Colo. weather goes to extremes

Colo. weather goes to extremes

Half of state’s counties endure record-breaking heat in 2012

Colorado notched 114 new weather records in 2012 with record-breaking heat in 33 counties, a Natural Resources Defense Council report released Tuesday shows.

Nationwide, 3,527 records were set last year for heat, rain and snow, the report said. In 2011, the nation racked up the 3,251 weather records.

“The unparalleled record-setting heat demonstrates what climate change looks like,” Kim Knowlton, the Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist, said in a statement. “This extreme weather has awakened communities across the country to the need for preparedness and protection. Now our leaders must act.”

In 2012, Colorado saw 80 new heat records established in 33 of its 64 counties, 22 new rainfall marks in 15 counties and 12 snow records in eight counties.

The state also recorded 43 major wildfires.

No rain, snow or temperature records were set in La Plata and Archuleta counties.

Knowlton said the two counties may have registered daily records, but the defense council’s system looks at monthly records.

Montezuma County, however, had a new monthly highest maximum temperature of 85 degrees on April 23, exceeding by one degree the temperature of the day before.

Montezuma also recorded a monthly highest minimum temperature at Mesa Verde National Park of 63 degrees on May 23, one degree higher than the temperature on May 12, 1934.

Montezuma County recorded a new record for precipitation – 2.75 inches on July 5, exceeding the previous record of 1.92 inches recorded on July 26, 1957.

Federal government archives seem to concur with the defense council’s.

A recent report by the National Climatic Data Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that 2012 was the second hottest year in Colorado in 118 years. It also said that the spring of 2012 showed the third-largest departure from the 20th-century average (5.9 degrees warmer), and the summer 2012 was the seventh-largest departure from the 20th century average (4.9 degrees warmer).

Among the “factoids” in the national center’s report: In 2012 there were 356 all-time record high temperatures tied or broken; four all-time record low minimum temperatures were tied or broken; 19 states had their warmest annual period; and 66 percent of the country was experiencing drought in September, a record in the 14-year national drought monitor.

The defense council report gave similar temperature tidbits:

The country as a whole, excluding Alaska, experienced the hottest March on record, and July was the hottest single month ever in the Lower 48.

Among the most significant weather disasters, the defense council report found:

The summer of 2012 was the worst drought in 50 years across the nation’s breadbasket, with more than 1,300 counties in 29 states declared disaster areas.

Wildfires burned more than 9.2 million acres and destroyed hundreds of homes. The average size of fires set an all-time record of 165 acres, exceeding the 2001-10 average of 90 acres.

Hurricane Sandy’s surge height, 13.88 feet, broke the all-time record in New York Harbor and ravaged communities with wind and flooding.

The defense council recommended that decision-makers minimize the impact of climate change by limiting carbon emissions from power plants and vehicles; incorporate climate change into emergency planning; and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency prioritize addressing and preparing for climate change by providing guidance and resources to state and local governments.

An online interactive map shows where record rain, record snow, record temperature, flooding, drought, wildfires and extreme events occurred.

On the Net

Natural Resources Defense Council report:

Colo. weather goes to extremes

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