Good snow year so far, but still far off the pace of recent big winters; Dillon precipitation below average
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Season snowfall to-date at Rick Bly’s gauge in Breckenridge totaled about 109 inches at the end of January. That’s nearly double of last year’s (59.8) but still far off the pace of some other big seasons, including the winter of 1996-1997, when 132.6 inches had already piled up by this time of year, or 1995-1996, when year-to-date snowfall measured an impressive 141.1 inches.
Typical for an era of short attention spans and inexperienced journalists with little institutional memory, this winter is already being touted as extraordinary, but the fact is, just two years ago, in the winter of 2007-2008, snowfall to-date was about the same as this year’s.
The same holds true for temperatures. By the sound of coffee shop chatter, you’d think that a handful of below-zero lows in late January somehow were record-breaking, but in reality, all those lows were at least 20 degrees warmer than the all-time record lows for those dates.
A quick look at the weather stats from the second National Weather Service site in Summit County shows that the average low temperature for the month (0.3 degrees) was actually slightly above average the average of minus 1.1 degrees. The average daily high, however, was significantly below normal, at 26.2 degrees compared to the average of 31.3 degrees, based on records going back to 1909.
The coldest readings of the month early in January when the temperature plunged to minus 15 degrees for the first three nights of the month. January 24 and 25 also showed readings in the negative teens (minus 12 degrees), as did January 11 and 12 (minus 11 degrees).
The coldest maximum temperature for the month was Jan. 1, at minus 3 degrees, and it warmed all the way to 41 degrees on Jan. 30. Temperatures climbed above the freezing mark 12 days during January, not quite as cold as conventional wisdom would have it.
It was a good month for snowfall in Breckenridge — about 75 percent above average — with 40 inches of snow compared to the historic average of 22.4 inches, and that added up to 2.6 inches of snow-water equivalent, about 70 percent above the average of 1.53 inches.
Similarly, for the season to-date, moisture is at 9.3 inches compared to the average of 5.81 inches, so for water, we’re up about 60 percent.
But at the Dillon site, snowfall was near average, and the snow-water equivalent was about 25 percent below average, at .73 inches compared to the historic norm of 1.09 inches.
Precipitation overall in western Colorado was also below average, with a narrowly focused storm track taking aim at the north-central part of the state but leaving other areas dry.