Mike's Blog Archive -- October 2009

Forecasting for Colorado is very tricky, and this is another excellent case! A very potent winter storm is now moving across the Four Corners region and as it moves across Colorado, it will dump a lot of snow across the region, but there will also be places that see very little snow.

The mountains look to do well regardless with a couple feet likely in upslope favored areas east of the divide. However, the eastern plains will see only a little snow.

Computer models are showing this system taking a path along the CO/NM border with snow continuing through Thursday afternoon. Denver could see 10-18 inches of snow with the heavier amounts south and west. To the east, the plains east of Limon will only pick up a few inches of snow, and near the Kansas border it will all come in the form of wet, slushy snow or just plain rain.

Stay with us here at 7News and we will continue to update you with the latest information we have!

If you are curious about how we make weather forecasts, what El Nino will mean for our upcoming winter or the latest information on climate change - please check out WEATHER 101! This featuer on our navigation bar is filled with plenty of stories and great links to help you learn much more about the fascinating new research in weather and climate.

Weather 101 will be a growing and developing part of our website and will feature Chris Spears - former 7News weather producer and climate expert. Chris will be adding and expanding the resources in this area as we develop the 7News CLIMATE CORNER. In this web feature, we will seek to give you many of the best resources for this important topic.

In addition, Steve Hamilton - another local meteorologist who helps out in th 24/7Weather Center - will be available to answer your questions about weather - so drop him an e-mail with any weather query you might have.

Be sure to also check out our Storm Chaser link on the navigation bar. Two of our 24/7 Storm Chasers are currently being featured in the new season of Storm Chasers - on the Discovery Channel. Watch for Tim Samaras and Tony Laubach on the TV show and you can read more aavaibout them on our Storm Chaser section. In addition, Roger Hill, a veteran local storm chaser has a new biography. Follow along with Roger on his blog and you may want to get a copy of his new book!

We are always trying to improve our weather coverage, so please send us any thoughts or suggestions. You can send them my way at mike_nelson@kmgh.com

DO NOT MISS THE COLORADO ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL!

If you're passionate about the environment and love watching films, check out the fourth Annual Colorado Environmental Film Festival, running from Nov. 5 to 7 at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden.

The festival will also include a mix of films showing audiences where oil comes from and explaining where old televisions, computers or cell phones end up. TAPPED, a noteworthy film, will show the future of our precious water resources for Colorado's landscape and the livelihoods of landowners.

In all, two dozen films will be shown during the four-day event.

On Saturday filmmakers will answer audience questions about their films and explain what it takes to produce an environmental film. There will also be a silent auction during the festival, where patrons can bid on some of the DVD versions of the films and other environmentally friendly items.

Over the weekend, many organizations will be at the festival with information on the environment, including Project Learning Tree, the International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology, Colorado Mountain Club, the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State Forest Service.

There is also fun for the kids on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be activities available to teach kids about renewable and nonrenewable energy sources.

The festival will also hold a free recycling event of electronics, such as PCs, cell phones, fax machines, printers, microwaves and anything with a circuit board. Monitors can be recycled for an $8 fee, televisions for $10 to $25. The recycling event will be held Saturday, Nov. 7 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Mountaineering Center.

If you would like to purchase tickets and download a schedule with brief synopsis of each film, go to: the Web site for Colorado Environmental Film Festival 2009.

7NEWS is proud to once again be the official media sponsor for SUPER SCIENCE SATURDAY, October 24, at NCAR's Mesa Lab in Boulder.

Super Science Saturday is an annual event hosted by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) that is FREE and open to the public. The event combines science education with Halloween fun and is ideal for teachers, students, and families. The excitement begins at 10 AM and lasts until 4 PM.

Festivities include live demonstrations, hands-on activity tables, and special science workshops. Again this year, the 24/7 Weather Center at 7NEWS will bring its "24/7 Weather Experience" to Super Science Saturday, giving attendees the chance to see what a live television weather set looks like, as well as a chance to stand in front of the green screen and do the weather. 7News Meteorologists Mike Nelson, Richard Ortner, Corey Christiansen and Lisa Hidalgo will all be making an appearance to sign autographs and say hello!

NCAR is the world's premiere research facility for weather and climate and many of the top NCAR scientists will be on hand to answer questions about our often wild and fast changing weather. Also included this year is the outdoor physics adventure featuring a climbing wall, kayak tank, and mountain bike course!

Food and drinks will be for sale in the NCAR cafeteria.

Bring along a new or gently used coat to donate to our COATS FOR COLORADO campaign!

NCAR's Mesa Laboratory is located at 1850 Table Mesa Drive in Boulder.

For more information, contact David Hosansky at 303-497-8611, or Laura Allen at 303-497-2408.

This will mark the thirteenthth year of Super Science Saturday, the largest public event NCAR holds each year, attracting over 3,000 attendees.

Denver Storm Chasers Tim Samaras and Tony Laubach will be two of may featured chasers on the hit TV series "Storm Chasers" on the Discovery Channel. Tim's the leader of the research group, TWISTEX and he along with Tony Laubach spent several months of the Spring and Summer chasing tornadoes across the country. The season treated them very well considering the lack of storms in the height of the season and their adventures will be well documented with the show.

"Storm Chasers" premieres this Sunday, October 18 on the Discovery Channel at 8pm. Starting at 6pm, Discovery will air a best of highlighting past chases from the show and will lead into the upcoming season.

If you want to learn more about Tim and Tony, they both have websites and blogs. You can view Tim's TWISTEX website at http://www.twistex.org and Tony's website at http://www.tornadoeskick.com.

One of the most important ways that we can understand how our climate in changing in Colorado is to have more and better weather records and you can help!

Volunteers are needed to help us measure rain, snow and hail across Colorado and surrounding states. We are very excited at 7News to be a part of CoCoRahs - the Community Collaborative Rain and Hail Study. If you would like to learn how you can help, check out this link. We will be developing more climate related content in a new feature called "Climate Corner". It will be managed by Chris Spears, a local climatologist and weather expert.

Climate Corner a new addition to our website.

The topic of climate change seems to have become as much political science as it is physical science. 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. But, 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 us believe.

The majority of climate scientists are in agreement that the overall warming of the planet has been caused in part by mankind. This warming is due to the increase of greenhouse gases - such as CO2, methane and CFCs (chloro-fluorocarbons).

There is much discussion, especially on talk radio about the fact that the sun has by far the largest impact on our climate. The sun has certainly not been overlooked, the periodic changes in solar output and the orbital changes are taken into account in the climate studies and modeling.

Some scientists feel that the increase in atmospheric CO2 will be offset by the ability of plants and the oceans to absorb this gas. In fact, some experts believe that the increase in CO2 will be a good thing - improving crop yields and making more parts of the world able to support crops. At the same time, that warming may cause more severe droughts in key agricultural areas. In addition, which plants will benefit most - will it be useful crops, or weeds!

A comment often heard is that CO2 is just a tiny fraction of the atmosphere, less than 3 parts in 10,000. Just because CO2 is a trace gas does not mean that it is not important in the equation. Small amounts do matter - I weigh 200 pounds, but it certainly does not take 200 pounds of arsenic to kill me.

As often noted, the Greenhouse Effect is normal and natural, in fact if not for this effect, the Earth would be about 60 degrees Farenheit colder - a lifeless ice planet. The problem we face is that the delicate balance of temperature may be upset by a change in atmospheric chemistry.

One of the best lines that I have heard about our climate and it’s unpredictability is that "climate is like an angry bear, we keep prodding and irritating it, and the results will likely be both severe and unpredictable".

You hear an awful lot of comments about unusual local weather events such as the snow in Las Vegas or other southern areas. It is important to understand that short term weather is to climate as one play in a football game is to the entire NFL season.

For example, the extreme cold and snow that was experienced in central U.S. during the middle of December 2008. Well, while Colorado and adjacent states were shivering, Fairbanks was enjoying very mild weather for their area. When the chilly polar vortex drifted back to the north, Fairbanks was very cold and Colorado hit 60 degree temperatures in January. More recently, the weather this past summer was indeed cooler and wetter in Colorado, but very hot and dry in the Pacific Northwest.

It is often quoted that 1998 was the warmest year and that global temperatures have cooled since that time. This information is misleading. In 1998, the world climate was influenced by one of the strongest El Nino events ever recorded. This pool of very warm Pacific Ocean water bumped global temperatures higher. Until recently, the Pacific was in the midst of a slight La Nina - cooler sea surface temperatures. These periodic warming and cooling episodes need to be taken into consideration in the the overall global temperature trend and properly explained to the public.

Many of the skeptics of anthropogenic climate change are not primarily trained in atmospheric science. Often they have backgrounds in other disciplines such as physics, geology or economics - certainly well educated folks, but analogous to asking a climate scientist where we should drill an oil well. I think that is it important that we make this distinction when asked questions about climate change and differing viewpoints. It is certainly good scientific practice to have a healthy discussion, but again we must come back to solid peer reviewed science.

A weak storm system will push across Colorado tonight and Monday, bringing light snow to the mountains and a few showers to the eastern plains. The low pressure center of this storm will pass to the north of Denver, keeping most of the moisture in Wyoming and Nebraska. Only a few inches of snow will accumulate over the higher mountains, perhaps one to four inches.

At lower elevations, there will be a mix of clouds and sunshine on Monday, with some widely scattered showers. The storm system will move to the east of Colorado by Tuesday, with skies returning to hazy sunshine for the middle of the week.

Late this week a stronger cold front will move south from Canada. This front will have some pretty chilly air associated with it and will bring rain and snow to the state late Friday and Saturday. The arrival of the front is still several days away, so we will keep an eye on it in terms of just how chilly things will be by Saturday. At this point, look for next weekend to be a much more gray, cold and wet weekend than this past weekend.

September ended on a warm note, with highs in the 80s for the last two days. With the change of the calendar, the weather turned as well, with much colder air over Colorado. A strong cold front swept across Colorado late Wednesday and brought a 20-30 degree drop in temperatures by Thursday afternoon. Strong northwest winds whipped over the region behind the front, with gusts to 50 mph helping to bring in the chilly air.

The winds will be diminishing over the area and with clear skies, the temperatures will take a nighttime tumble. Lows will drop into the 20s in the mountains and 30s at lower elevations through the weekend. Freezing conditions will make it tough on tomatoes through Saturday morning, so C.Y.P. - Cover Your Plants!!

Folks may wonder about their sprinkler systems and if they are in jeopardy with the cold nights. In general, the underground pipes are just fine for now, the ground is too warm for the pipes to freeze. The exposed pipes on the side of your home are a different story though. It is a good idea to put a blanket or an old sleeping bag over those pipes for the next few nights. As far as getting the system winterized, any time now is a good idea as your lawn is starting to slow it's growth in preparation for winter.

There is an exciting event this weekend - the annual SOLAR HOME TOUR in Denver. See some of the latest breakthroughs and the smartest homes in the neighborhood. The event is on Saturday and for all the details go to www.cres-energy.org.