Colorado has warmed 2.2°F over the past century, and in the same time frame San Miguel County has warmed 3.3°F.
DENVER — Segments of Colorado light up on a map that tracks rising temperatures.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) map indicates that San Miguel County, in the southwestern part of the state, is a hotspot, and that may impact how people live their lives. everyday life.
“It absolutely looks like a threat,” County Executive Mike Bordogna said, referring to everything from the layer of dust evaporating their snow, to drought, to fires.
Bordogna said the whole county was affected.
“On the east end of the county, we have a tourism-based economy, based on the ski area and the historic town. We are really concerned that if we have continued droughts and less snowpack, it will affect that attendance and the whole economy linked to winter tourism,” Bordogna said.
“On the western end of the county, it’s more the ranching and agricultural economy. It’s just as threatened, if not more so, per capita, because of the multi-year drought.”
“We’ve seen big ranches being sold there, although no one is saying why,” he added. “They may be trying to get out of ranching, I don’t think it’s a surprise that they see greater challenges with water availability and crop production.”
Deputy state climatologist Becky Bollinger said the map was made by plotting temperatures from 1895 to 2020 and then calculating the linear trend. She said this map and the hotspots may vary depending on when the data was collected, but reflect the general trend in Colorado.
“Mountains are experiencing greater warming due to the impact of climate change across the globe,” Bollinger said. “We know that warming is greatest near the poles, the higher the latitude and the higher the altitudes.”
Bollinger said Colorado has warmed by 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century and in the same time frame San Miguel County has warmed by 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We’ve seen consistent warming,” she said.
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While the change may be difficult to understand, Bollinger said we’re now at the point where it’s impacting everyday life, even things as simple as going out.
“The air quality is worse, you can’t go out to do the things you want to do. National and state forests shut down during fires,” Bollinger said. “There are a lot of implications for people who live in the city. You have to get out at some point.”
San Miguel County has several projects underway to address this issue, including new building codes so that construction is as close to net zero carbon emissions as possible, as well as work on forest health, financing forest fire mitigation and investing in public transport.
The county is also working on affordable housing. It’s not uncommon for someone to make a two-hour round trip because accommodation closer to work is too expensive.
“That creates 10.5 metric tons of carbon per year,” Bordogna said. “More housing closer to employers can help with that.”
“Periodically there is a little respite that lulls people into a sense of complacency,” he added. “You think, ‘Oh, that’s a normal pattern.’ If you look at our climate, look at the snowpack and the amount of runoff over a period of years, it’s pretty easy to see that we’re drying up.”
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