Winter weather outlook as clear as slush
VAIL – El Nino has made a surprise appearance across the world in Indonesia, and some say that could mean a wetter winter here in our corner of the Colorado Rockies. But wait. Long-range forecasts released in August by the Western Regional Climate Center non-committally call for equal chances of above-average precipitation, below-average precipitation, or normal precipitation for Western Colorado through December.No, it will be snowy – the Farmer’s Almanac, using its long-trusted “secret formula,” says it will be snowier than normal this winter.Or not. National Weather Service’s 90-day outlooks call for higher-than-average precipitation in New Mexico and much of Arizona, but, alas, not Colorado, said Jim Daniels, a meteorologist with the agency’s Grand Junction office. But if El Niño does continue to strengthen during the winter, Colorado could get more moisture later in the season, Daniels said.When it comes to long-range predictions, you might get some help from meteorologists. Or you might do better to just rely on prayers to the snow gods.”It really is a dart shoot,” said Mike Bauer, water conservation specialist for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. Bauer, who monitors stream and snowpack levels for the district, said he takes a look at long-term weather models, but takes them with a grain of salt.”Even three, four, five days out, there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty,” he said.Last week, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration said El Niño is likely to develop over North America during the upcoming winter. And Daniels said there is some correlation between El Niño and snowfall in western Colorado.”It allows more storms to come across our area,” he said.However, El Niño affects other parts of the country more noticeably than it does western Colorado, Daniels said.The long-range forecasts look at weather trends to make a guess about what the next few months hold, Daniels said.”The farther you go out into the future, the less (forecasting) skill you have,” he said.The Farmer’s Almanac says winter in the Intermountain region – which includes western Colorado and parts of Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Idaho – will be colder and snowier than normal.The snowiest times will be mid-November, mid-January, mid- and late February and early and mid-March, the almanac says. The almanac says it uses a secret formula devised in 1792 to predict the weather.”Our results are almost always very close to our traditional claim of 80 percent,” the almanac says.Jen Brown, spokeswoman for Vail Mountain, said the ski company takes a look at forecasts from the Farmer’s Almanac and NOAA.”We look at them each season,” Brown said. “Some years they’re right on, some years they’re close. It’s more to get a general idea for what our forecasters are seeing. With the weather, it can be anyone’s guess, but they also can be fairly accurate.”
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Garfield County libraries will host James Edward Mills in its second event of the spring lecture series for a virtual conversation about changing the faces of the outdoors.