Fox predicted five years ago
that the next big factor wed be dealing with would be
the wind after observing changes and connecting the dots.
In Colorado, we get
our wind from the west, he explained. Canada gets
its wind from the east. Where the wind belts rub against each
other it causes friction. As friction occurs, it creates
waves in the atmosphere. Waves create frontal systems. These frontal
systems are most noticeable during the change of seasons, which
is also when we get our biggest storms, particularly in spring
Fox concluded that climate change is tipping the balance toward
a battle of heat and cold. Storms, created when frontal
systems collide, are the atmospheres way of dealing with
differences in temperature, he said. The atmosphere
is attempting to balance the energy and equalize the temperature
with the air going from high pressure to low pressure.
Fox added that cold air is
now coming further south than it used to and warm air is going
further north than usual. Wind is air trying to equalize
pressure, he said. The scientist then used the analogy of
a runner eating a big bowl of pasta. If he then downs a
Red Bull, there is more energy in the system to fuel his run,
This pasta analogy goes beyond
the college classroom and has a practical and local effect as
well. It can be applied to the recent wind and dust storms that
have wreaked havoc on Durango locals and tourists alike.
Bayfield motorcyclist Jeff
Gilmore had his windshield sandblasted as he headed into Flagstaff
recently. Semis were lined up on the side of the road,
he said. Foot high sand drifts progressed across I-89 from
Page to Flagstaff. Although he pulled down his full-face
helmet and shut all the vents, Gilmore was still pounded. Sand
stuck to my chapstick and the fine grit got in my mouth,
Carlotta Haber and her daughter
were sent 100 miles out of their way while driving from Durango
to Sedona a few weeks ago. Just before Holbrook, Ariz., on I-40
West, a sign read, Highway closed 43 miles ahead due to
I couldnt see
the car in front of me and big tumbleweeds were rolling at the
car, she said.
These anecdotes are directly
in line with scientific findings. In fact, the National Center
for Atmospheric Research in Boulder has formulated global climate
models forecasting that all weather will get more extreme.
Storms are stronger than 20 years ago, according to NCAR, as the
research center is predicting more precipitation per storm event,
despite its forecast for fewer overall storms.
Tim Foresman, former director
of the United Nations Environmental program, explained, These
conditions are exactly what caused this past winters heavy
snows in the East and the recent flooding in Tennessee. One was
an extraordinary winter precipitation event and the other was
a spring precipitation event.
While these conditions may
feel like an anomaly, research indicates that they are the logical
result of changing conditions. National Climatic Data Center statistics
reveal that in the last 30 years, the temperature has risen an
average of 2 degrees in the United States. Since 1975, the average
temperature in Colorado has increased by 2.28 degrees. The only
two states whose temperatures have risen more are Utah, with a
2.43 degree increase, and Arizon,a with 2.79 degrees. A NASA report
corroborates these findings. The report states that the last 12
months have been the warmest in at least 1,000 years.
Foresman added, The
meteorological forecasts are based on prior weather patterns and
may not be accurate without considering changes under way due
to a warming climate. Forecasts are based on seasonal models from
the immediate past and may not be a good indicator of the future
due to changing climatic conditions. His expertise has been
extremely valuable to his sister-in-law, who just purchased property
and is building a home in Durango. Counseling her on what to expect
in the near future due to the changing patterns, she modified
her construction plans.
Foresman has also utilized
NASA & NOVA satellites to measure the temperature of the oceans.
Since 73 percent of the planet is covered in water, an increase
of even a few degrees has a serious impact. Water has been
simmering for 10,000 to 50,000 years, he said. Turn
up the heat and the water boils faster. The atmosphere is doing
the same thing. Larger highs and lows with more disjunction. These
are patterns we havent experienced since the beginning of
Having recently experienced
a blizzard in May in Santa Fe, Foresman stated the obvious. The
systems are all out of whack, he said. Were
going to be in for some interesting times. We can put our heads
in the sand, or we can prepare.
In closing, Foresman remarked
that the windiest days could be ahead for the Four Corners and
Southwest and offered local residents a piece of advice. If
you have shutters on your windows, I suggest you make sure theyre
functional and not decorative, he said. The winds
arent going to go away until you turn the heat down.