Thursday, September 04, 2008

It totally feels like it turned Fall overnight.

It's beginning to look a lot like winter… at the zoo

'DENVER – Believe it or not, on Sept. 4, 1961, Denver got 4 inches of snow. The recent cooler weather this week, 47 years later, has some wondering how far off winter really is.

Some people went to the zoo to find out. The sea lion show at the Denver Zoo gets an audience pretty easily, but zoo workers say the sea lions' increased appetite could indicate a change in the weather.

"Marine mammals use a layer of blubber to help them keep warm in the winter. So, in the fall, they start asking for more food," said Emily Insalaco, the curator of behavior husbandry at the zoo.

With Sept. 4 marking the date of Denver's earliest snowfall ever, the sea lions' behavior isn't so abnormal.

"(When it snowed that early) the residents should have been extremely surprised," said Klaus Weickmann, a research meteorologist at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory.

By all accounts, this year it is too early for snow in Denver, but Weickmann says the hot summer days may be behind us.

"This cool regime will continue for awhile," he said.

He says it's impossible to predict the first day of snowfall, but the polar bears at the zoo might have a clue.

"You'll see them moving around more, instead of lounging," said Insalaco.

The arctic fox is also starting to change its coat to snow white.

"They know when it's starting to get colder out," said Insalaco.

Many meteorologists say it's hard to say if it will be a snowy or dry winter at this point.

"El Nino and La Nina are tugging back and forth," said Weickmann.

Forecasting isn't as easy as the animals make it look.

"I've often thought the activity of squirrels may provide some indicator, but I don't believe that stuff," said Weickmann.

Weickmann says there is still a good chance of warmer days during the rest of 2008, but he doubts we'll reach 90 degrees again.'

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