Forecasters predict above average snowfall this winter
Winter is rapidly approaching in the high country and weather prognosticators of all stripes are offering up their predictions regarding anticipated snowfall across the northern hemisphere.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a popular compendium of weather forecasts, planting charts and various articles, released a winter weather map for the 2018-19 season in early September. The Almanac is predicting a mild, snowy winter for the northern portion of the Intermountain Region, which includes Grand County.
“Winter temperatures and precipitation will be above normal, on average, with the coldest periods in late December, early January, and early February,” states the Almanac. “Snowfall will be above normal in the north with the snowiest periods in late November, late December, early and late January, mid-to late February, and early March.”
The Almanac lays out monthly predictions for the Intermountain Region, which includes western Colorado, western Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, eastern Washington and Oregon and portions of Arizona and New Mexico. The broad monthly predictions anticipate above average precipitation in November, December, January and March. February is predicted as seeing average precipitation while both April and May are expected to see below average precipitation.
Forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more commonly known as NOAA, have also issued broad predictions for the coming winter season. Officials from NOAA report North America has a 70 percent chance of experiencing an El Niño winter, which if accurate would correlate to a warmer than average winter throughout the US.
Early winter snowfall predictions from NOAA for Colorado anticipate above average precipitation for the start of the season. As the winter progresses towards spring NOAA is predicting average to below average precipitation for most US ski resorts though portions of Alaska and the southern Rockies, including portions of southern Colorado, are expected to see higher than average precipitation.
LAST YEAR’S PREDICTIONS
Last year officials from the National Weather Service’s Boulder Forecasting Officer were predicting average to slightly above average snowfall, attributed in large part to an anticipated La Niña weather cycle, which has historically resulted in above average precipitation for the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies.
Officials from the National Weather Service tempered their predictions though by noting Grand County was expected to experience the hottest winter on record. In late November last year Grand County’s average temperature for the month was 33.7 degrees, nearly seven degrees above the historic monthly temperature average for the month at 26.7 degrees.
RESORT SNOWFALL DATA
Snowfall in Grand County last winter was varied, to say the least though our local ski resorts saw modest snowfall compared to recent years. According to On The Snow, a snowfall data aggregation website covering ski resorts throughout North America, Winter Park Resort saw 302 inches of snowfall last season.
That snow fell over the course of 71 separate snowfall days with the resort’s base reaching a maximum depth of 91 inches. According to On The Snow the resort’s largest one-day dump of snow came on April 7 when 17 inches of fresh snow powder fell on the trails.
Snowfall for the 2017-18 ski season at Winter Park Resort was slightly below the resort’s 10-year average snowfall of 322 inches. Last season saw nearly 100 inches less snowfall than the resort received during the previous season, which On The Snow tallied at 401 inches. Snowfall from last winter was also outpaced by the 2015-16 ski season that saw a total of 385 inches at Winter Park Resort. Last winter did surpass the 2014-15 season though, which saw 288 inches of snowfall.
Further north Granby Ranch experienced a similar snowfall pattern for the 2017-18 season, albeit with significantly lower snowfall totals for the year, which is common for the Granby based ski resort that is open nearly two fewer months than it’s Grand County counterpart to the south. Last winter Granby Ranch saw 71 total inches of snowfall over the course of 29 separate snowfall days, according to On The Snow. The largest one day dump at Granby Ranch saw the accumulation of five inches of powder; an occurrence that happened four times throughout the year.
Snowfall at the resort last winter was below the previous winter, which saw 81 inches of snow over 33 snowfall days. Both ski seasons were well outpaced by the 2015-16 season when 92 inches fell on the resort over the course of 35 separate days from mid-December through the end of March.
Predictions are exactly that, predictions, and while forecasters provide valuable insight into what we can expect from future weather cycles Mother Nature is known for controverting their expectations on a regular basis; last winter offering a great example. Until the 2018-19 winter ski season ends snowfall predictions will remain scientifically educated guesses so keep doing your snow dances, pray to Ullr and if you work at a local resort keep those snow guns at the ready.
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A Forest Service employee had a close call during Thursday’s flash flooding in Grand County, leading to an evacuation via helicopter.