The Summer Solstice greeted Carbondale residents Tuesday to some unseasonably frosty temperatures, catching gardeners off guard and making for a cold start to summer.
While temperatures dipped to 43 degrees Fahrenheit in Glenwood Springs around 6 am Tuesday — one degree off the record low — Carbondale was the cold spot in the entire Roaring Fork Valley, according to readings recorded by the National Weather Service out of Grand Junction.
Even there, the low of 31 degrees, one degree below freezing, was somewhat isolated, said Scott Stearns, meteorologist with the NWS regional office.
“The south side of town was particularly unlucky with the way the cold air came down that (Crystal River) drainage,” Stearns said.
A Colorado State University Extension Ag weather station located south of town near the river recorded an early morning low of 29 degrees, he said.
Across the entire region, “Temperatures did get a little colder than we had expected last night,” Stearns said.
Grand Junction recorded a nighttime low of 46 degrees. The normal low this time of year is 53, he said.
In Aspen, the temperature dipped to 39 — 4 degrees below normal, but well above the record low for June 21, the first day of summer. The record low in Aspen for that day is 34.
Basalt got down to 36 degrees. And in Carbondale, the dip below freezing was short-lived, as the recorded temperature at 4 am was 35 and by 7 am it was back to 37 degrees, according to NWS readings.
The reason for the extra-low early morning temps this time of year has more to do with dry conditions than moist weather, Stearns said.
“The dry air moving in combined with a lack of cloud cover helped cool things off more efficiently than was forecast,” he said. “When you have higher moisture content overnight, it doesn’t get as cold.”
Low-lying areas where what little moisture there is then tends to dip temperatures even lower, causing frost when the freezing point is breached, he explained.
It was a rude-awakening for gardeners who are nursing young, early-season plants and weren’t prepared for the freezing temperatures this late in the season.
“We were OK here, because we’re pretty tuned in to the weather and did get out and covered a few things we were worried about,” said Rose Le Van at the Sustainable Settings farm and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) co-op located about 5 miles south of Carbondale along Colorado Highway 133.
She said the temperature there got to about 34, although she suspects some locales near Thompson Creek and irrigation ditches likely got colder.
Because the freeze was short-lived, Le Van suggested that gardeners keep calm and see if any plants that got nipped bounce back with the daytime temperatures, which were expected to get into the 80s.
“Especially with the hardy greens, even if they get a little frosted, we find it’s best to just let them thaw and usually they’re OK,” she said.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.