Tag Archives: Denver Weather Examiner

Questions arise about use of DIA weather station; Location far from city invalidates historical comparisons

Hot or cold: Denver's problematic weather records
Hot or cold: Denver's problematic weather records. (Denver Weather Examiner)

Does a move of 12 miles make a difference in what type of weather is seen in Colorado?  Longtime residents know that our weather can vary greatly over short distances and this has many questioning the placement of Denver’s official weather monitoring station.

From 1871 to 1949 Denver’s weather was recorded at the National Weather Service’s office in downtown Denver.  In January 1950 a move was made to Stapleton International Airport.

As that facility aged Denver opened Denver International Airport on the plains northeast of Denver in 1995.  The weather service followed suit and moved the Mile High City’s official weather station the 12 miles to DIA.

Since that time, many weather watchers have noticed problems – DIA is consistently warmer and drier than the old site at Stapleton.  Further, its remote location gives conditions far from where most people in Denver live and thus doesn’t accurately represent what they are experiencing.

Even bigger issues arise when comparing weather data taken today with measurements previously recorded at Stapleton or downtown.  The different microclimates of the sites are so different that it becomes much like comparing apples and oranges.

This was recently made evident with the string of 90 degree or warmer days we put together.  If you went by the station at DIA, the streak lasted 18 days putting in a three way tie for the second longest streak in Denver history.  However, no monitoring station closer to the city was as warm.

Further, while July was certainly a wet month, DIA’s precipitation measurements fell far short of most other locations.

Amid concerns about a warming climate, can we trust the measurements at DIA?  How is it possible to compare the weather today with historical weather when there is such a large discrepancy?

We recently tackled this topic on the Denver Weather Examiner and the conclusion is obvious – It simply is impossible to correlate current weather records with Denver’s historical ones.  Further, the National Weather Service seems intent on ignoring the issue.

Get the complete store here.

Independence Day history: Jefferson and Franklin as two of America’s first weathermen

Two of the most famous signers of the Declaration of Independence could also be considered weathermen.
Two of the most famous signers of the Declaration of Independence could also be considered weathermen.

Certainly anyone who has studied the Founding Fathers is well aware of Benjamin Franklin’s electrifying kite-flying experience.  What many Americans may not know is that he was one of the first storm chasers and his fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, was a weatherman in his own right.

Benjamin Franklin’s interest in the weather spanned virtually his entire lifetime.  He was intrigued by the weather and deduced the movement of storms going on to accurately theorize about low and high pressure as the basis for weather patterns.

His Poor Richard’s Almanac featured some of the nation’s first weather forecasts, penned by Franklin under the pseudonym of Richard Saunders.  Later in life he would record weather observations during his numerous Atlantic crossings and six years before his passing he published a number of “Meteorological Imaginations and Conjectures.”

Franklin also was one of the nation’s first storm chasers.  In a letter to Peter Collinson dated August 25, 1755 Franklin relayed his experience chasing what he called a whirlwind in Maryland the prior April.

He wrote, “We saw, in the vale below us, a small whirlwind beginning in the road and showing itself by the dust it raised and contained. It appeared in the form of a sugar-loaf, spinning on its point, moving up the hill towards us, and enlarging as it came forward. When it passed by us, its smaller part near the ground appeared no bigger than a common barrel; but widening upwards, it seemed, at forty or fifty feet high to be twenty or thirty feet in diameter. The rest of the company stood looking after it; but my curiosity being stronger, I followed it, riding close by its side, and observed its licking up in its progress all the dust that was under its smaller part.”

America’s first statesman goes on to detail how he followed the meteorological phenomena saying, “I accompanied it about three-quarters of a mile, till some limbs of dead trees, broken off by the whirl, flying about and falling near me made me more apprehensive of danger; and then I stopped, looking at the top of it as it went on, which was visible, by means of the leaves contained in it, for a very great height above the trees.”

Certainly it would appear Franklin encountered a strong dust devil or possibly even a weak tornado.

On July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson was doing more than just signing the Declaration of Independence – he also was buying a thermometer for £3-15 in Philadelphia from merchant John Sparhawk.  The author of the document that started the United States of America bought nearly 20 of the instruments over his life.

Just three days prior, on July 1, Jefferson began his first “meteorological diary.”  From then on his daily routine included checking a thermometer at dawn and in the late-afternoon and recording the readings.  Occasionally he would also use a barometer and hygrometer to supplement his measurements.

Jefferson believed that to understand the climate measurements would need to be taken across the young nation and he tried to spur others to do the same.  He wrote that documentation would require “steady attention to the thermometer, to the plants growing there, the times of their leafing and flowering, its animal inhabitants, beast, birds, reptiles and insects; its prevalent winds, quantities of rain and snow, temperature of mountains, and other indexes of climate.”

Northeastern U.S. paralyzed as nor’easter brings blizzard conditions

Before and after pictures of the northeastern U.S. show the impact of the hurricane-looking storm. (NOAA)
Before and after pictures of the northeastern U.S. show the impact of the hurricane-looking storm. (NOAA)

From the southern United States to the mid-Atlantic and New England a major winter storm has had a wide impact in recent days.  Some areas of the south recorded their first Christmas snow in decades and as the storm moved further northeast it turned into a major blizzard.

Snow fell as far south as Jacksonville, Florida over the holiday and areas further north recorded moderate snowfall.  Huntsville, Alabama saw 6 inches of snow; Raleigh, North Carolina saw 8.5 inches and Gatlinburg, Tennessee recorded 8.0 inches.

Those totals are minimal however to what is being deposited on a large area from New York City to Boston.  Central Park has reported 13 inches and Brooklyn 17.5 inches.  In New Jersey Atlantic City reported 19.0 inches while Foxboro, Massachusetts has seen 11.5 inches.

Travel across the northeastern U.S. came to a standstill as travel by road, rail and air was impacted.  Thousands of flights into and out of the area were canceled as airports in New York and New Jersey shuttered.  Airlines at Denver International Airport were impacted by the storm and its ripple effect.

The nor’easter was imaged this afternoon by NOAA satellites that provided a birds-eye view of the area before and after the storm. 

A furor erupted when the National Football League announced it would postpone the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings and move it to Tuesday.  The league cited concerns for fan safety however many were quick to point out that it is highly unusual for the NFL to postpone a game based on snow of any amount. 

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told FOX, “It’s an absolute joke. We’re becoming a nation of wussies.”

Slideshow: Blizzard slams U.S. East Coast burying major cities in snow (Examiner.com)Certainly it is hard to see Denver taking similar measures in the face of a snowstorm.  🙂

We have provided complete coverage of the storm on Examiner.com – Please follow the links below for more details:

The story of the Fourmile Canyon and Reservoir Road fires in pictures

The Fourmile Canyon Fire is seen crowning on the tops of trees soon after it started. (U.S. Forest Service)
The Fourmile Canyon Fire is seen crowning on the tops of trees soon after it started. Check out more amazing photos from the fires below. (U.S. Forest Service)

It seems like it had been a while since Colorado suffered a major wildfire and summer had indeed passed quietly in those terms – until Labor Day. 

Spurred on by strong winds and fed by tinder dry fuels the Fourmile Canyon Fire in Boulder County soon exploded and served as a reminder that the fire danger was still with us.  Photos taken during that blaze and the Reservoir Road Fire tell a story of the battle of man against nature.

Wildfires can quickly grow from a small event to one that covers thousands of acres destroying property and sometimes claiming lives in the process. Colorado dodged a bullet with the Fourmile Canyon Fire and the Reservoir Road Fire as no lives were lost and there were very few injuries. 

Many residents in the burn areas however suffered other losses — that of their home and virtually every belonging they owned. The events torched over 6,500 acres combined and the Fourmile Canyon Fire became the most destructive in state history in terms of homes destroyed, as 166 houses were lost.

Slideshow - Best images from the Fourmile Canyon and Reservoir Road fires.Photos taken from the outset of the first fire were impressive. Some were taken from right next to the fire as residents worked to save their homes; others were captured from 22,300 miles in space by NOAA satellites showing smoke traveling across three states.

The images in the slideshow to the left represent the best images captured by Examiner.com readers, the U.S. Forest Service and professional photographers. They tell a compelling story of the fight between man and fire and the battle to save lives and property. 

While the east roasts, the west chills – Record temperatures of both extremes in the U.S.

Record heat strikes the northeastern U.S. while southern California sees record low maximums.  Denver may see its own temperature record today. (Examiner.com)
Record heat strikes the northeastern U.S. while southern California sees record low maximums. Denver may see its own temperature record today. (Examiner.com)

Triple digit heat broiled the northeastern United States on Tuesday while record setting cool weather struck southern California. Denver may be next to see cool temperatures for the record books as the United States experiencing a wide variety of temperatures.

On the East Coast, temperatures exceeding 100 degrees struck from Virginia north to Massachusetts. Many of the temperatures recorded set new high temperature records for the date including:

  • Allentown, PA – 101 degrees (old record 100 degrees set in 1999)
  • Atlantic City, NJ – 102 degrees (old record 99 degrees set in 1999)
  • Baltimore, MD – 105 degrees (old record 101 degrees set in 1999)
  • Newark, NJ – 103 degrees (old record 102 degrees set in 1999)
  • New York City, NY (Central Park) – 103 degrees (old record 101 degrees set in 1999)
  • Philadelphia, PA – 102 degrees (old record 98 degrees set in 1999)
  • Warwick, RI – 102 degrees (old record 97 degrees set in 1999)
  • Wilmington, DE – 103 degrees (old record 98 degrees set in 1999)
  • Windsor Locks, CT – 102 degrees (old record 99 degrees set in 1999)

On the opposite coast of the nation, record low maximum temperatures were recorded from San Diego up to Riverside. Low pressure and a thick marine layer of clouds held temperatures down and residents that would normally be wearing shorts and tank tops traded that clothing for jeans and sweatshirts.

Among the tied or broken record low maximums recorded in southern California on Tuesday were:

  • Escondido – 69 degrees (old record 78 set in 1987)
  • Laguna Beach – 62 degrees (old record 68 set in 1968)
  • Newport Beach – 66 degrees (tied record of 66 last set in 1995)
  • Oceanside Harbor – 62 degrees (old record 65 set in 2002)
  • Riverside – 79 degrees (old record 80 set in 1969)
  • San Diego – 65 degrees (tied record of 65 last set in 1912)

On Wednesday, both the northeastern United States and southern California may see those record-setting temperature trends continue.

Denver also stands a chance to see a record setting low maximum today. The forecast for Denver International Airport where Denver’s official temperature measurements are now taken is for a high of 63 degrees today. The current record low maximum is 65 degrees last set in 1952.  Here in Thornton we will see similar temperatures.

Colorado researchers join VORTEX2 tornado project

This tornado in Goshen County, Wyoming in 2009 was intercepted by VORTEX2 teams and is considered the “most intensely examined tornado in history.” (NOAA)  Watch video of the twister and see more photos at the complete story on Examiner.com. (NOAA)
This tornado in Goshen County, Wyoming in 2009 was intercepted by VORTEX2 teams and is considered the “most intensely examined tornado in history.” (NOAA) Watch video of the twister and see more photos at the complete story on Examiner.com. (NOAA)

For the second year in a row, a team of over 100 scientists and dozens of vehicles will take to Tornado Alley in an attempt to study one of Mother Nature’s most destructive phenomena. Like last year, Colorado researchers will be helping with the project.

Among the Colorado-based participants are University of Colorado students and researchers. They join others from 11 other universities from across the nation including the University of Oklahoma, Penn State University, and the University of Massachusetts.

Perhaps most well known, Dr. Josh Wurman of the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR) in Boulder will be a key contributor. Watchers of the Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers series know Wurman well as the operator of a Doppler On Wheels (DOW) radar truck and coordinator of the TV series’ storm chases.

Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment 2 (VORTEX2) is simply the largest, most extensive in-field tornado study in history. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the VORTEX2 team will prowl the Great Plains hunting their elusive prey from May 1st to June 15th.

Once again, a veritable armada of scientific equipment will be deployed. Ten mobile radar units, dozens of vehicles, over 70 other instruments and even an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) will cover thousands of miles on the Great Plains.

There's more to this story on Examiner.com!For the rest of this story including photos of all the equipment and amazing video of the tornado in Wyoming that the team intercepted last year, visit the Denver Weather Examiner.

No tornadoes reported in February for the first time on record

For the first time since at least 1950, no tornadoes were recorded during the month of February. (Chris Foltz, NOAA)
For the first time since at least 1950, no tornadoes were recorded during the month of February. (Chris Foltz, NOAA)

While there was plenty of notable weather last month in the United States including the severe winter storms in the northeast, tornadoes were not one weather phenomena anyone had to worry about.

According to the National Weather Service, there were no twisters reported during February 2010 – the first time since record keeping began in 1950 that February did not have any. The previous low number of tornadoes in February was 2 in 2002.

Harold Brooks, a meteorologist with the National Severe Storms Laboratory, said the last time the United States went a calendar month without a tornado was January 2003. Through yesterday it has been 36 days since the last twister struck on the 24th of January in Tennessee.

Brooks cautions against reading too much into the statistic. He said it tells us, “Somewhere between a little and nothing at all.”

Most years that start out slow in terms of tornado events end average or below average Brooks said. However, he also points to 2003 when the year started out 45 days without a tornado but by the middle of May the season was above normal.

For the complete story including what Dr. Greg Forbes of the Weather Channel had to say, please check out the rest of the story on the Denver Weather Examiner.

Rare New Year’s Eve blue moon to shine over the nation

The first New Years Eve blue moon in 19 years will shine on revelers this year. (NASA)
The first New Year's Eve blue moon in 19 years will shine on revelers this year. (NASA)

A relatively rare New Year’s Eve blue moon will be shining down on revelers as they ring in 2010. Blue moons are relatively common but it has been 19 years since one was coupled with December 31st and it will be another 19 years before another occurs.

Since the 1940s the term ‘blue moon’ has come to mean the second full moon in any given month. Full moons occur every 29.5 days so most years have 12 full moons. When the calendar aligns just right though, an ‘extra’ full moon can occur. The blue moon occurs every 2 years, 7 months so given its relatively infrequency, one can understand where the phrase ‘once in a blue moon’ got its meaning.

That current definition of ‘blue moon’ actually came about as a mistake. The phrase itself has been around for at least 400 years. Prior to the 1940s the Maine Farmers’ Almanac tied the event to the seasons saying a blue moon was the fourth full moon in a season rather than the usual three. Its explanation however was entirely convoluted and difficult to understand.

In 1946 the magazine Sky & Telescope published an article titled “Once in a Blue Moon” and in it the author misinterpreted the almanac saying the “second [full moon] in a month, so I interpret it, is called Blue Moon.” This mistake caught on in modern folklore and continues to this very day.

There's more to this story on the Denver Weather Examiner's site!Get more details about whether or not a ‘blue moon’ is really blue and other interesting history in the complete article on the Denver Weather Examiner.

Denver gets new National Weather Service weather station near downtown

Denver now as an official weather monitoring station closer to downtown but some say this doesnt solve the problem of the citys climate records being altered. (Examiner.com)
Denver now as an official weather monitoring station closer to downtown but some say this doesn't solve the problem of the city's climate records being altered. (Examiner.com)

It only took 14 years but Denver finally has an official monitoring station near downtown again. The new station amongst the greens of City Park Golf Course finally gives residents of Denver a place to see what the weather is doing closer to home.

With the opening of Denver International Airport in 1995, the National Weather Service moved its station to the new airport. That distance of 12 miles from the old Stapleton facility to DIA confounded citizens, television meteorologists and weather enthusiasts as they all noted that no one lives out at the airport and the conditions reported there do not reflect what is happening closer to town.

Recognizing the problem, a public-private partnership came together to do what they could to rectify the problem. The City and County of Denver, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the National Weather Service and NOAA, 7News Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson and Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken identified a site for the new station.

Eclar Fence and Mercury Electric donated the infrastructure for the new site. Weather equipment manufacturer Vaisala donated the weather monitoring hardware and services, estimated at up to $60,000.

Certainly there is little doubt the new station will provide area residents the ability to view conditions closer to where they actually live. The new station will not however address the very real problem of Denver’s climate records having been altered since the move to DIA. The National Weather Service has said the official records for Denver will still come out of DIA and as such many believe those records come with an asterisk.

There's more to this story on the Denver Weather Examiner's site!Why is there still a problem with Denver’s climate records?  What does the new station look like?  Check out the complete story including photos of the station, an interactive map and more on Examiner.com.

So what is the story with Examiner.com?

Why does ThorntonWeather.com share stories and links with Examiner.com?
Why does ThorntonWeather.com share stories and links with Examiner.com?

We are oftentimes asked why we have links to Examiner.com on ThorntonWeather.com and why we plug stories from them.  The reasons stem from our interest on the topics at hand but also because by your visiting Examiner.com, you support ThorntonWeather.com.  

Some background on Examiner.com might be useful.  Examiner.com was launched in 2008 by Clarity Media Group, a company owned by Phillip Anschutz.  The site is essentially a living example of ‘citizen journalism’ featuring local news stories on hundreds of topics written by people titled ‘Examiners’ who are knowledgeable in their given topic area.  There are now hundreds of local editions of Examiner.com including of course Denver. 

We were recruited to write for Examiner.com when it first launched, initially as the Denver Weather Examiner and more recently we are also writing as the Natural Disasters Examiner and Climate Change Examiner.  

Why do we write for Examiner.com?  

First and foremost it is because we are passionate about weather and climate and enjoy sharing news stories about those topics.  Weather is one of the things that affect the lives of every single person on earth and that is fascinating to us.  

By writing for Examiner.com, we have a pretty big stage on which to have our topic features – the site is one of the fastest growing on the Internet and now ranks 82nd in overall traffic on the Internet with more than 12 million people a month visiting it.  That ranks higher than popular sites like drudgereport.com, cbs.com and newsweek.com! 

Examiner.com - Get inside Denver weatherSecondly, quite frankly we do get paid for writing for Examiner.com and that money directly supports and helps to pay for ThorntonWeather.com.  The weather station hardware, software, lightning detectors, and more that we use here on ThorntonWeather.com is very expensive.  Factor in computer costs, website services and more and it isn’t cheap.  We don’t charge for ThorntonWeather.com and never will but Examiner.com helps to offset the very real costs we do incur in operating the site.  

By reading an Examiner.com story we post in our news section or checking out the links on the left to our Examiner.com topic areas, you are supporting ThorntonWeather.com directly.  So, if you like ThorntonWeather.com, we ask you to check out our stories on Examiner.com – not only is Examiner.com a great, local news source, it also is a great way to help us!  You can also support us by checking out the few advertisers you see on the site.  

If you ever have any questions about our site, Examiner.com or any weather-related topic, please contact us.  Thank you as always for supporting ThorntonWeather.com. 

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