El Niño update: “It’s hard to get a clear reading on it this year” — Nolan Doesken

Mid-December 2014 Plume of ENSO predictions via the Climate Predication Center


From 9News.com (Maya Rodriguez):

Thousands of miles away from our wintry landscape, it’s a warming of water in the Pacific Ocean known as El Nino– a warming that can have potential impact on our snowfall.

“It’s hard to get a clear reading on it this year,” said Nolan Doesken, the State Climatologist for Colorado.

He says data last summer showed El Nino getting ready to strengthen. A lack of major hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean last season seemed to back that up. So far, though, it’s remained weak, leaving our winter snowfall in Colorado, average.

“We’ve had big bursts of snow, but it was just enough to get us back up to average, for the state as a whole,” Doesken said.

El Nino can be potentially significant for the state because during strong El Ninos, the state tends to get a lot more snow. Out of the top ten snowstorms ever recorded in Denver, four of them happened in El Nino years, including the infamous Christmas Eve storm of 1982.

“At least, from the past, when you’ve had pretty strong El Nino conditions in the Pacific, it has tended to correlate with some spring storminess on the Eastern Plains and Front Range and some decent mountain snows in spring as well,” Doesken said.

Whether that will happen this spring remains to be seen. NOAA says there is a 50 to 60-percent chance El Nino conditions will emerge in the next two months.

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