Study: Climate change could mean more heat and extreme weather for Colorado | TheFencePost.com

Study: Climate change could mean more heat and extreme weather for Colorado

Kayla Young | Editor

Already this year, Colorado has experienced 34 weather reportings across the state in which the high temperature broke — or tied — a record, according to data from the National Climatic Weather Center.

Record-breaking heat could increasingly become the norm, as average annual temperatures inch upward, according to a study released last week by the Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, both environmental advocacy groups.

Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1994, have come of age with average annual temperatures across the nation 1.6 degrees warmer than when Baby Boomers entered adulthood in the 1970s, the study said. In Colorado, temperatures have increased by 1.9 degrees over the same time frame, while the northeast has experienced the greatest spike. In New York and New Jersey, temperatures have risen by 2.4 degrees.

Environment Colorado campaign organizer Anna McDevitt said the upward temperature trend, accompanied by extreme weather events, has left a dangerous inheritance for the next generation.

"We used to think global warming would happen someday, but someday is now," she said during a phone call with reporters.

Chuck Rhoades, a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service, sat in on the briefing to warn of the dangers of increased wildfire risk in Colorado. Since the 1980s, he said wildfires have become bigger and more frequent.

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"Our research at the Hayman and High Park fires here in Colorado has shown that larger and more severe fires, those that kill most of the forest vegetation and remove organic soil layers, have more serious consequences for stream water quality and municipal water treatment," he said, pointing to the threat to water storage supplies located in the high country.

In a statement released later in the day, water availability also was outlined as a top concern by University of Northern Colorado economics professor Mark Eiswerth.

"Reductions in average precipitation and increased incidence of drought cause water supplies to diminish — but at the same time, reduced natural precipitation and hotter weather increase the demand for water — for example, for the irrigation of lawns and crops," he said. "Uncertainties surrounding water availability have major implications for the economy and public health and well-being."

The study also indicated greater extremes in weather events that could contribute to flooding, water-borne illness and crop damages.

In Colorado, the average precipitation in 24 hours produced by large-scale storms increased 13 percent between 1970 and 2011, the study reported. Again, the East Coast showed the largest increase, with precipitation per large-scale storm increasing by as much as 40 percent in New Hampshire. ❖

2015 record highs and lows in Weld County

January

Highs

Jan. 26: 74 degrees (tied for record for hottest January day); Jan. 27: 72 degrees

Lows

No record lows

February

Highs

Feb. 3: 67 degrees; Feb. 7: 73 degrees; Feb. 8: 67 degrees (tied for record); Feb. 9: 67 degrees (tied for record)

Lows

Feb. 23: 2 degrees; Feb. 27: 3 degrees; Feb. 28: 3 degrees

March

Highs

March 15: 81 degrees; March 16: 84 degrees; March 17: 78 degrees (tied for record)

Lows

No record lows

Year-to-date breakdown

Total record highs year-to-date: 9

Total record lows year-to-date: 3

*Note: Highs through March are for the first 30 days of the month

• • •

For the full report

To view the full study, “Dangerous Inheritance,” click here.

• • •

Cold front on the way

After several warm days, temperatures will cool significantly for the rest of the week, and snow may be on the way.

Today’s high will only reach 72, and the overnight low will fall to 35, with a 30 percent chance of rain and snow, according to the National Weather Service.

On the Thursday, there is a 70 percent chance of rain and snow. The high is only expected to reach 41, and Thursday’s low will fall to 25, the weather service projected. Highs in the low 40s will stick around through the end of the week, as will the chance for precipitation.

For more weather information, go to Page B10 in today’s Tribune.