OP: Colorado Springs’ weather identity is dissonant with its reality

16 April 2019

Travis Boren

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    We always hear that Colorado has 300 days of sunshine each year. It is used to sell the city, and even the university, to encourage people to come to stay or visit.

    UCCS’ National Student Exchange advertises both legendary snow and 300 days of sunshine as reasons to study at UCCS. The College of Business takes it further by saying that we have more than 300 days of sunshine, but neither really match up to the truth of the city. Even the Scribe has used this claim, with no data to back it up, on both social media and in reporting.

    The myth has become so widespread that media organizations that exist outside of Colorado present it as fact, leading Colorado transplants to a rude awakening when they arrive.

    A large part of the issue comes from there being no real way to define a day of sunshine. Based on how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) counts days of sunshine, we average 243 days that are partly cloudy or clear, and not counting days that are mostly cloudy or overcast.

    These 243 days are still two months shorter than what our weather identity suggests, which is far from an acceptable margin of error.

    Even if we ignore days that are mostly cloudy or overcast, the number of days where we get rain or snow destroys that myth.

    According to data from the NOAA’s Colorado Springs station, we average 91.5 days with precipitation greater than 0.01 inches, with August having the highest of an average of 13.6 days.

    Our snow coverage is less, with only 29.2 days averaging more than 0.01 inches of snow with March having the highest at 5.9 days.

    If we wanted to have an identity for our weather that is accurate to Colorado Springs, we should look at wind.

    Our least windy month is November, where 86 percent of days have wind speeds over 10 mph. June is our windiest month, with an average of 44 percent of days having wind over 25 mph and an average 98 percent of days having wind over 10 mph. July and August both have an average of 28 days with wind over 10 mph.

    The reason wind is not central to our identity in this city is because we keep trying to sell the city to people, or make ourselves feel better for living somewhere with infrastructure issues caused by neglect. We cannot let ourselves look at something as undesirable as wind and connect that with our sense of identity when we can use sunshine as a metaphor for how great we have it, even when we do not.

    Our identity, especially when it comes to the reality of what weather really is like, does not match the reality we live in, because it is how we protect ourselves from a greater disappointment. A disappointment that only increases as we trick more and more people to move to Colorado Springs and we start to become as miserable as the people who left their misery behind to try and find a false sense of happiness that we sell.

    If we can sell 300 days of sunshine to those who do not live in Colorado, maybe we can sell it to ourselves.