Colorado winters not as miserable as they seem, could be worse

January 31, 2017

Christopher Clements

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     Cars stranded on Austin Bluffs, two feet of snow in Aspen overnight, cancelled classes, subzero temperatures and large flurries falling heavily from the sky.

     If any of this sounds familiar to you, then you know that Colorado winters are not fun.

     In January, Colorado ranked ranked 47 out of 50 in Thrillist article “Every State, Ranked by How Miserable its Winters are.”

     Hawaii came in at 50 with the most comfortable while Minnesota ranked first.

     The Centennial State only fell one above California.

     As an Alabama native, I don’t know much about winters in California.

     But after growing up at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains in Gadsden, Ala., I am confident in its ranking of 41.

     During my first winter in Colorado I was amazed at how warm it was. I was able to enjoy the windless 15-degree temperature in jeans and a long sleeved T-shirt.

     Six weeks later, I was back in Gadsden for winter break. The contrast between Alabama and Colorado was sharp.

     While outside I had to wear thermal underwear, jeans, a flannel and a massive, down North Face jacket. Yet I was still freezing.

     I checked the local weather: 42 degrees. The temperature didn’t mean anything compared to how it felt.

     Humidity plays a larger role in the temperature in Alabama than in Colorado.

     According to Current Results, Colorado Springs averages at around 50 percent humidity daily. Birmingham averages at 70 percent and rarely dips below 60 percent.

     In Colorado, the jet stream is forced to drop its water from the Pacific Ocean on the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains, which makes the Front Range a high altitude desert. As it crosses the United States, it blows over the Gulf of Mexico, picking up the wet air before crossing the southeast in a northeastern direction.

     The constant movement of water vapor prevents it from freezing out of the air as it often does on cold days in Colorado, so the air is always thick and wet in Alabama, no matter how cold it gets.

     Imagine taking a cold shower and putting on clothes without drying off. Now imagine being outside on a 35-degree day in Colorado right after.

     Unfortunately, the water vapor condenses on objects and freezes, which is what happens before it snows and creates a layer of black ice under the snow on the road in the south.

     Colorado has plenty of winter sun and snow while Alabama tends to be cloudy, dreary and rainy.

     I still complain about Colorado winters, but only because I do not like being cold. But I would much rather spend a cold, dry (and often sunny) winter in Colorado opposed to a cold, wet and cloudy one in Alabama.

     Colorado winters are far easier to manage than the other states and we should happy for that.