Tom Ross: It ain’t climate change
March 24, 2012
Steamboat Springs — We spied a pair of sandhill cranes prowling for food in the city of Steamboat Springs' hay farm on our way to Rabbit Ears Pass on Saturday morning. It struck me that it was a tad early, but it ain't climate change. The big birds are just confused.
Climbing the base of the pass, the thermometer in the sport ute read 43 degrees, and it was only 9:45 a.m. That couldn't be right. The car just underwent a big checkup. I guess I'll have to live with an inaccurate thermometer.
Halfway to the West Summit of Rabbit Ears, I glanced to the right and saw a mirage. The Yampa River inlet to Lake Catamount was wide open and free of ice. On March 24? That can't be. And it sure ain't climate change.
First of all, the Weather Channel reported Saturday that the mainland United States is the only portion of the Earth currently with above-average temperatures. Everywhere else on planet Earth, the weather is cooler than typical. So there.
Still, right here in the USA, the number of incidences when a town or city recorded a record high temperature for the date in March now exceeds 6,000 compared with 250 daily lows. The Weather Channel reported those facts based on records from the National Climatic Data Center. That's unheard of. But it ain't climate change.
Rolling over the top of Rabbit Ears, we kept an eye out for the little brown outhouse that stands in the edge of a meadow on the trail to Walton Peak. When we visited it in May 2011, the outhouse was virtually buried; the roof wasn't covered with snow, but it was below the rim of the wall of snow encasing it. On Saturday morning, the little old building stood head and shoulders above the snow.
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We left the parking lot just before 10:15 a.m. for a 20-kilometer ski in the vicinity of Walton Peak and the Routt Divide Trail 1108. Our timing was good — the snow on the trail still was cold and crisp in a good way. We could get an edge in the snow, but with our warm yellow wax, we glided rapidly over it.
As we traversed a long, rolling meadow southeast of Walton Peak, I began to notice random spots where all of the snow had melted away from the grass beneath individual evergreen trees. In a typical year, I wouldn't expect that to happen until May. What's going on around here?
On the return loop, we paused to admire the view of the Rabbit Ears and the Never Summer Range, where it appeared that summer soon would be in full swing. Is it too late to change the name of the mountain range to the Seldom Summer Range?
Already this season, the fields around Steamboat Springs have seen two grass fires. It should be impossible to set a fire in the upper Yampa Valley in March short of dousing a slash pile of dead tree limbs with diesel and igniting it.
I guess it's just one of those winters that come along every 50 years or so. Kind of like the 100-year flood of 2011.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com