What’s up with all the rain? | PostIndependent.com

What’s up with all the rain?

Amanda Holt Miller
Post Independent Staff

In the Rocky Mountains, a hub for winter sports enthusiasts and snow lovers, January rain is just about as baffling as an upside-down crossword puzzle.

Rain has been falling off and on for a little more than a week.

“We have been warmer than usual lately,” said Doug Crowley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Temperatures have been in the mid to high 40s during the day and the mid-20s at night, said Oscar McCollum, who measures rain and snow fall for reports to researchers at Colorado State University.

“It’s been 10-15 degrees over the average all over the state,” Crowley said. “We haven’t broken records, but it’s been warm.”

Crowley said the rain is probably not only the result of high temperatures on the ground but also high temperatures in the storms that have passed through the area. The storms developed over the Pacific Ocean and have carried the warm air with them, Crowley said.

“It really only takes a few degrees to make the difference between rain and snow,” Crowley said.

Typically, though Crowley said this varies, precipitation falls as snow during winter months anywhere above 6,500 feet.

When the air above and the air below is warm, like it is now, precipitation tends to fall as rain anywhere below 7,500 feet.

“There’s no difference between rain and snow,” McCollum said. “I have a rain gage and snow collects in that, too.”

McCollum is happy to see precipitation levels going up. In December 2003 there was only .79 inches of moisture. In December 2005 there was 2.2 inches of moisture.

“That’s good,” McCollum said. “It will fill our reservoirs and be good for the farmers.”

Crowley said he would worry that the rain or heavy wet snow that might come with this sort of weather could damage the winter economy on the Western Slope.

But the snow at Sunlight Mountain Resort is in very good shape, said John Barth of the ski patrol.

According to the Sunlight report, the resort had 72 inches of snow since Tuesday. Currently, Sunlight has a 40-inch base at the top of the mountain.

“Nothing’s ever ‘normal’ here,” Barth said. “But we usually get our best snow between February and March. The mountain is in very good shape.”

Crowley said the storm passing today is the last in a series of Pacific storms. The weather should warm up over the weekend and there may be colder weather next week.

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