Category: Webcams

Welcome back, TundraCam

Niwot Ridge looking west towards (left to right) North and South Arapaho, Kiowa, Navajo, Apache, and Shoshoni Peaks . The flower in the foreground is Old-Man-of-the-Mountain  (Hymenoxis grandiflora).Ê Photo: B. Bowman.
Alpine tundra on Niwot Ridge, looking west toward the Indian Peaks. The flower in the foreground is Old-Man-of-the-Mountain (Hymenoxis grandiflora). Photo: B. Bowman. From the TundraCam website.

One of my favorite Colorado webcams, the TundraCam, is operable again for the first time since last year. I checked on it a few minutes ago, and there was the live image, complete with cloud shadows racing by. Hurray!

Perched at 11,600 feet on Niwot Ridge, west of Boulder, the fully “steerable” webcam is sponsored by several research groups at the University of Colorado. Be sure to explore the website to learn more about their activities and the area around the lab. Enjoy the photo gallery and the interactive panoramas (particularly nice if the weather is obscuring the camera view or if you are queued behind several other users).

Never assume this is just another webcam with a neat view. No two visits here are the same. There’s always something going on. The clouds come and go, the wind blows, the sun sets, the weather closes in and clears, hikers trudge by, hawks perch on the camera tower, snowdrifts drift, rain or ice cover the lens, and the anemometer spins itself into a blur.

I know, I know. I’ve posted all this in the past. Doesn’t matter. This cam’s been down for a very long time and I’m thrilled to see it back in action. High fives to the folks in Boulder who have been tearing their hair for months trying to get their baby working again.

It’s dry in them thar hills

Long Peak Cam view (click to enlarge)
Long Peak Cam view (click to enlarge)

I’ve added another Colorado webcam to those I regularly visit. This one is at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, one of two entrances on the east edge of Rocky Mountain National Park and the one I usually use. (You’ll have to click on the link and scroll down to see the camera’s entire view. With luck, they’ll have moved the cherrypicker by then.)

Aside from offering a nice view of Longs Peak, it includes an interesting bit of information in that bar at the top — the relative humidity. Those of you not familiar with Colorado mountain air might be surprised to see the humidity often comes up 0%. Zero. Zilch. Nada. One day, even with the peaks shrouded in rain, the humidity was at 2%. That is not a lush pine forest you see, folks. It’s a tinderbox ready to explode. The grass is always brown and crunches underfoot, even in “wet” years.

Yep, it’s dry here. Denver itself is considered a high desert climate. For years, when I came up here for vacations in the mountains, I brought portable humidifiers with me. Now, having lived here four years, I seem to have adapted a bit. I often don’t think to turn on the whole-house humidifier until the static electricity drives me to it. At that point the humidity indoors is usually somewhere in the low teens.

Virga east of Denver (click to enlarge)
Virga east of Denver

This is where I first learned about virga. Virga is rain that falls from the clouds but evaporates in the dry air before it hits the ground. Intensely frustrating for farmers and others needing rain. We watch big, black, juicy storm clouds roll across the sky. We hear the ripples of thunder; we smell the sweetness and feel the rising wind on our faces. We see the shafts of rain start down toward the parched earth and then … nothing. Mother Nature’s a bitch sometimes.

The up side, of course, is that we enjoy “dry cold” and “dry heat” here, which are so much nicer than their more humid cousins in other parts of the country. So I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m just stating facts.

Denver has gotten a whole .1 inch of moisture so far this month (10″ snow = 1″ rain). That’s bad; March is supposed to be our snowiest month. We might not have an “official” drought this year because there’s been a lot of snow in the mountains. But it is definitely going to be dry.

High-altitude Colo. webcam up and running again

Most readers probably won’t care, but my favorite high-altitude (11,600 ft.) webcam, TundraCam, is back in operation.

The TundraCam is fully controllable, with zoom and pan functions, and has a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountain high country west of Boulder, Colorado. It is located at a research station on Niwot Ridge and can be reached only via hiking trails. Fully exposed to the worst weather the high country can whip up, the camera may sometimes be frozen in place or knocked completely offline. When this happens during the winter, it can be several months before anyone can get to it for repairs. (I seem to have problems getting this cam to work with IE, but it usually works with Firefox.)

Personally, I enjoy using the camera to admire the view, check the weather, watch the sunset (never up early enough to catch the sunrise), and see the lights of Denver and Boulder at night. I’ve even watched hikers coming and going.

It appears TundraCam has been repositioned a bit from last fall, so I’ll be spending some time getting reoriented. Meantime, welcome back, TundraCam!

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