Northern Arizona has finally come out of a cold snap that set record-breaking lows for both day and nighttime temperatures. Arizona Public Radio's Gillian Ferris Kohl spoke with Flagstaff meteorologist Lee Born about the big freeze.
GFK: How cold was it?
LB: It was record-breaking cold. We not only had daily records, but the 5-day period from January 11th to January 15th when we were really locked in the freezer here was the coldest 5-day stretch in Flagstaff in 22 years. It hasn't been this cold in Flagstaff since late December, 1990. So, the average when you look our overnight lows - which were in the negatives each and every day during that spell - and our high temperatures never got out of the mid-twenties with one day with a high temperature of only 16. We average all those together and it was the coldest 5-day stretch in 22 years.
GFK: If daytime temperatures were that frigid, then let's talk about the nighttime temperatures.
LB: Right. We had 5 straight days in a row with negative overnight lows, although Flagstaff wasn't the coldest place. Out at Bellemont and also toward Sunset Crater we were seeing temperatures in the -15, -18 degree range. And that was 5 days straight. Back in January of 1937, you think we had it bad? They had 17 days below zero that month.
GFK: In meteorological circles, what kind of discussion - if any - is going on about the possible involvement of climate change in extreme weather events?
LB: Part of climate change is that it's not necessarily global warming, it can be global cooling, as well. But, definitely more extremes. Certainly, extremes have always occurred. It seems though, they're occurring more, not only with temperatures, but with storms over the last 10-15 years. I do believe that this is part of the whole climate change situation: the super cold that we're in, we're seeing longer spells of drought, more big storms and not as many of them.
GFK: What is the forecast, Lee, as we head into the holiday weekend? No more painfully cold temperatures I hope.
LB: Basically, we're back around average with high temperatures coming in at the low 40's and our overnight lows dropping down into the teens or on some nights, possibly the single digits. And, unfortunately, it's going to be a very dry January. Looking at the models it looks like we're going to go this way at least into late next week with very little hope for any moisture for the rest of the month.
Lee Born is a meteorologist based in Flagstaff.