Forecaster predicts average snowfall for Grand County this winter
If you have looked out at the hills and valleys of Middle Park this November and been a bit concerned about the seeming lack of snow, and the impacts it might have on the ski season, you need not be concerned, at least not yet.
According to officials from the National Weather Service’s Boulder Forecast Office Grand County is on pace to meet average monthly snowfall totals for November and forecasters anticipate average to slightly above average snowfall totals for Colorado’s north central mountains; though above average temperatures could create impacts. Kyle Fredin, a Boulder based Meteorologist for the National Weather Service, offered some statistical analysis and explained how the NWS gathers data.
“Sometimes warm periods like this, when it ought to feel more like winter and especially around the holidays, kind of makes people a bit impatient,” Fredin said. “But if you have lived in Colorado for a while you know the weather can flip rapidly. We are not worried at this point.”
Fredin explained the 2017-2018 winter will be part of a La Niña weather cycle. The counterpart to the El Niño weather cycle, the La Niña cycle is defined by lower than average ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific. La Niña, which means little girl in spanish, typically results in above average precipitation for the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies. Grand County is considered to be part of the southernmost reaches of the Northern Rockies and as such forecasters from the NWS expect Middle Park to see impacts from La Niña.
While Grand County may see slightly above average snowfall this season the county is already on pace to contend for the hottest winter on record. According to Fredin the hottest average temperature for November in Grand County was recorded in 1949 when the monthly average was 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit. So far November 2017 is set to tie the second hottest November on record, 1999, with an average temperature for the month of 33.7. According to Fredin Grand County is currently roughly seven degrees above the historic November temperature average of 26.7 degrees.
The National Weather Service, part of the larger National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, often referred to by its acronym NOAA, pronounced Noah, tracks weather data for the federal government and also offers formal weather forecasts. To gather data the NWS often utilizes cooperative agreements with state and local governments, or volunteers, whereby local citizens physically gather and record data and then submit that data to the NWS.
There are four locations in Grand County where data is gathered for the NWS: Grand Lake, Fraser, Winter Park and Kremmilng. Fredin noted the Grand Lake observation point, technically located outside of Grand Lake at the Rocky Mountain National Park visitor’s center, began recording weather data in 1908 and as such offers the best snapshot for long term averages in Grand County.
According to Fredin the average snowfall total for the Grand Lake observation point in November is 16.5 inches. So far this November Grand Lake observers have recorded 16 inches of snowfall. Fredin said a snowstorm was forecasted to move into the region Monday night and as such officials from the NWS expect Grand Lake will reach the monthly snowfall average this year. It is a significant jump from last year when the Grand Lake observation point had recorded only 7.9 inches of snowfall through Nov. 27.
Around Grand County the figures shift slightly. Winter Park has seen the largest snowfall totals in November, recording 20.5 inches through Nov. 26 including six inches of snowfall on Nov. 8 alone. It seems many of those storms missed Fraser, just up the road, which has seen significantly sparser totals. According to NWS data Fraser has seen 7.6 inches of snowfall so far this month with over five of those inches falling between Nov. 5 and Nov. 8. Not surprisingly Kremmling has seen the lowest snowfall figures in November this year, tallying just 3.6 inches, slightly less than the NWS listed “normal” snowfall figure for Kremmling in November, 3.8 inches.
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The Colorado Department of Transportation has closed Colorado Highway 125 in Grand County while crews work to clear the route of mud, debris and snagged trees piled up on various bridges and guardrails.