Storms (and the power of observations)

As someone who loves powder skiing, I am somewhat obsessed with weather forecasts. If it is my day to be hanging out at the ACES front desk, you can bet that there are probably multiple weather forecasts up on my computer.

However, while reading weather forecasts is great, experiencing weather is even better. This winter I have been lucky enough to get to spend a lot of time experiencing weather, particularly up at the Wapiti Wildlife Center (and warming hut!) at the top of the Elk Camp chairlift in Snowmass. The Wapiti is at 11,325 feet above sea level, and sits on an exposed open area near the top of Burnt Mountain. The weather down in Base Village at Snowmass is often very different from up at the Wapiti!

At the Wildlife Center we have a small weather station, which includes a Taylor Thermograph.

Thanks to Winding Way Weather for the picture. A thermograph does exactly what it sounds like; it makes a graph of the temperature over a week long period (or multiple weeks if you forget to change the paper!). This lets us look at the temperature over the whole winter. By doing this, we can analyze the weather far more than just saying 'it's really cold out today!'.

Here is a scan of one of my favorite thermograph sheets from this winter. I went over the red ink that the thermograph uses with a black permanent marker, so that it is more visible (click on the image to view it in a larger format!).

The first weekend of April (Friday and Saturday, April 1st and 2nd) were classic spring skiing days. Temperatures got into the low 40s up at 11,000 feet! For reference, there tends to be a difference of 3 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet of elevation change, so back in town the temperatures were in the low 50s. However, on Sunday a cold front came in. Looking at the thermograph, the temperature dropped ten degrees in about an hour! While we may remember this storm and this temperature change, it is striking to see it recorded on the graph.

Here's one last way of looking at the storm, from one of my favorite weather forecasters, Joel Gratz and his Colorado Powder Forecast.

Right now we're enjoying a mid April blizzard here in Aspen-- hope you are all enjoying it!

~Kendall Reiley