photo by Lydia Stern

Weather ramblings

It’s almost a sure thing. Everything about this summer is pointing to a future of sweet winters. The specter of El Niño is forming as you read this. Skunk cabbage is deep in the backcountry and that guarantees copious amounts of powder in four months when the lifts start spinning. Caterpillars are furry, an unnamed mid-timer (Deli) is complaining about joint pain and Eleven is coughing up fur balls over the LIC. Those are all traditional scientific indicators of a coming storm. We are in for a good winter. Even long-term solar activity (or lack of it) could mean a Little Ice Age is in our future.

Here we go.

All I know right now is that it is as green as it will most likely ever get in this valley. The daily rains have turned the valley into a rain forest of life. Birds are chirping, bears are wandering, mushrooms are already popping up everywhere.

And it all seems to still be getting done. Softball games are wet but playable. Peaks are still getting bagged. Rounds of golf are being played. Mountain bikes are smoothing out the trails. Wildflowers are off the charts.

Lightning is happening here often this summer and it is brilliant. The thunder is loud and echoing off the valley walls. People seem to be embracing fireworks more this month, maybe because they are not worried about dry grass catching fire. It must tough to be a dog this summer.

A chilly, high mountain pond skim last weekend seemed to officially end a ski season that feels at times like it could start again any minute. Fresh snow was spotted up Paradise Divide Tuesday. The days are a bit shorter than they were just a few weeks ago but the sunsets are spectacular. My furnace kicked on one morning this week. Weird. You really should have a jacket with you most of the time these days, either for the rain or for the chill.

Just imagine if this moisture had come in January. Powder would not have been an issue.

Which takes us to 2030. According to a recent scientific paper by Professor Valentina Zharkova of Northumbira University, we could be heading toward another Little Ice Age. Zharkova predicts that solar activity will drop significantly sometime between 2030 and 2040. She said this would lead to a time when sunspots are rare. The last time that happened in the 1600s and 1700s, the planet experienced some extremely cold winters and rivers in North America and Europe actually froze over. Brrr.

Of course, some say this will prove global warming is not a threat and others will point out that during the Little Ice Age, while winters were on average much colder than normal, summers were as warm as ever. That sounds okay to me. The past few winters have been a tad too comfortable.

There is a theory that as high as the skunk cabbage grows in the summer is how deep the snow will be in the winter. Skunk cabbage is tall right now. Right on.

And don’t forget El Niño. Meteorologists are now predicting El Niño conditions next winter, based on water temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean between the International Dateline and Ecuador. Higher temperatures than normal result in El Niño conditions. Lower temperatures than normal result in La Niña conditions.

Crested Butte sits sort of on the edge of the line between La Niña and El Niño. The Steamboat newspaper this week warned their readers that El Niño is not kind to northern Colorado and Steamboat. It can go either way for this place. Depending on how high the Pacific Ridge forms in the winter, we can get pounded with pow or get more wind than snow. The skunk cabbage is saying the ridge will be a friend to us.

So, based on solid scientific evidence, I know this coming ski season could be a really good, deep winter—or not. I know we might get a Little Ice Age in 15 or 20 years—or not.

I really do know this is as green as it gets in this valley and the skunk cabbage is whispering that winter will be good. Now it’s time to go play softball in the rain.

—Mark Reaman

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