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Colorado: Forecasters still grappling with winter outlook

An El Niño often brings decent October precipitation to the high country, but signals are mixed this year.

No clear signal means water managers will be biting their nails for a few months

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Without a strong El Niño or La Niña signal, Colorado weather watchers are struggling even more than usual to get a sense of how much snow to expect this coming winter, critical information for water managers who have seen reservoir storage dwindle to below 70 percent of average for this time of year.

Even if winter snowfall is close to normal, some reservoirs are unlikely to refill completely next spring, leaving utilities in the position of hoping for an above average winter.

“We’re far from through this. The story has yet to unfold,” Blue River Basin water commissioner Troy Wineland said after participating in a weekly statewide water webinar, explaining that many local streams are flowing well below seasonal averages. A few others are close to average due to upstream releases of stored water, he said. Continue reading

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Colorado: Early monsoon eyed for drought relief, but hazy skies may inhibit thunderstorm formation and precipitation

Some forecast scenarios call for some monsoon moisture starting next week

Will the monsoon bring drought relief? Graphic courtesy Mike Baker, National Weather Service.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — An early monsoon season may bring some moisture relief to parched and fire-prone Colorado as soon as next week — but there’s also a chance that smoke from regional wildfires could inhibit the formation of thunderstorms during the summer rainy season.

“Next week may be the peak of fire danger, then there is a hint the monsoon may come early … it’s going to be very interesting to watch,” said Boulder-based NOAA scientist Klaus Wolter, a researcher with the Earth Systems Research Laboratory.

The Rocky Mountain monsoon season usually starts in mid-July and lasts for about a month, with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and subtropical eastern Pacific streaming into the region from the south. Continue reading

This year’s La Niña a ‘head-scratching enigma’

Weird winter continues with spring storms in February

An interesting seasonal precipitation picture in Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With the latest outlook calling for La Niña to fade away during the next few months, some climatologists are scratching their heads over this winter’s somewhat unusual weather pattern in Colorado, which saw a reversal of historic snowfall trends.

“It’s an enigma,” said Klaus Wolter, with the CIRES Climate Diagnostics Center. In an email updating the SWCasts website, Wolter wrote: Record-snow around here in early February is not  something I would typically associate with La Niña, but will come in handy if the mountains west of us remain starved for moisture (despite some minor storms during the upcoming week).” Continue reading

Colorado: 3-month weather outlook on the warm, dry side

Experts: No reason to expect another record snow year, despite 2d-year La Niña

Will La Niña favor Colorado with good snowfall again this winter?

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A second-year La Niña means the Colorado mountains have a good chance of getting close to normal snowfall, but an encore of last winter’s record-breaking snowfall is unlikely, according to Klaus Wolter, a meteorologist with the University of Colorado Climate Diagnostic Center.

Wolter, who studies the effects of El Niño-La Niña weather cycles on Colorado and the Southwest, predicted a return of La Niña last spring based on historic records that show strong La Niñas are often followed by a weaker version of the pattern, which is marked by cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. Continue reading

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