El Nino Could Play A Role In Colorado's Winter Weather, Scientist Says

Nov 17, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- El Nino, a warming event of the tropical Pacific Ocean that affects weather patterns in the United States and elsewhere, has strengthened in recent months and already appears to have influenced Colorado's fall weather, says Klaus Wolter, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Last month's storm brought anywhere from several inches to a few feet of snow along the Front Range while the most recent storm saw up to a foot of snow in some places. It's a scenario that is typical of El Niño during the fall, said Wolter.

"Four of the last five El Niños have had a snowy October here on the Front Range of Colorado," said Wolter. "In general, it tends to be wetter than average in the fall season -- September through November -- from Arizona through New Mexico and Colorado into the high plains."

But according to Wolter, this year's El Niño most likely will impact Colorado's winter in a way many skiers won't like.

"In the high country, and this is essentially everything north of Telluride, the ski resorts at the highest elevations tend to be drier with an El Niño winter."

This doesn't mean that ski areas in Colorado won't get snow, said Wolter, but that they'll get fewer midwinter storms because the storm track will be mostly to the south.

"You get fewer storms, and every once in a while we'll get hit and those storms can be healthy storms, by all means, but you shouldn't expect a lot of powder skiing," he said.

But there is a silver lining to this, said Wolter. While chances are that the state will have fewer snowstorms, temperatures will tend to hover closer to normal and there should be fewer windstorms, especially along the Front Range.

"An El Niño doesn't mean you can't get a windstorm, it just means you don't get high wind speeds like 60 miles per hour for days on end," he said.

But as winter comes to a close, Wolter expects the storm track to move back north and that should bring heavier snowstorms to the Front Range and a few areas of the high country if El Niño is still a factor next spring.

"The Front Range and ski resorts just west of the divide -- Winter Park, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin -- all these places have a tendency to have a wet spring " during an El Niño, he said.

If the current El Niño continues to grow into a "strong event," then Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico will have their best chance in years to get a wetter-than-normal winter, he said. And that would be a good thing because Arizona and California continue to suffer from a prolonged drought.

The last El Niño to influence Colorado's weather was in 2006-07, Wolter said. But that one produced an unusually snowy midwinter and he said the state should not expect a repeat of the blizzards that hit the Front Range just before Christmas and that lasted through the first weeks of 2007.

Provided by University of Colorado at Boulder (news : web)

Explore further: Mexico's Volcano of Fire blows huge ash cloud

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

El Nino To Affect Weather In Colorado And Western U.S.

Dec 01, 2006

Colorado's late fall snowstorms could disappear by mid-December due to the influence of an El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, said Klaus Wolter, a University of Colorado at Boulder and National Oceanic and Atmospheric ...

La Niña Anomaly Could Affect Winter Weather in Colorado

Nov 19, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- A strong La Niña that developed early last winter, only to disappear this summer, is showing signs of life again and could affect our winter weather, said University of Colorado at Boulder and NOAA atmospheric ...

El Nino may calm 2006 hurricane season

Sep 07, 2006

Hurricane forecasters say a weather phenomenon called El Nino may make the rest of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season quieter than predicted.

El Nino could last beyond spring

Dec 11, 2006

A University of Colorado weather expert has warned the El Nino weather pattern over the Pacific Ocean could survive past the upcoming spring.

Forecasters say El Nino may be developing

Jun 08, 2009

(AP) -- A new El Nino could be approaching. Sea-surface temperatures have been warming in the tropical Pacific Ocean, suggesting the potential for the development of the El Nino climate phenomenon this summer, according ...

Recommended for you

Erosion may trigger earthquakes

Nov 21, 2014

Researchers from laboratories at Géosciences Rennes (CNRS/Université de Rennes 1), Géosciences Montpellier (CNRS/Université de Montpellier 2) and Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (CNRS/IPGP/Université Paris Diderot), ...

Strong undersea earthquake hits eastern Indonesia

Nov 21, 2014

A strong undersea earthquake hit off the coast of eastern Indonesia on Friday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage and officials said it was unlikely to trigger a tsunami.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rwinners
not rated yet Nov 19, 2009
Hmmh. I'll believe it when we see it. 2007-2008 was the snowiest winter in S Colorado in a very long time. No Nino then, just plenty of wet white stuff.
out7x
not rated yet Nov 19, 2009
So the intensity of the ElNino is somehow linked to movements in the jet stream? Has this been proven???????

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.