Skywatch 2018

by Phillip Virden
National Weather Service Observer for Lake City for thirty years

This special SKYWATCH edition will review our 2018 weather and highlight upcoming astronomy events for 2019. So, before you read, brew up your favorite hot drink and get by the fireplace to relish the ways of our Lake City mountain climate and our extraordinary & beautiful night sky.

The Cold (& Hot) Hard Facts –
2018 in Review from a Meteorological Perspective

Month High vs Average Low vs Average Precipitation vs Average

January 38.5 vs 33.8 5.1 vs -1.4 .83” vs .83”
February 38.5 vs 37.8 9.4 vs 3.2 1.01” vs .75”
March 46.1 vs 44.7 15.1 vs 13.4 .19” vs .96”
April 55.7 vs 53.3 26.5 vs 22.7 1.80” vs 1.07”
May 67.8 vs 62.5 34.3 vs 31.2 .06” vs 1.00”
June 79.7 vs 72.8 41.8 vs 38.5 .44” vs .79”
July 81.4 vs 76.8 46.9 vs 44.7 2.42” vs 2.05”
August 78.0 vs 74.1 43.7 vs 43.4 1.26” vs 2.22”
September 72.8 vs 68.8 38.9 vs 35.8 .95” vs 1.33”
October 56.0 vs 59.4 28.0 vs 25.6 1.51” vs 1.30”
November 39.4 vs 45.4 10.1 vs 13.4 .90” vs .96”
December 29.2 vs 34.3 .2 vs 1.3 1.00” vs .97”

Average mean temperature for 2018 was 40.96 degrees versus historical average of 38.98 degrees…a dramatic difference.

Total precipitation for 2018 was 12.37” vs 14.23” historical average…again, a very significant change.

Coldest recording was -12 on February 21; Warmest recording was 87 on July 9.

2018 Weather Summary

2018 was extremely dry for Lake City. Precipitation was lacking in March, May, and June. Even in August and September, rains were well below average. Although we rebounded in the fall with decent rainfall and snow, we wound up almost a full two inches below average precipitation for the year. The most noticeable impacts were the very early runoff peak in May (rather than in June), the very low level of the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River in August, and the desert-looking image of Blue Mesa Reservoir come autumn. Let’s hope 2019 will be a wetter year.

Another anomaly in our weather is occurring with Lake City’s average mean temperature. Note the following:

1960 to 1990 Average mean temperature was 38.4 degrees.
1980 to 2010 Average mean temperature was 40 degrees.
2018 Average mean temperature was 40.98 degrees.

It doesn’t seem like that much, but it is. Usually, there may be a variation of half a degree for a year. But to have a departure of one to two degrees is something to pay attention to.

Also, of note, look what is happening in September:

Average historical mean temperature for September: 52.3
Mean temperature for September 2012 was 53.45
Mean temperature for September 2013 was 54.1
Mean temperature for September 2014 was 55
Mean temperature for September 2015 was 55.5
Mean temperature for September 2016 was 52.9
Mean temperature for September 2017 was 53.1
Mean temperature for September 2018 was 55.9

Not only was September 2018 a full 3+ degrees above the historical average, but it was the seventh year in a row of above average mean temperatures. Maybe you have noticed the lack of 32 or below freezing

lows in September, the color of lawns staying green a little longer, the aspens turning differently, bears out
and about, flowers still in bloom. Regardless, recent Septembers (and years) are getting warmer.

Astronomy Highlights in 2019
January 3 & 4 Quadrantids meteor shower
January 6 Venus at highest point in sky at dawn in the east
January 21 Total lunar eclipse*
May 6 Eta aquarids meteor shower
June 10 Jupiter at opposition
July 9 Saturn at opposition
August 11 Perseid meteor shower
October 1 Mars rising at dawn
October 21 Orionids meteor shower
November 11 Mercury transit of Sun
December 13 Geminid meteor shower

Full Moon dates – January 21, February 19, March 21, April 19, May 18, June 17, July 16, August 15, September 14, October 13, November 12, December 12
New Moon dates – January 6, February 4, March 6, April 4, May 4, June 3, July 2, August 1, August 30,
September 28, October 28, November 26, December 26

*If we have clear skies on January 20, don’t miss seeing the Total Lunar Eclipse. Some notes:

• On January 20, the Moon will appear especially bright since it will be at perigee (closest to Earth at a distance of 222,042 miles versus 252,622 miles at apogee on February 5).
• The January Moon is known in many Indian cultures as the Wolf Moon.
• A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is between the Sun and the Moon. Because the Moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical, a full lunar eclipse is a rare occurrence.
• The eclipse will begin at 7:36 p.m. on Sunday, January 20.
• Total lunar eclipse begins at 9:41 pm. Look for the Moon to take on a reddish color; primarily due to the Sun’s rays passing through Earth’s atmosphere.
• Totality will be at 10:12 pm.
• Totality ends at approximately 10:43 pm.
• We won’t have another total lunar eclipse again until May 26, 2021!

As you may have heard, an effort is being made to have the Lake Fork Valley Conservancy’s 50+ acre property south of Lake City designated as a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. Such a designation would be an important step forward for protecting an area near Lake City from light pollution for years to come. However, we don’t have to wait for such recognition to help preserve our beautiful dark skies.

Save money with your house lights; turn off when not in use. If a yard light, use a timer and provide a shield so light effectively goes downward and not up. Lake City has some of the darkest and most beautiful night skies in the state and country; thank you for helping protect them from light pollution so everyone can enjoy the starry night sky for future generations.

Check out Mountaineer Theatre’s weather webcam – KCOLAKEC7 @