If you look at the weather records for Nederland during the last fifty years, March is one of the two snowiest months of the year. But in the five years we have been living in this mountain town, it just hasn’t been the cast, and this year is no exception to that pattern. We’ve had only a few inches of snow, and we are 2/3 of the way through the month, with a forecast for this coming week of more sunny and warm weather.
The local Nederland newspaper, the Mountain-Ear, recently featured an article by a local meterologist, John McGinley, who wrote about climate change and how it appears to be affecting Nederland weather. The winters are getting warmer, and among other things, the month of February is getting much wetter and snowier, and so it seems that February is the new March. Traditionally, Front Range winters feature snow in October, November, and sometimes December, with January and February being dry, before becoming snowy again in March and April. Now it feels like the snow has moved up to February, and March is becoming warmer with more rain than snow.
This may not seem like such a big deal, but it is for those of us who know that less snow in March, means more chance of wildfires in June. We only have to look back three years ago to March, 2012, when for the first time in weather history, we received no measurable precipitation during the whole month of March. That year, Colorado suffered some of the most destructive wildfires in its history starting with a fire in March that killed three people in Conifer, Colorado. That was followed by many more wildfires both west of Fort Collins and down by Colorado Springs in June of that year. The wildfires never really stopped in the state that year until the first snow fell in October and November.
Fortunately, the last two years, our warm and sunny Marches have been followed by snowy Aprils and even Mays. For the sake of the Colorado water supply, as well as a less smoky summer, here’s hoping that pattern continues as well.