Winter forecast a cloudy one |

Winter forecast a cloudy one

As the nights get colder and the mountaintops hold a slim white suggestion of the coming season, some folks can’t help but ponder just how this winter will stack up.

To quell these musings, the National Weather Service on Thursday released its first long-range winter forecast of the season.

But those looking for specifics are going to have to wait.

“It’s not a clear picture right now,” NWS Climate Prediction Center chief operations branch meteorologist Ed O’Lenic said. “We’re updating our forecast and we’ll be issuing another one on Nov. 20.”

According to the center’s models, the entire state has “equal chances” of being warmer than normal, colder than normal, wetter than normal and drier than normal.

It could be a lot worse.

Much of the West – including much of New Mexico and part of Utah – is expected to be warmer than normal this winter, and drought conditions in much of the West are expected to persist or even worsen.

As for precipitation, most of Texas and surrounding states is forecast to be wetter than normal, while the rest of the country, again, has equal chances of being wetter or drier than normal.

O’Lenic said it was tough to make a solid prediction so early in the season because his briefing materials were literally all over the map.

“Some predicted it to be dry in Colorado, some wet, and some were up in the air,” he said. “It’s a little bit early.”

Maybe the 2004 Old Farmer’s Almanac can give powderhounds a better idea of what to expect.

According to the almanac’s summary for the Rocky Mountains, “Winter will be quite a bit milder than normal. Temperatures will average 3 to 5 degrees above normal. Despite relatively mild temperatures on average, it will be cold in early to mid-November, late December and early February.”

Then the news nobody in the West wants to hear:

“Expect a drier than normal winter with below-normal snowfall. Precipitation will be 30 to 50 percent below normal.”

But before packing those skis away for the winter, take heart. The almanac called for below-average snowfall last year and Colorado’s Central Mountains had slightly above-average snowfall by the time the cold weather broke.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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