Aspen has one of its driest Januaries ever | PostIndependent.com
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Aspen has one of its driest Januaries ever

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Chris Kelner and Jessica Lischka
Lauren Glendenning/The Aspen Times |

relief in SIGHT?

Here are the highlights of the forecast for Aspen and the central mountains of Colorado from the National Weather Service office in Grand Junction.

•Expect a dry and mild early February.

•Odds are stormy conditions will return to the forecast area in late February of March.

•The best forecast for now is for a wet spring season.

•There is less certainty about the temperatures.

Go to http://www.crh.noaa.gov/gjt/ and click on the link for “A January climate summary and outlook for February, March and April” for a video that summarizes January weather and explains the outlook for coming months.

Aspen’s January snowfall was the second lowest amount for the month since 1935, according to the record keepers at the Aspen Water Treatment Plant.

Only 5.26 inches of snow was recorded for the month, according to a report filed Monday by Laura Taylor. “Average snowfall for this month is 25.74 inches,” she wrote. “This minimal snowfall is the second lowest recorded here, since January 1935. Back in 1961 the lowest snowfall for January was recorded at 5.0 inches.

The water treatment plant is on Doolittle Drive, near Castle Creek, at an elevation of 8,148 feet. Snowfall amounts at different locations around the Aspen metro area usually vary but the water treatment plant is the official National Weather Service station.

The station’s records show Aspen has received less than 10 inches of snow in January only five times since 1935 prior to this year. There were 5 inches in 1961; 6.5 inches in 1974; 9.9 inches in 1981; 9.25 inches in 1985-86; and 7.75 inches in 2002-03.

In contrast to the dry years, the record high snowfall for January was 71.5 inches in 1957.

This winter-to-date isn’t close to the driest on record. Snowfall was well above average to start the winter. There were 32.3 inches in November compared to an average of 22.14 inches. The tap turned on late in December and produced 42.63 inches of snow for the month compared to an average of 25.01 inches.

So far this winter, 82.49 inches of snow have fallen. In the infamous drought winter of 1976-77, only 85.70 inches of snow fell from October through May. That spurred the Colorado ski industry to invest in snowmaking equipment.

The record low snowfall for a winter was 1953-54 when only 59.10 inches fell. However, data for March was missing that winter. The winter of 1976-77 is the lowest snowfall for any winter with complete information.

Joe Ramey, a forecaster and meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said precipitation was a mixed bag for western Colorado in January. Durango enjoyed one-half inch above average in total precipitation for the month and Grand Junction was also above average, he said. Below average precipitation was more common, he said.

“There’s been a big ridge just out to our west all of January,” Ramey said. “That ridge is really the culprit.”

That ridge of high pressure deflected storms to the north and to the south of the Aspen area. In the short term, Aspen could pick up a few inches of snow over the next few days from a series of weak disturbances, Ramey said. A wet spring is forecasted in the desert southwest and into the Colorado Rockies during March and into April. “We’re hanging onto this wet spring” in the forecast, Ramey said.

Despite the lack of snowfall in January, the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s automated weather station near the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River said the snowpack there was 109 percent of average Monday.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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