Aspen 2010 Weather Report Released
Aspen's 2010 weather followed the rest of the globe with fewer cold days than usual and continued warmer-than-average weather.

“Aspen had its warmest December in the last couple of decades, with the warmest average night temperatures and more warm days than usual,” said Lauren McDonnell, director of the City’s Canary Initiative, which is focused on climate change. “Night temperatures were an average of over 8 degrees warmer than normal for the last thirty years.”

December was also one of the wettest in recent years, with unusual rain instead of snow in the middle of the month. Snow-cover in town was the lowest amount in the last decade for the end of the year.

Globally, 2010 was tied with 1998 and 2005 for the warmest year on record.

The 2010 Aspen Annual Air Quality and Temperature Report notes fifty years ago, Aspen typically had 20, below-zero days a year, but now there are typically fewer than ten.

“This makes it more challenging each year to make and keep snow on the ski areas,” McDonnell said. “Aspen used to have 73 frost-free days per year, but now has 144 days.”

Temperature records have been kept in Aspen in various locations back to 1914. Weather records are recorded at the Aspen Water Plant now. 
Recognizing the threat that increased warming poses to Aspen's economy as well as known effects like rising sea levels, Aspen started its own climate change program called the Canary Initiative in 2005. Since then, the city has led by example by working toward a 100 percent renewable municipal utility, offering a variety of energy efficiency programs and incentives, and providing ways for people to travel with less impact (buses, carpool programs and bikeways to name a few).

The annual report also shows recent levels of both PM-10 and ozone air pollution.

PM-10 is particulate air pollution caused almost exclusively by traffic, responsible for an estimated 60,000 deaths in the US each year. Aspen's PM-10 levels are highest on those days with the most traffic.

In 2010, an unusual "red dust" event brought dust from Utah and Arizona to Aspen, causing the highest PM-10 day of the year. 
Ozone is also measured in Aspen. The highest level recorded on the Western Slope occurred on Aspen Mountain a few years ago, so Aspen began a monitoring program in 2009.

“The federal standard is being revised, so it isn't known yet whether Aspen's levels will be within the limits or above them,” said Jannette Whitcomb, senior Environmental Health program coordinator. “Aspen had ten days in 2010 when levels were above the strictest proposed standard.”

Ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation and congestion. It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema and asthma and reduce exercise performance.

For a full copy of the report, and past reports, visit the City’s Website here.

For more information on Aspen's Canary Initiative, please contact Lauren McDonell at 429-1831. For information on Aspen's air pollution, contact Jannette Whitcomb at 920-5069.

Posted on Wednesday, January 26, 2011