2002 sets a dry record | VailDaily.com

2002 sets a dry record

Cliff Thompson

The month provided a snapshot of 2002.

Temperature and precipitation measurements taken by Avon’s Frank Doll show just 6 inches of snow hit Avon in December. That snow was pretty dry, too, containing just 0.35 inches of water.

Many of the winter storms moving through the Eagle River area provided moderately heavy snow at high elevations, but they largely spared valley floors. Vail Mountain was able to open a week early with record opening-day snow and terrain.

December snows brought the year-end total to 80.3 inches, which is 66 percent of the 120-inch annual average, Doll said. Moisture for drought-stricken 2002 was 14.55 inches. The annual average is 22 inches.

“What you can see by the big (weather) pattern is the effect of warmth coming off the Pacific and splitting and going north or south of us,” Doll said. “The warm air comes right through the middle. They’re getting a ton more snow north and the south of us.”

El Nino is an upwelling of warm water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that carries moisture-laden clouds eastward. It results in a split in the high-altitude jet stream that carries storms, leaving Colorado between storm tracks.

The coldest temperature was 4 degrees Dec. 26; and warmest, 46, was recorded both Dec. 14 and 16. The average high temperature was 34; and the low, 13.5 degrees.

“We’re in terrible shape,” said Doll said, who has been recording weather statistics for 25 years from his home in Avon.

He’s a “weather watcher” for the National Weather Service.

The wettest year of the last 10 was 1995, when 25.93 inches of moisture was measured in Avon, Doll said. The driest was 2002, and next driest was 1992’s 17.9 inches. That winter saw 116 inches of snow but very little summer moisture, Doll said.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com.

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