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Colorado's Weather

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The truth behind Colorado’s weather

I’ve been enjoying the endless sunny days in New Mexico and that made me think of Colorado’s weather.

Many Coloradans are deluded about their weather. The vast Colorado always had clouds, which made for pretty photos. conspiracy starts with the Colorado Chamber of Commerce which wants to attract businesses to their state. They declare that Colorado experiences over 300 sunny days per year. That’s true, as long as you subscribe to Colorado’s definition of a “sunny day.”

Since I’ve never experienced a sunny day in Colorado , I’ve concluded that their definition of a “sunny day” is when the sun shines for at least 17 seconds.

It might rain, snow, or hail for the rest of the day, but if that sun peeks out for just 17 seconds, then they chalk the day up into the “sunny” category. Hence, they arrive at the 300+ sunny days statistic. Here is some evidence of their folly:

http://www.metrodenver.org/dataCenter/QualityOfLife/Climate.icm

http://ccc.atmos.colostate.edu/questions.php

http://www.city-data.com/forum/colorado-springs/155706-where-300-days-sunshine-yearly.html

 

Is it possible to have a cloudless day in Colorado?

About a week ago I met a couple day hiking. I asked the lady, “Do you know the forecast?” Mt. Huron, 14,003 feet, is behind me. I would put on all my layers in Colorado after sunset because it was always cold at night.

“Yes,” she said confidently. “For the next three days, there won’t be a cloud in the sky.”

“Really?” I said incredulously.

“Not one cloud,” she repeated.

“Wow. That would be amazing to have three days without a cloud. I’ve never experienced any 24 hour period in Colorado where there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.”

“It happens,” she assured me.

When I woke up the next morning, it was nearly impossible to see a patch of blue sky - the heavens were completely covered in clouds. Over the next few weeks, the clouds never went away. After two months in Colorado, I have yet to see a cloudless 24 hour period. In fact, it's rare a day in Colorado where I don't get some rain, hail, sleet, or snowfall.

Is Colorado arid? The San Juans don't have as much water sources as the Sierra Nevada.

When I was hitchhiking back to the trail in Colorado, my driver ranted against Coloradans who insist on having lawns and taking long showers.

“They think we have a lot of water,” he spat, “They don’t understand that we live in an arid state. It’s very dry here.”

I bit my tongue and nodded quietly. It was funny that my driver didn’t detect the irony that he was heading to the mountains to go skiing in the end of May.

If Colorado is as dry as he was implying, it would hardly have several meters of snow left in late May. Indeed, I marvel at all the water that flows along the Continental Divide in late September, the driest time in the mountains. If Colorado were super dry, how is it possible that the Colorado River is able to supply the water needs of Colorado , New Mexico, Arizona, and California? Indeed, that same mighty river carved out A rare moment chilling out in the San Juans. the Grand Canyon.

(Although nowadays the Colorado River is arguably being “overused,” it’s still remarkable how much volume pours through its channel.)

There’s also the Coloradans who brag about their “dry snow.” Although Colorado does have some of the best skiing in America, if I were to stick some of that “dry snow” down your pants, after a few minutes it wouldn't feel quite so dry.

Colorado is not an arid state. If you think so, visit the neighboring state, New Mexico. Better yet, go to the Atacama Desert in Chile, where it hasn’t rained in over 400 years.

For Coloradans: learning a new vocabulary The tallest point in the San Juan section of the CDT is near the center of this photo. I took this in late September.

If you’re from Colorado, try saying these words. It will be hard at first, but try. Take a deep breath and slowly say: “Partly Sunny” and “Partly Cloudy” and “Mostly Cloudy” and, here's a toughie, “Rainy.”

Whew! I know that was hard, but it’s the first step to overcoming denial.

Next step, learn to describe your weather accurately. You can go to the National Weather Service to look up the definitions, but I’ve copied the key ones here:

Sunny: When there are no opaque (not transparent) clouds. Same as Clear.
 This is the same place you see above, but when I was there in early May.
Mostly Sunny: Same as Mostly Clear, except only applicable during daylight hours; when the predominant/average sky condition is covered 1/8 to 2/8 with opaque (not transparent) clouds.

Partly Sunny: When the predominant/average sky condition is covered 3/8 to 4/8 with opaque (not transparent) clouds. Same as Partly Cloudy.

Partly Cloudy: When the predominant/average sky condition is covered 3/8 to 4/8 with opaque (not transparent) clouds. Same as Partly Sunny.

Mostly Cloudy: When the predominant/average sky condition is covered by more than half, but not completely covered by opaque (not transparent) clouds. In other words, 5/8 to 7/8 of the sky is covered by opaque clouds. Same as Considerable Cloudiness.

There, see that's not too hard. To make room in your brain for these complex concepts, I suggest  At times I felt more cold in late September than I felt in early May. This photo shows a minor snow storm in September. eliminating the word "sunny" from your vocabulary, at least when describing your weather.

Coloradans need to stop bragging that they have 300 sunny days a year. Admit that the Colorado weather is capricious and volatile. For those who have learned the above weather definitions, it’s time for the final lesson:

Look at a mirror and say, “Hi, I’m from Colorado, and our weather sucks.”

Sponsor spotlight: GoLite

GoLite, one of my best sponsors, is based in Boulder, Colorado. All my clothes are from GoLite because their clothes are tested in their backyard. And if they can survive Colorado’s temperamental and insane weather, then it can survive anywhere.

Lately I’ve been using GoLite’s balaclava and cap. I also used their Reed rain pants in Colorado during their vicious rainstorms. I love what they make and I recommend them highly!

Please visit: www.GoLite.com

 

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