Report: Warmest December in decades for Aspen |

Report: Warmest December in decades for Aspen

Aspen’s 2010 weather followed the rest of the globe with fewer cold days than usual and continued warmer-than-average weather, especially in December, according to the city’s annual Air Quality and Temperature Report, released Wednesday.

“Aspen had its warmest December in the last couple of decades, with the warmest average night temperatures and more warm days than usual,” said Lauren McDonnell, director of the city’s Canary Initiative, which is focused on climate change. “Night temperatures were an average of over 8 degrees warmer than normal for the last 30 years.”

December also was one of the wettest in recent years, with unusual amounts of rain instead of snow in the middle of the month. Snow cover in town was at its lowest amount in the last decade for the end of the year.

Globally, 2010 was tied with 1998 and 2005 for the warmest year on record, the report states. The report also notes that 50 years ago, Aspen typically had 20 days of below-zero temps annually, but now there are typically fewer than 10.

“This makes it more challenging each year to make and keep snow on the ski areas,” McDonnell said. “Aspen used to have 73 frost-free days per year, but now has 144 days.”

Temperature records have been kept in various locations dating back to 1914. Now weather records are recorded at the Aspen Water Plant.

The annual report also shows recent levels of both PM-10 and ozone air pollution. PM-10 is particulate air pollution caused almost exclusively by traffic, responsible for an estimated 60,000 deaths in the United States each year. Aspen’s PM-10 levels are highest on days with heavy traffic. In 2010, an unusual “red dust” event brought dust from Utah and Arizona to Aspen, causing the highest PM-10 day of the year.

Ozone is also measured in Aspen. The highest level recorded on the Western Slope occurred on Aspen Mountain a few years ago, so Aspen began a monitoring program in 2009.

“The federal standard is being revised, so it isn’t known yet whether Aspen’s levels will be within the limits or above them,” said Jannette Whitcomb, the city’s senior Environmental Health program coordinator. “Aspen had 10 days in 2010 when levels were above the strictest proposed standard.”

Ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation and congestion.

For a full copy of the report and past reports, visit this web page

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