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Did Your Corner Of Colorado Break A Warm Winter Record?

Colorado Climate Center
Temperature departures from normal in Colorado from January 25 through February 8.

This winter in Colorado, we're not just getting record-breaking warm days. We're getting record-breaking weeks.

According to an analysis from the Colorado state climatologist's office, a two-week period from late January to early February has smashed through many long-term records.

Daily temperature records get broken all the time, but a longer period of record-breaking warmth is more unprecedented. Four Colorado towns with long-term weather stations – Akron, Dillon, Fort Collins, and Steamboat Springs – have experienced their warmest two-week period on record for the period from Jan. 25 through Feb. 8.

Fort Collins temperature records go back 127 years. For Denver, whose temperature records go back 144 years, the average temperatures for those two weeks are the fourth warmest on record.

Credit Colorado Climate Center
Colorado Climate Center
A map of state temperature records shows a veritable measles outbreak of records broken across Colorado.

Many daily temperature records have also been broken over this time – the town of Karval, on the Eastern Plains, set a record of 78 degrees Feb. 7, blasting through its previous record of 64 on that date, from 34 years ago.

The temperature in La Junta hit 82 degrees Feb. 6. Let's just take a minute to think about that. 82 degrees. In February. In Colorado. That broke that town's record for that date, set 70 years ago, by 13 degrees.

"The most recent year similar to this, mainly on the Front Range, was 2013," said Wendy Ryan, assistant state climatologist. 2003 was also similar, but then the other high-ranked temperatures come from the 1930s and 1950s, which were periods of drought for the state.

It's also been dry, but the lack of snowfall isn't unexpected, added Ryan. This is the dry season for the Front Range, and snowfalls often return in March.

What is unusual is the length of the warm period, with "just a few days of cooler temperatures breaking the heat.

Ryan says there is some evidence that the warmth is causing snowpack to melt in Colorado's southwest – not a good sign, since snowpack is already well below normal in those areas.

There is some good news. The long-term climate outlook for late February shows a greater than average chance of moisture returning to the Southwest, including Colorado. Here's hoping.


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