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iSeeChange: Where's Winter?

Amber Kleinman / iSeeChange

Temperatures across the Western Slope have been pleasant for the past month or so.  At iseechange.org, we’ve seen a few postings noticing the spring-like weather, and some concerns.

Amber Kleinman of Paonia found her bee colonies awake foraging, finding silver maple flowers or perhaps even the crocuses that Marilyn Stone noticed.  According to Meagan Stackhouse, a meteorologist with the Nation Weather Service, the cause of this mid-winter spring is a wall of warm air.

“Any systems that did come our way were either weakened, or they were deflected more towards the north and into the plains,” she says.

The high pressure system camped over us, refusing to let other weather systems in.  They do expect the wall to break up next week. 

“Once that moves over, we’ll be able to see the more progressive, unstable weather we saw in the winter,” she says.

That change will lead to the return of cooler temperatures and snow. 

Still, the recent warm days bring back memories of last year’s warm winter, and the frost that wiped out massive amounts of fruit crops.  The danger is that if the trees start to warm up, they may start to rev up for spring.  If they’re too far along, a frost could stop them in their tracks. 

Susan Carter is a Horticulture Agent with the Colorado State University extension in Grand Junction.  She says that the warming’s not great.  It could expose the orchards to frost, even a hail storm.

Predicting something like that, though, is close to impossible.  Not only would the trees have to develop early, but the frost would have to be ill timed, and severe enough to do widespread damage.  She says a light frost might even thin the crop and produce bigger fruit.  There’s a lot of uncertainty. 

“It’s just something that, unfortunately, growers have to deal with.  There’s not a whole lot we can do other than use the systems we have in place,” says Carter.

For the most part, the only thing that can be done to prevent a crop kill like last year is to hope. 

You can ask questions yourself or check out pictures of the warm February at iseechange.org.

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