Mike Nelson's Weather Blog: November 2010

Our recent spate of wind, cold and snow has brought Colorado some excellent early season skiing, but also some tricky travel. The storm track is racing over the nation during this Thanksgiving weekend with a healthy serving of stormy weather for many parts of the nation.

TheDenverChannel.com has plenty of great resources for your weather needs. Here are some quick links to seven of my favorites!

FutureCast- An exclusive feature that you will not find from any of the other local TV or newspaper websites.

Custom Forecast - A FREE point and click forecast service that gives you hour by hour precision forecasts!

InterActive Radar - You control this realtime radar! Zoom in right down to your backyard.

Airport & Flight Status - Want to know if your flight is on time, click here! Plus scroll down a bit and get the forecast for your destination!

Jet Stream - Try this one! You can see the current jet stream position, and see the forecast for the winds aloft. A great way to keep an eye on the storm track. Also click on the other tabs to check the snow cover, weather fronts, air quality and much more!

Ski & Snow Report - Simply the best local snow page! Not only a list of the current snowfall, but a current picture of the weather at your favorite resort. I challenge the other TV stations to even come close!

7 Day Outlooks - Not just the Denver 7 Day Forecast, we give you 7 Day Forecasts, current conditions and an image from two dozen cities around the region. Try and find that on the "other" TV websites!

In the 24/7 Weather Center, our goal is to provide the best weather on the web! Stop by anytime and click around - you will see the 7News difference!

There is an excellent opportunity coming up to learn more about the critical role that drought and fire play in our environment in Colorado. This free event is brought to you by the Colorado State University Alumni Association and is titled: Colorado Fires: How far should we go to stop them?

The event will be held at the REI Denver Flagship store: Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 7 p.m.

Join a panel of Colorado State University experts as they address the paradox of successful fire exclusion: as we have become more efficient at suppressing wildfires, the wildfire problem has only become worse. The experts will shed light on fuels treatments, the risks and hazards of fires and the various collaborative projects put in place to reduce and restore healthy ecosystems, as well as public safety and wildland/urban interface of dealing with fire.

Panelists will include Dr. Frederick “Skip” Smith, Interim Department Head and Professor of the Colorado State University Department of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship; Dr. Peter Brown, Science Associate of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute and Director of Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research; and Boyd Lebeda, District Forester for Colorado State Forest Service.

Click here to register for this free event! We hope to see you there!

The dry conditions that often plague Colorado and most of the western United States can really put us in a bind! Dusty dry soils on the eastern plains, low reservoirs and high fire danger are some of the problems we face as the result of drought.

Droughts tend to come in cycles, we know this from careful studies of tree rings, ice and sea floor "core" samples and from historical and anecdotal records that stretch back hundreds, even thousands of years. In Colorado, or dry periods seem to come about every 25 to 30 years as we have had droughts around 1910, in the 1930s, the 1950s, the mid 1970s and the early 2000s. The dry patterns often linger for several years, always a concern, but perhaps more of a worry than ever before due to the greater population in Colorado today and the resultant strain on our resources.

In the Rocky Mountains, any warming of the climate will likely mean hotter, drier summers and milder, but still perhaps stormy winters. The amount of snowfall may drop on the plains, aside from infrequent major blizzards, while the mountains may see the snow levels and the tree level rise to higher elevations. The biggest worry that climate scientists have is that the weather will become more extreme - more heat waves, drought, but also more flash floods and severe local storms. These events have always been with us, but the concern is that they will occur with greater regularity.

As we head toward the second half of November, snowpack is starting to build over the high country and this is great news, as it has been a very dry fall until recently. The high fire danger across the plains will also begin to ease as we finally break free of this dry pattern.

For a graphic depiction of the long range outlook for the nation, check out these links to the Climate Prediction Center -

El Nino & La Nina

Denver National Weather Service

Colorado Climate Center

Climate Prediction Center

The southwestern U.S. is expected to have a warm fall. This will be especially true from southern California through Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas. Later in the fall and early winter, storminess should sweep in from the Pacific and bring more precipitation from Washington across Idaho and Utah. Colorado will be on the southern edge of this storm track, but hopefully close enough to get some of the moisture from these southern storms.

In Colorado, our autumn weather outlook calls for temperatures to be warmer than normal, with a few cold surges, but nothing that last too long. We will be on the fringe of the storms that come into the northwestern U.S. and will catch some of the light to moderate rain or snow associated with the passage of these systems.

Precipitation will not be heavy as the upper level flow pattern should be primarily from the northwest to the southeast, bringing snows back to our northern mountains, while the southern and central areas may not see much in time to give our ski season a really good start. At lower elevations, we will get a few fast moving storms as the season grows deeper. We may have a little less snowfall than in the past year, as the northern storms drop most of their moisture over the mountains and are fairly spent by the time they reach the eastern plains.

During the first week of November, a strong high pressure system dominated the weather pattern across Colorado and much of the west. This high brought an extended period of much above average temperatures along with abundant sunshine to the state. In fact, temperatures during the first week of the month averaged 10 degrees above average!

That ridge has now ben replaced by a trough of low pressure aloft. The jetstream has dropped southward and has increased in strength over the central Rockies. This means a cold and unsettled weather pattern will hold over the region for the next several days.

The first storm in this pattern moved through late Tuesday, with much colder weather and the first snow of the season for the Denver area. The metro area had an inch of snow or less, but to the south, up to 5 inches of snow dumped on Elizabeth. Heavy snowfall fell in the mountains with accumulations of up to a foot at many of the ski resorts!

Wednesday will be an "in between" day as the first storm moves well east of Colorado. Skies will start mostly clear, but clouds will increase from the west as the next storm system moves into the region.

A stronger storm will arrive on Thursday and this promises to bring a better chance of accumulating snowfall to many plains locations along with the coldest temperatures so far this season. Highs on Thursday will struggle to make it out of the low 30s.

This cold and stormy situation will not be going anywhere anytime soon. After the storm on Thursday, there are several more systems lined up in the Pacific and these will begin to move through during the weekend and again by the middle of next week.

As we head toward Thanksgiving, snowpack will continue to build up over the high country and this is great news as it has been a very dry fall so far. The high fire danger across the plains will also begin to ease as we finally break free of this dry pattern.

For a graphic depiction of the long range outlook for the nation, check out these links to the Climate Prediction Center -

El Nino & La Nina

Denver National Weather Service

Colorado Climate Center

Climate Prediction Center

The southwestern U.S. is expected to have a warm fall. This will be especially true from southern California through Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas. Later in the fall and early winter, storminess should sweep in from the Pacific and bring more precipitation from Washington across Idaho and Utah. Colorado will be on the southern edge of this storm track, but hopefully close enough to get some of the moisture from these southern storms.

In Colorado, our autumn weather outlook calls for temperatures to be warmer than normal, with a few cold surges, but nothing that last too long. We will be on the fringe of the storms that come into the northwestern U.S. and will catch some of the light to moderate rain or snow associated with the passage of these systems.

Precipitation will not be heavy as the upper level flow pattern should be primarily from the northwest to the southeast, bringing snows back to our northern mountains, while the southern and central areas may not see much in time to give our ski season a really good start. At lower elevations, we will get a few fast moving storms as the season grows deeper. We may have a little less snowfall than in the past year, as the northern storms drop most of their moisture over the mountains and are fairly spent by the time they reach the eastern plains.

We have been blessed with such a beautiful, bountiful and life-giving planet. It is our duty, to take the best care of this gift that we have been given.

The topic of climate change has been given much political attention and in that light, there is a seemingly large controversy about what is happening and to what extent mankind is helping to cause some of the changes.

In the strict world of truly peer reviewed science, the degree of controversy is not as great as some of the politically driven organizations would have you believe.

The issue is not a simple one because we must use computer models to predict future climate. These models are very complicated and must be run on a supercomputer. Even with today's technology, we cannot perfectly model something as complex as our atmosphere, so the models are simplified and do have errors. One of the undisputable facts is "we cannot even predict tomorrow's weather with 100% accuracy, how can we expect to predict the weather for the next 100 years! Of course, we are not attempting to forecast day to day weather that far in advance, just trends. There is no way to run an actual atmospheric simulation of the changes to come as we only have this one Earth - there isn't another similar planet nearby to run actual experiments.

My opinion is that we are indeed having an impact on the warming our climate, and this effect is riding along side of a naturally occurring warm period. It is very important that we study this topic with even greater effort in order to be able to take action for the future. This action may well be to use technology to bring ever increasing efficiencies to our society. Through a more efficient use of our fuels, we will be able to limit the amount of greenhouse gases released, while still enabling our complex technological society to function and thrive.

The Colorado Environmental Film Festival (CEFF) November 4-6 at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden provides an exciting, inspiring, and energizing event that includes world-class environmental films, discussions, a filmmakers forum, and film "after parties" with local and national environmental filmmakers.

True to the spirit of Colorado, this event is supported and attended by people who value the natural world and share a passion for the power and beauty of film. What's New this Year: “Play Again”, “Elephant in the Living room”, “Milking the Rhino”, “Through Our Eyes” and 41 others for Colorado and the rest of the world. Filmmakers range from a 12 year old from Wyoming (attending), to Maasai Warriors (not attending, but 4 from Denmark will be here!).

Featured on opening night this year will be “Play Again,” which documents the consequences of a childhood removed from nature by following six teenagers, who normally spend five to 15 hours a day in the virtual world, on their first wilderness adventure. The producer, Meg Merrill- one of many filmmakers in attendance this year- will preside over a panel discussion with youth, educators and a school psychologist following the Saturday screening of this film.

There is a public forum with filmmakers on Saturday morning with over 15 directors, producers, and actors discussing their craft.

Tickets are available at REI's Denver Flagship, Lakewood and Boulder stores, the Base Camp gift store at the American Mountaineering Center, and at the door Nov 4-6.

Prices are as follows:

Individual ticket: $5

Pack of 5 tickets: $15

Pack of 20 tickets: $40 (students or friends pack)

All-inclusive pass: $60, and includes admission to the opening night kickoff party at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum and all CEFF social events in Golden.

Each ticket is valid for one individual admission to a 2 hour segment of films. Tickets may be used for any single film segment. Seating is not reserved and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, check their website Colorado Environmental Film Festival at www.ceff.net.

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