Denver, Colorado 2020-10-17 08:00:26 –
The Coloradans can expect a warmer, drier and less snowy winter than average, according to a new report released Thursday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, released its annual winter outlook in conjunction with the agency’s Climate Prediction Center.
Forecast calls for a drier-than-average winter season for much of the southwest, including the southern half of Colorado. The outlook calls for an “equal chance” of below average, near average and above average precipitation for northern Colorado.
To put it plainly, there are very few signs that Colorado enjoys wetter than average weather from December through February. This will likely lead to an intensification of the current drought here in Colorado and an extension of the drought across much of the western United States.
This is disappointing news for water supply issues and Colorado’s ski resorts as the region continues to suffer from its driest year since 2006.
When it comes to winter temperatures, NOAA favors warmer-than-average conditions across Colorado, with the highest odds of an unusually warm winter in the southern part of the state. The agency expects the below-average temperatures to be confined to the northern plains, northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest, as abnormal heat likely envelops much of the rest of the country.
One of the main climate tools that long-range forecasters use as a guide for seasonal forecasting is the current state of the Southern Oscillation El Niño, or ENSO for short. ENSO is large enough to alter global circulation, which in turn can greatly influence temperature and precipitation patterns across the United States.
In early September, NOAA officially determined that ENSO had entered its cold phase, called La Niña. La Niña represents a large pool of cooler than normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Since its classification over a month ago, La Niña has continued to strengthen and NOAA expects a moderate to severe event to last the entire winter season ahead.
Denver’s average seasonal snowfall total for the last ten La Niña events equates to about 40 inches, which is less than 75% of normal for the Mile High City. Seven of those ten La Niña winters saw below average snowfall.
At the last La Niña event from 2017 to 2018, a measly 25.7 inches of snow was recorded at Denver International Airport throughout the season. The last time the Denver area saw near-average seasonal snowfall during a La Niña was in the winter of 2011-2012, when 55 inches were recorded.
It is important to note that this outlook characterizes trends only, averaged over the three-month period from December 1 to February 28. During this time, Colorado can still expect a few episodes of snow and gusts of bitter cold.
Now is the time to prepare your vehicles, your home, and your family for the dangerous winter conditions that lie ahead. But when everything is averaging together at the end of winter, the odds are in favor of it in the record books as warmer and drier than is normal.
Ben Reppert is a meteorologist at WeatherNation TV.