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Old Man Winter has gone missing

Record highs across state; warm temps in the forecast
“I want it to snow more, but it’s a pretty nice reprieve from the cold,” said Ashley King, right, who was climbing with friends on Saturday at “Road Boulder” near Turtle Lake. At left is Jake Gerry, who also took advantage of the warm weather to get some bouldering in before going to work at the Rock Lounge.

On Friday, it was 82 degrees in La Junta. In Pueblo, it was 78. Colorado Springs was 72, and in Denver, it was a balmy 70.

Chinooks – warming winds pushing down over the mountains – blew up to 50 mph along the southern Front Range. In folklore, the name means “snow eater.”

Durango is also enduring confusing warm weather. Friday’s high was 59; it’s normally 40. There is more confusion to come.

Norv Larson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, called it “crazy warm.”

Sunday in Durango will hit 58, Monday 61 and Tuesday 58.

So much for winter – at least this week, and maybe next. The snow we have had melted, so it’s even warmer.

“And without that snow in place to radiate away the sunlight, the ground is a much more effective heat transfer surface as compared to snow,” Larson said.

Colorado’s snowpack is at 83 percent of its historical median, and the region – at 66 percent – is the second lowest in the state.

“It’s just been an unusually mild year,” he said.

The snowpack is constantly changing. Snow falls, and snow melts. And for now, it’s going to fall less and melt more. In the next 10 days, the lowest predicted high is 50 degrees for Durango – and this Wednesday, it might rain.

“There is a weak system next week that we’re hoping will bring some precipitation, but it’s not going to be a major producer,” Larson said. “As warm as Durango is, it’s likely that you won’t see any snow, and if you do, it wont be the accumulating variety, it will be the hit-the-ground-and-melt variety.”

It’s early February, and Durango Parks and Recreation has cancelled next weekend’s Chapman Hill Freestyle Contest. Meanwhile, Hillcrest Golf Club is preparing for a March 2 opening. Cyclists, runners, climbers, hikers, walkers – all are outside. On Saturday, the Animas River Trail swarmed. Is winter over? Another month, and the clocks spring forward for daylight saving time.

While northern California and the Pacific Northwest brace for substantial rain after months of drought, Southwest Colorado may see more of the same.

But there is hope.

“It doesn’t look like any significant change is coming to this pattern for a while,” Larson said. “But the three month outlook looks good. March and April are shaping up to more normal in terms of temperature, with a better chance of precipitation. Let’s just hope that’s right.”

bmathis@durangoherald.com

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