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Heat wave shatters temperature records around the Mountain West

A graphic from the National Weather Service detailing recent record-breaking high temperatures in the region.
National Weather Service
A graphic from the National Weather Service detailing recent record-breaking high temperatures in the region.

It's December in the Mountain West but it's been downright balmy, with high temperatures breaking decades-old records around the region.

In Montana, on Sunday, several cities broke long-standing high temperature records – by 10 degrees in some locations. The next day, Pueblo, Colo., reached a record 75 degrees. In Wyoming, Laramie and Cheyenne both broke their daily records on Thursday, at 62 and 70 degrees, respectively.

"Right now, normal temperatures are supposed to be in the upper 30s to low 40s. But we've been about 25 to 30 degrees above normal," said Jared Allen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Meanwhile, much of the West continues to be in drought.

J.J. Shinker is a professor of geography at the University of Wyoming and studies climate, drought, and water resources across the West. She said the conditions don’t surprise her, given what we know about climate change. But the impact is still jarring—especially with the recent wildfires in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado.

"It's pretty spectacular to think that we're seeing some radical changes in terms of climate and water resources play out in real human timeframes," Shinker said.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Maggie Mullen is Wyoming Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. Her work has aired on NPR, Marketplace, Science Friday, and Here and Now. She was awarded a 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on the Black 14.
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