it's been getting – and how frequently it's been getting warm, said Nolan Doesken, the Colorado state climatologist.

"This business of being in the 60s and even in the 70s for multiple days in a multiple week period, that starts to push the envelope a little bit."

In late January, Fort Collins recorded its warmest January day in recorded history, at 75 degrees, and it was also the first time the city has recorded back-to-back 70-degree days, said Doesken.

Climate change is causing the earth as a whole to warm, so it isn't entirely unexpected that winter temperatures are trending upward, although the temperature on any particular record-breaking day can't be linked to climate change, said Doesken.

The climatologist is currently crunching the numbers on just how record-breaking January and February have been so far. He's also paying close attention to snowpack.

Because in addition to being warm, it's also been dry. This means that the snowpack, which was around average in late January, is slipping.

"It's just not been adding up much here in these last several weeks."

According to new numbers released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this January is Colorado's driest since 1992 [PDF].

Other Western states are also seeing low snowpack – even when storms have come, as they have in the Pacific Northwest, they've gotten rain instead of snow. California has gotten some recent storms, but it has also been unseasonably warm there.

Doesken said March could still bring heavy snowfall. It's historically the wettest month of winter, and "sometimes packs a huge punch of blizzard-type storms."

Stephanie Paige Ogburn has been reporting from Colorado for more than five years, primarily from the Western Slope.
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