White Christmas in central Rocky Mountains forecast
How are we doing?
Here’s a look at snow-measurement data in the area, as a percentage of 30-year average snowfall:
Beaver Creek: 101 percent.
Vail Mountain: 92 percent.
Copper Mountain (near Vail Pass): 100 percent.
Fremont Pass (near the Eagle River): 127 percent.
The snow already on the ground may get refreshed, at least a little, between now and Christmas Day.
According to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service, there’s a chance for some fresh snow across Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties just before and after Christmas Day. If snow does come, there won’t be much more than a few inches.
Dennis Phillips, a forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office, much of what’s streaming through the area is high-level moisture that won’t bring much precipitation.
Phillips said there’s a bigger storm developing in the west, but it’s still unclear where that storm will cross Colorado. The best bet at the moment is that the bulk of the storm will track south of the state’s southwestern corner.
That system may actually hit harder on the Front Range and the plains to the east, Phillips said. That’s because the south-tracking storm is likely to bring up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Those patterns don’t usually affect this side of the Continental Divide.
While the weather service forecast has only a slight promise of snow, the forecasters at opensnow.com are a little more optimistic, predicting statewide snow by Thursday.
Forecasters don’t go much farther than a week ahead in making specific storm predictions, but for the next 30 days or so, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for a chance of somewhat warmer-than-average temperatures and a chance of average precipitation for Colorado.
At the moment, forecasters are paying close attention to a developing El Nino pattern in the Pacific Ocean. An El Nino pattern results from warmer-than-average water temperatures in an area west of South America. Phillips said observers are still waiting for the warmer water and the atmosphere to connect. When that happens — perhaps later this month or in early January, an El Nino watch will be issued.
If El Nino comes through, storms generally come in from the Pacific and tend to track more toward southern Colorado. El Nino’s counterpart, La Nina, results from cooler-than-normal water temperatures. The storms in La Nina years tend to track more toward the north of Colorado.
For skiers, El Nino years can mean big snow at Wolf Creek Pass, while La Nina years generally benefit Steamboat Springs.
Vail is somewhere in the middle.
Looking a little farther out, the Climate Prediction Center calls for a chance of above-average precipitation and warmer-than-average temperatures for the state.
For the holiday season, though, it looks like a modestly-white Christmas.