Historical stats don’t show big impact on date of first snow
SUMMIT COUNTY — Talk about living in a bubble — the latest three-month summary and outlook from the National Weather Service in Boulder shows that the rainy conditions in Summit County, and a small surrounding area, were the exception in Colorado the past 30 days. Much of the state continued to suffer through extremely dry conditions, especially the eastern plains, where precipitation was just 5 to 50 percent of normal. As a result, much of the state is still experiencing serious drought. Visit the Boulder NWS website to see the full power point presentation.
The long-term trend toward warmer-than-average temperatures continued in late July and early August, with most parts of the state reporting readings between 2 and 4 degrees above average. According to the Climate Prediction Center, there’s a better than average chance of continued above normal temperatures for the next three months. Only the West Coast is forecast to see below average readings.
The three-month precipitation outlook for Colorado is at equal chances for either above average or below average rain and snow. There’s already been a lot of talk about an emerging El Niño and what that could mean for ski season snowfall, with some speculation that it may boost October snowfall, but that isn’t supported by a look at the dates of early snowfalls during El Niño years.
While those stats don’t speak to the quantity of early season snow, they suggest that El Niño has only a negligible effect on when the first snow falls.
Breckenridge does seem to get an early season boost from weak El Niños, when the average date of the first snow is Sept. 13. The average date for all years (1980 – 2011) is Sept. 30. The average date of Breckenridge’s first snowfall for all El Niño years is Oct. 2.
Similarly, Winter Park also seems to get snow a bit earlier in El Niño years, when the average date of the first snowfall is Sept. 26. The overall average first-snowfall date for all years between 1980 and 2011 is Oct. 4.