Forecast for Aspen: hot and dry
June 20, 2012
ASPEN – Hot and dry.
Aspen’s weather isn’t difficult to predict these days.
In fact, locals might be hard-pressed to remember the last time it rained. For the record, the Aspen Water Department measured 0.01 inches of precipitation in its rain gauge at the water plant on June 3. That accumulation could be all that stands in the way of posting zeros in the precipitation column when the month is over.
For the last significant rainfall in Aspen, one would have to flip back to May 24, when about a half-inch of precipitation was recorded in the rain gauge for the preceding 24 hours.
June is statistically the driest month of the year in Colorado, according to Ryan Boudreau, who maintains the local forecasting website aspenweather.net along with Cory Gates. But no appreciable rainfall at all is not the norm, he added.
“I highly, highly doubt it’s going to rain this month,” Boudreau said.
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The long-term models don’t hint at a change in the weather pattern, he explained. High pressure has a stranglehold on the region, and it doesn’t appear likely to loosen its grip before sometime in July.
A June without rain in Aspen last occurred in 2002 – a memorable year of drought and wildfires across the state.
So far this month, through Wednesday morning, Aspen awoke to clear skies on all but four days, according to the weather data tracked at the water plant. The average high temperature for the month through Wednesday was 76.6 degrees and the high for the month was 83 degrees. Expect temperatures to eclipse that mark Thursday and Friday, according to aspenweather.net, which is predicting a high in the upper 80s Thursday. Friday’s high in Aspen could hit 90.
“It’s very early to be flirting with 90 around here,” Boudreau said.
The weekend forecast looks like a scorcher – “a sizzling heat wave, my friends” – wrote aspenweather.net’s Gates on Wednesday. He was calling for breezy conditions and a high of 89 in Aspen on Saturday and Sunday. His forecast predicted highs in the mid- to upper 90s in the midvalley, 99 in Glenwood Springs and edging above 100 between New Castle and Rifle.
The bone-dry conditions are adding to the heat, according to Boudreau.
“If we had moisture in the ground, we wouldn’t get a 90-degree temperature on Friday,” he said. “Right now, we are in such a drought, the sun’s rays hit the ground, bounce back up in the air and heat up the air even more.”
So far this month, highs in Aspen have climbed into the 80s on seven days. In 2011, on only two days in late June did temperatures top 80.
Rainfall in June 2011 was below average, but at least some rain fell. The water department recorded five days of precipitation totaling .8 inches for the month last year. The average for June, the department noted, is 1.28 inches and the record, set in 1984, is 4.35 inches.
This year’s June drought comes on the heels of a dry May. The water plant recorded 1.07 inches of precipitation last month; the average for May is 1.83 inches.
The dry conditions and high fire danger this week led Forest Service officials to expand the fire ban in the White River National Forest to include a prohibition on campfires within developed campgrounds. Use of charcoal grills in campgrounds is also banned, starting Friday.
In the Aspen area, that means no campfires in Difficult, Weller, Lincoln Gulch, Lincoln Creek, Portal and Lost Man campgrounds along Highway 82, as well as those in the Maroon Creek Valley. All campgrounds in the Fryingpan and Crystal valleys also are affected.
The forest fire ban, technically called stage II restrictions, also prohibits anything that explodes, including fireworks. Smoking is allowed only inside vehicles, tents and buildings.
“People need to know not to light a match – no cigarettes out the window,” Boudreau said.
Area counties, including Pitkin, also have fire bans in effect and last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order that bans open burning and private use of fireworks throughout Colorado.
Many communities, including Aspen, have already canceled municipal fireworks displays for July 4.