At the Durango Nature Studies’ office, weather tends to be a popular discussion topic – ranking right up there with the latest tips and tricks in pedagogy and, of course, the Monday morning debrief about weekend outings.
Since our educational programs and youth camps all occur outside, we tend to be vigilant in our weather watching. I’m pretty confident the DNS team is not alone in its weather fixation though. There are a wide variety of occupations and recreational pursuits in this region that are predicated on the weather.
Earlier this month, I was driving to the Front Range to visit family, but my heart was with family and friends in the mid-Atlantic who were hunkered down as Hurricane Dorian moved from pummeling Abaco and Grand Bahama islands to buzzing the mid-Atlantic coastline. I moved back to Durango after living in the mid-Atlantic for 16 years, enduring property damage from hurricanes Isabel (2003) and Irene (2011). I listened to a story on the radio about how hurricanes have slowed down as global temperatures have increased, intensifying their damage.
Meanwhile, as I continued my trek to the Front Range metropolis, I saw the ominous dark clouds that had been forecasted. Soon enough, my mind was snapped back to the afternoon thunderstorms of Colorado as my drive intersected a torrential downpour and hail, dropping up to 3 inches of rain in 30 minutes in certain places. This particular storm caused flight cancellations at Denver International Airport and closed Interstate 70 because of rockslides, stranding city dwellers eager to head into the mountains for the weekend. Extreme weather events – whether its high temperatures or thunderstorms – have increasingly affected travel, particularly air travel as anyone who flies out of Durango can attest.
I returned to Durango on Sunday and saw the front-page article in The Durango Herald on how hotter, drier weather is affecting Mesa Verde National Park, resulting in changes to the flora and fauna and threatening the historical sites.
Drought, thunderstorms and other weather phenomena are normal, but we see extreme weather with greater frequency. If we think about the past 18 months in the Four Corners, we’ve gone from an abnormally dry winter and summer in 2018, to record snowfall in winter 2019 and then, another dry summer. In fact, the National Integrated Drought Information System has us on the cusp of a moderate drought because of the dearth of rainfall this summer. I, for one, welcomed the rains and cooler temperatures that arrived this week.
I’m also excited that we’ve kicked off our education programs for the 2019-20 school year, focusing on programs for third, fifth and seventh grade students throughout the region this fall. Our fifth grade program focuses on weather, providing students with tangible experiences in determining barometric pressure, wind speed, relative humidity, cloud cover and cloud type. Fifth graders will emerge from our program with a better understanding of what weather is, and perhaps more importantly, understanding what causes changes in weather and how those changes affect the world around us.
If you’re interested in learning more about (or volunteering with) DNS education programs, feel free to contact us.
Stephanie Weber is executive director of Durango Nature Studies. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.