Six record highs fell in June

Forecasters have hopes for monsoon season

Cortez broke six daily high temperatures readings in June, and back-to-back 102-degree readings matched the city’s all-time record high.

Those consecutive 102-degree record highs occurred June 27 and 28. The previous daily highs were 97 degrees set in 1970 and 96 degrees set in 1990, respectively.

“We absolutely smashed those daily records,” said cooperative weather observer Jim Andrus.

The following day, June 29, Cortez didn’t get much relief, also setting a new record high of 99 degrees, breaking a 1990 recorded high of 97. The beginning of June also had new records. A 95 degree record from 1996 was broken on June 9 by one degree, and a 93 degree record from the same year was surpassed by two degrees on June 10. And on June 12, a record high of 92 degrees dating back to 1930 was broken by one degree.

A National Weather Service cooperative weather observer for Cortez for the past 16 years, Andrus said the local record high temperatures follow a pattern observed across the United States. More and more records are being broken, and that repetition is another piece of evidence for global warming, he added.

“Weather observers are like a doctor or nurse,” Andrus said. “Instead of the heart, we take the pulse of the earth and the atmosphere.”

The trending high temperatures, Andrus explained, add to the large amount of scientific evidence that global warming is real. He cited studies show glacial melting at both poles is contributing to rising sea levels of approximately an eighth of an inch annually, or one foot per century.

“I do believe global warming is taking place,” he added.

A former National Weather Service computer programmer, Andrus said his interest in meteorology sparked in 1955 when he was 10 years old. He and his family were living in Mount Vernon, Wash,, at the time, and after receiving a barometer for Christmas, Andrus started monitoring the wild Pacific storms overhead.

Andrus received a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin before joining the Air Force, where he served as a weather observer while stationed in Louisiana. Andrus also served 18 months as a volunteer on-air meteorologist with a PBS station in Juneau, Alaska, worked at NWS headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., and also worked at NWS Pacific region headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii.

According to Andrus, Montezuma County has been experiencing a drought since 1997. While the drought has not been consistent, including three years of above-normal precipitation and two years of near-normal precipitation, Andrus said two-thirds of the last 15 years have experienced below normal levels of precipitation.

“We were extremely dry back in 2002,” Andrus said. “That drought was categorized as exceptional, which is the worst classification. Today, we’re under extreme conditions, one step below exceptional, and this has been the worst year since 2002.”

Due to the drought conditions, Andrus warned more people should practice conservation. Simply turning off the water while brushing your teeth helps to save precious resources, he said.

“Given that the Four Corners is so dry, conserving water should be a daily part of life,” he added. “It’s a good practice to conserve our resources.”

Earlier this year, forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were pessimistic about potential rainfall across the region in 2013. Andrus said officials are now more optimistic. The 30-day July forecast calls for wetter than normal conditions across the Four Corners region, and the 90-day July through September forecast calls for near normal conditions.

“There’s recent optimism for a better monsoon season this year, but I’ll believe it when I can measure it,” Andrus proclaimed.

On Monday, Andrus recorded the area’s first significant rainfall in more than 60 days, a total .04 inch. It was the first measurable rainfall since May 10, when .01 inch was recorded.

“The normal amount for July is 1.23 inches of rain,” he said.

The area’s monsoon season, which normally starts in mid-July, is triggered by the western extension of the Bermuda high, a weather pattern found over the Eastern Atlantic Ocean. As that high moves west, moisture from the Gulf of Mexico flows from the south and east.

“It’s a river of moist air,” Andrus explained. “And much like a river on land, that moisture meanders over Mexico and across the Southwest.”