Rifle can expect more snow (much more than last year) as winter progresses | PostIndependent.com

Rifle can expect more snow (much more than last year) as winter progresses

Ryan Hoffman
rhoffman@citizentelegram.com
This map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration depicts a three month outlook for precipitation for January through March. The varying shades of green, which cover most of Colorado, indicate above average precipitation.
NOAA |

Cancel any thoughts of putting away that snow shovel in the near future.

Most of Colorado, with the exception of the farthest northwest corner, can expect to see slightly above average precipitation through March, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.

In some parts of the state, including Rifle, even average levels of precipitation might feel like an inundation of the white stuff, after a winter in 2014-15 when snow was sparse.

As of Tuesday, Rifle-Garfield County Regional Airport had recorded 1.09 inches of precipitation for the month of December. During the same month in 2014, the airport recorded .65 inches of precipitation, which was below the monthly average of .84 inches.

The sub-par snow year continued in early 2015 with .47 inches of precipitation in January, compared to the monthly average of .81 inches, and .07 in February, well below the average of .76 inches recorded at the Rifle airport.

Those three months amounted to 1.19 inches of precipitation, less than half the three-month average of 2.41 inches.

More recently, Rifle residents experienced a white Christmas with multiple inches of accumulation recorded on the holiday. That snow led the U.S. Forest Service Rifle Ranger District to issue a warning on Dec. 28 cautioning snowmobilers of unstable conditions in the area.

“There is no solid snow base and snow conditions change daily with the weather. Due to the instability of the snow, regular grooming and marking has not occurred,” the warning stated.

So far, this winter is proving to be quite the contrast to last year’s paltry precipitation.

“You’re well on your way to having an above average winter,” Dan Cuevas, a technician with the National Weather Service based in Grand Junction, said of the precipitation recorded in Rifle in December.

While precipitation does not directly translate to snowfall, Cuevas said there is a rudimentary 10-1 ratio that can be used to gain some sense of snowfall. For example, the 1.09 inches of precipitation recorded in Rifle would amount to roughly 10.9 inches of snow.

As for temperatures, the three-month outlook from the National Weather Service puts Colorado in a horizontal band of states that have an equal chance of experiencing warmer or colder temperatures.

“Seemingly, there’s nothing out there that’s going to majorly influence the weather to the point where we’re expecting something drastically below or above averages,” Cuevas said of the outlook.

However, the longer snow lingers on the ground, the colder the temperatures likely will be.

As Cuevas explained, snow tends to reflect sunlight, rather than absorb it, which can drive the mercury down.

“You get snow on the ground and that tends to make things colder,” Cuevas said.

Through Tuesday, Dec. 29, Rifle recorded a monthly average temperature of 22.2 degrees for December — 3.1 degrees below the monthly average. Those cold temperatures don’t appear to be going anywhere in the near future.

The Grand Junction office issued a winter weather outlook earlier this week. Aside from more snow on Wednesday, the outlook warned that “very cold conditions” would likely remain in the area through the weekend and into next week.


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