Mild winter likely because of effects of El Niño pattern — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

El Niño (ENSO) phenomenon graphic from the Climate Predication Center via Climate Central
El Niño (ENSO) phenomenon graphic from the Climate Predication Center via Climate Central

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Amy Hamilton):

The zeros stack up on Powderhorn Mountain Resort’s website: zero snow in the last 48 hours, no snowpack at its mid-mountain base and none of the four lifts are open. To the anguish of skiers and snowboarders itching to get in a few turns, a lack of snow on Grand Mesa so far this year is pushing back Thursday’s scheduled opening day.

Yet down in the sun-splashed Grand Valley, folks have little to complain about.

Afternoon temperatures in the high 40s and 50s have people walking around in long sleeves and sweaters, but fewer jackets. Those hats and gloves are safe in storage a bit longer.

With temperatures ranging between 8 and 13 degrees above normal for this time of year, one starts to wonder if winter will arrive before the Dec. 21 solstice when the Earth’s northern hemisphere starts to tip back toward the sun.

“It’s been nice, hasn’t it?” remarked Ellen Heffernan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. “It has been very warm. Last winter it was so cold so early. It’s nice that we can work our way into the cold.”[…]

A weak El Niño pattern is expected for Colorado this winter. The weather pattern in winter tends to favor milder temperatures in the northern U.S. and wetter weather over the southern part of the country.

In typical El Niño years, southern and southwest Colorado tend to receive more rainfall than the northern part of the state, Heffernan said.

In the Grand Valley, March is normally the year’s wettest month and December and January are the driest.

The warmer, dry winter temperatures may lift the spirits of humans, but it can be rough on trees. People should try to water trees, away from their bases and early on in the day to avoid nighttime freezing temperatures, said Susan Carter, horticulture program coordinator with Mesa County’s Colorado State University Extension Office.

“Without the moisture we should probably be thinking about watering them at least once a month,” she said. “Ideally you want to be able to get the moisture down about 6 to 8 inches. You can push a screwdriver down into the soil to check it.”

Gardeners also can place boughs or more mulch on bulbs and other plants to keep them from flowering early, Carter said.

Overall, thanks to a wet summer, Grand Junction is nearly 2 inches ahead of normal rainfall for the year. A reported 10.95 inches has fallen so far this year when the area normally receives nearly nine inches of rain by this time of year. Last year, the Grand Valley reported 12.4 inches of rain by this time.

Nearly an inch of snow normally falls by this time of year in the Grand Junction area. By this time last year, a whopping 10 inches of snow blanketed the Grand Valley, and a total of 14.8 inches of snow fell all winter.

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