Colorado Springs is the county seat and most populous city of El Paso County. Colorado Springs is located in the east central portion of the state. It is located 60 miles south of Denver. At 6,035 the city stands over one mile above sea level, though some areas of the city are significantly higher and lower. Colorado Springs is situated near the base of one of the most famous American mountains, Pikes Peak, rising over 8,000 feet above the city on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. The United States Air Force Academy is located in Colorado Springs. The city is often referred to as "The Springs."
The Springs had an estimated population of 431,834 in 2012., being the second most populous city in the state of Colorado, behind Denver, and the 41st most populous city in the United States, while the Colorado Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area had an estimated population of 668,353 in 2012. The city covers 194.7 sq miles, making it Colorado's largest city in area. Colorado Springs was selected as the No. 1 Best Big City in "Best Places to Live" by Money magazine in 2006, and placed number one in Outside's 2009 list of America's Best Cities.
The city is made up of the mountains to the west, the Palmer Divide to the north, high plains further east, and desert land to the south when leaving Fountain, and approaching Pueblo, Colo.
Colorado Springs has many features of a modern urban area, such as parks, bike trails, and urban open-area spaces. However, it is not exempt from problems that typically plague cities that experience tremendous growth, such as overcrowded roads and highways, crime, sprawl, and government budget issues. Many of the problems are indirectly or directly caused by the city's difficulty in coping with the large population growth experienced in the last 20 years, and the annexation of the Banning Lewis Ranch area to accommodate further population growth of 175,000 future residents.
Colorado Springs has a semi-arid climate, and its location just east of the Rocky Mountains affords it the rapid warming influence from chinook winds during winter but also subjects it to drastic day-to-day variability in weather conditions. The city has abundant sunshine throughout the year, averaging over 300 days of sun. Due to unusually low precipitation for several years after flooding in 1999, Colorado Springs enacted lawn water restrictions in 2002. These were lifted in 2005. Colorado Springs is also one of the most active lightning strike areas in the United States. This natural phenomenon led Nikola Tesla to select Colorado Springs as the preferred location to build his lab and study electricity.
Winters range from mild to moderately cold, with December, the coldest month, averaging 30.8 °F. Historically January has been the coldest month, but, in recent years, December has had both lower daily maxima and minima. Typically, there are 5.2 nights with sub-0 °F lows and 23.6 days where the high does not rise above freezing, and extended sub-zero (°F) cold is rare. Snowfall is usually moderate and remains on the ground briefly because of direct sun, although the mountains to the west receive much more. March is the snowiest month in the region, both by total accumulation and number of days with measurable snowfall. In addition, eight of the top 10 heaviest 24-hour snowfalls have occurred from March to May. Summers are warm, with July, the warmest month, averaging 70.9 °F, and 18 days of 90 °F+ highs annually. Due to the high elevation and aridity, nights are usually relatively cool and rarely does the low remain above 70 °F. Dry weather generally prevails, but brief afternoon thunderstorms are common, especially in July and August when the city receives the majority of its annual rainfall, due to the North American Monsoon. The first freeze in the autumn and the last freeze in the spring on average occur on Oct. 2 and May 6, respectively; the average window for measurable snowfall (≥0.1 in or 0.25 cm) is Oct. 21 thru April 25. Extreme temperatures range from 101 °F (38 °C) on June 26, 2012, down to −27 °F (−33 °C) on Feb. 1, 1951 and Dec. 9, 1919.
Colorado Springs' economy is driven primarily by the military, the high-tech industry, and tourism, in that order. The city is currently experiencing some growth mainly in the service sectors. The current unemployment rate, as of November 2013, in Colorado Springs is 7.3 percent compared to 6.5% for the State and 7.0% for the Nation.
The city's location at the base of Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains makes it a popular tourism destination. Tourism is the third largest employer in the Pikes Peak region, accounting for more than 13,000 jobs. Nearly 5 million visitors come to the area annually, contributing $1.35 billion in revenue.
Colorado Springs has more than 55 attractions and activities in the area, including Garden of the Gods, United States Air Force Academy, the American Numismatic Association Money Museum, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Old Colorado City and the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
The downtown Colorado Springs Visitor Information Center offers free area information to leisure and business travelers. The Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, also located downtown, supports and advocates for the arts throughout the Pikes Peak Region. It operates the PeakRadar website to communicate city events.
The defense industry plays a major role in the Colorado Springs economy, with some of the city's largest employers coming from the sector. A large segment of this industry is dedicated to the development and operation of various projects for missile defense. With its close ties to defense, the aerospace industry has also influenced the Colorado Springs economy. Although some defense corporations have left or downsized city campuses, a slight growth trend is still recorded. Significant defense corporations in the city include Boeing, General Dynamics, Harris Corporation, Science Applications International Corporation, ITT Corporation, L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. The Space Foundation is based in Colorado Springs.
The United States Military plays a very important role in the city. Colorado Springs is home to both Army and Air Force bases. These military installations border the city, to the north, south and east, aside from Schriever Air Force Base, which is located farther east of the city, still in El Paso County.
Fort Carson is the city's largest military base, and until mid-2006 was home to the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, which relocated to Fort Hood, Texas. In 2009, Fort Carson became the home station of the 4th Infantry Division, which nearly doubled the base's population. Fort Carson is host to various training grounds for infantry, armor, and aviation units. Fort Carson is also the headquarters of the second and third battalions of the 10th Special Forces Group.
Peterson Air Force BaseEdit
The Air Force has critical aspects of their service based at Colorado Springs which carry on missile defense operations and development. The Air Force bases a large section of the national missile defense operations here, with Peterson Air Force Base set to operate large sections of the program. Peterson AFB is currently the headquarters of the majority of Air Force Space Command and the operations half of Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Command.
Peterson is also headquarters for the United States Northern Command, one of the Unified Combatant Commands. USNORTHCOM directs all branches of the U.S. military operations in their area of responsibility which includes the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, and Mexico. In the event of national emergencies the President or Secretary of Defense can call upon USNORTHCOM for any required military assistance. Service members from every branch of the US Military are stationed at the command.
Schriever Air Force Base (formerly Falcon AFB)Edit
Schriever Air Force Base is home to the 50th Space Wing, which controls warning, navigational, communications and spy satellites. It is also the home of the Space Warfare Center and the home for the 576th Flight Test Squadron. It is the location of the Global Positioning System master control station and GPS Operations Center and the US Naval Observatory Alternate Master Clock, used to synchronize GPS satellite time. Schriever is also developing parts of national missile defense and runs parts of the annual wargames used by the nation's military.
United States Air Force AcademyEdit
Bordering the north-western side of the city lie the vast grounds of the United States Air Force Academy, where cadets train to become officers in the Air Force. The campus is famous for its unique chapel and draws visitors year round. Most of the Air Force Academy's sports programs belong to the Mountain West Conference.
NORAD and Cheyenne Mountain Air StationEdit
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, a component of America's missile defense system, is located in Cheyenne Mountain Air Station. When it was built at the height of the Cold War, NORAD caused some anxiety for the residents in and around Colorado Springs, who believed the installation would be a primary target during a nuclear attack. Although NORAD still operates today, it is primarily tasked with the tracking of ICBMs, and the military has recently decided to place Cheyenne Mountain's NORAD/NORTHCOM operations on warm standby and move operations to nearby Peterson Air Force Base.
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