Weather: December one of the driest in recent years

Front Range moisture helps ease demand for West Slope water

The snowpack across much of northwest Colorado has dipped below 70 percent of average.

By Bob Berwyn

The eight to 14-day outlook from the Climate Prediction Center.

SUMMIT COUNTY — The lack of snowfall in the high country is starting to show in the snowpack readings across the western part of the state, where readings have fallen below 70 percent of average — about 67 percent in the Colorado River Basin, which means that the snowpack is about one-third less than the average for this time of year.

In a strange twist on the La Niña weather pattern, the Front Range snowpack is above average, which doesn’t directly help the spring runoff on which much of the state depends. But good winter moisture on the Front Range does help ease demand for stored water, at least early in the season.

If there’s good news, it’s the above-average snowpack in the Upper Rio Grande Basin in south-central Colorado, where moisture hasn’t been over-abundant the past few years. A full list of SNOTEL site snow depth readings in online here.

Snow-water content is well below normal across large parts of the West, and especially the Northwest, where La Niña normally brings bountiful snow.

Forecasters are still predicting a shift to a more typical La Niña pattern, which usually favors the northwestern part of the state, but the early season snow is critical to building a deep, dense snowpack that melts slowly in the spring.

In the latest update from the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction station, forecasters said the long wave pattern (the large-scale hemispheric undulation of high and low pressure systems) is starting to look more typical of a La Niña year, with less amplification in the dips and bulges of the jet stream.

Unfortunately for Colorado, that smoother storm track is sitting just north of Colorado and looks to stay there for most of the coming week, with a few disturbances that may brush the northern mountains Thursday or Friday. As it looks now, the month will end up as one of the driest Decembers in recent memory, at least for the north-central mountains around Summit County.






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