Climate Prediction Center calling for average December snow in Colorado
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — If last winter’s La Niña was a rowdy party girl, ready to dance every weekend, then this year’s version is her shy débutante sister, still hesitant to show her spirit.
But that shouldn’t be a big surprise. Long-range forecasters have been saying since late summer that second-year La Niñas usually don’t have nearly the same impact on Colorado snowfall. Click here to read how Summit Voice reported it, back on Oct. 5.
Despite statistical trends that speak for themselves, a few forecasters decided to hype the La Niña encore, and when some ski industry marketing types latched on to those wishful-thinking forecasts, the outcome was predictable – unmet expectations.
That trend of “could-be” forecasting continues from some non-scientific sources, suggesting that the weather pattern could change, or that there are “hints” of a change, sometime in December.
Seems like a pretty safe bet to say that a storm might sneak through the Rockies sometime in the next few weeks, but it’s a far cry from actually providing a factually based forecast.
But not to worry. For the season so far, precipitation is close to average, and winter hasn’t even started yet. And Friday night’s storm exceeded expectations, dropping a few inches (at least in Frisco) before 10 p.m.
Let’s recap. Beginning last August, the Climate Prediction Center forecast warmer-than-average temperatures for Colorado, along with equal chances for above- or below-normal precipitation. That outlook remained unchanged through the late summer and into autumn.
The biggest storms came before most of the ski areas opened. Since early November, the weather pattern has been a bit moribund, characterized by a pesky split-flow pattern that breaks approaching Pacific systems apart, with the biggest snowfall in the far south and far north.
Both Steamboat and Wolf Creek have benefited from this pattern, tallying the biggest snow totals so far, while the mountains in the central part of the state are, for the most part, near average.
Now, let’s see what the Climate Prediction Center has to say for the next few weeks. Here’s the six to 10-day precipitation outlook (through Dec. 5):
Hmm, looks pretty dry for our neck of the woods. Again, that’s not to say that a storm won’t sneak in and drop a few inches. The map represents to overall probability that conditions will be drier than average during the period.
Here’s the 8 to 14-day outlook:
And here’s the map for December as a whole, suggesting that Colorado can expect near average snowfall for the month:
Average December snowfall at the official National Weather Service observation site in Breckenridge is 22.4 inches. At Breckenridge Ski Area, ski patrollers last year reported 52 inches in November and 68 inches in December.