Colorado snow and ski forecast for 2019 appears neutral, climatologists say


A skier skis just under the Pallavicini Cornice at the Arapahoe Basin Ski Location on March 19, 2019. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

Sorry to be a buzzkill, but skiers and snowboarders who have been spoiled final winter and spring with bountiful snow most likely will not be as fortunate this season.

1 of the aspects that influence our winter climate suggests we could have slightly under-regular snow in the mountains this year, stated Colorado State Climatologist Russ Schumacher. That is since neither of the phenomenons recognized as El Niño and La Niña are at play.

There are lots of aspects that influence our mountain snowfall, but a major one particular is the swing in Pacific Ocean temperatures that produces El Niño and La Niña. El Niño happens when surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are above-typical, typically resulting in wet and cool situations across the southern tier of states, with fantastic snow for Colorado’s southern resorts. La Niña years, when these ocean temperatures are cooler than regular, have a tendency to make dry, warm situations in the south, though the Pacific Northwest is wet and cool. That can favor our northern resorts.

Associated: Bye bye, El Niño: What does that imply for this winter in Colorado?

Why the science lesson? For the reason that the U.S. Climate Prediction Center says readings in the equatorial Pacific are close to typical, generating “neutral” situations in the El Niño-La Niña cycle. And that may possibly not be fantastic for our snowfall outlook.

“It’s most likely a secure bet that we’re not going to see an additional epic snow season like we saw final year,” stated Schumacher, director of the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. “Most places in the mountains have a tendency to be on typical a small bit reduce than regular snowfall through neutral situations. There’s a handful of neutral years exactly where you get a lot of snow and a handful exactly where it is fairly dry. In the record that we have, there is much more of these dry years than the snowy years in the neutral phase.”

Neutral years also make it tougher to predict our winter climate than when El Niño or La Niña influencing it.

“That requires away one particular of our tools for producing these seasonal outlooks,” Schumacher stated. “The connection amongst El Niño and snow in the mountains right here in Colorado is not super sturdy anyway. It is some thing we can use, but through neutral situations, what ends up playing out is typically a small bit much less particular.”

The Climate Prediction Center is predicting that neutral situations will persist by means of subsequent spring.

“There’s no sign that we’re going into La Nina, so I’m hopeful that we do not have a repeat of the terrible snow drought of two winters ago,” Schumacher stated. “That was La Nina situations, which, specially for the southern mountains, historically tends to be pretty dry.”

Skiers and snowboarders make their way down the slopes on Thursday, July four, 2019, at Arapahoe Basin Ski Location. The ski season lasted longer than anticipated this year. (Chet Strange, Particular to The Denver Post) (Chet Strange, Particular to The Denver Post)

Climatologists are nonetheless attempting to figure out why Colorado had such good snow final winter, extending effectively into spring.

“It was a major year fairly a lot everywhere in Colorado, as effectively as in California and a lot of other locations,” Schumacher stated. “Usually, when we assume of atmospheric rivers, we assume about California, the Sierra Nevada. What ended up taking place, specially in February and March, we had a series of atmospheric rivers bringing moisture from the Pacific, and there was just so a lot of it that a lot of it ended up producing it into western Colorado as effectively. We had storm just after storm, specially in the San Juans and into the central mountains. February and March have been big months. April and May well stayed cool and continued snowy. Steamboat had snow on June 22, the most current they ever had measurable snow in town there.”

One more caution for itchy skiers and riders: Just since Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park was closed due to snow showers Wednesday night and other higher peaks received dustings of snow above 10,000 feet, that does not imply snowmaking is about to commence at Arapahoe Basin, Loveland and Keystone.

“The outlook continues to show the fall getting warm, the odds tilted in favor of staying warmer than regular as we’ve observed currently in August and September,” Schumacher stated. “That’s not to say we do not get a week in there exactly where points cool down and it provides them a likelihood to fire up (snowmaking guns) through that time frame. But there’s no major cold blasts in the forecast, at least at this point, for the subsequent couple of weeks. The one particular-month outlook is nonetheless displaying improved odds of warmer situations in the mountains.”

Trail Ridge Road has given that reopened, according to Rocky Mountain National Park.

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