Snowpack news: “You are rightfully feeling a sense of uneasiness when the temperature starts shooting up to 70 degrees in January” — Nolan Doesken

Westwide Snotel snow water equivalent as a percent of normal January 28, 2015
Westwide Snotel snow water equivalent as a percent of normal January 28, 2015

From KUNC (Stephanie Paige Ogburn):

According to state climatologist Nolan Doesken, most basins are sitting right around average.

“No part of the state is desperately below average, no part of the state is above average,” he said. The Colorado River headwaters are at about average. “Those with the lowest snowpack are the Yampa-White, in the northwestern part of the state, and the Rio Grande, in the south.”

This is true even despite record-breaking warmth hitting parts of the state in the past two days; Fort Collins shattered its temperature record for the month of January, hitting 75 degrees on January 26.

‘You are rightfully feeling a sense of uneasiness when the temperature starts shooting up to 70 degrees in January, that happens hardly ever, but so far — so far, we’re OK,” said Doesken.

In fact, the warmth may signal an early transition to the spring season, when Colorado often gets pounded by snowstorms.

“Not getting many storms is sort of common for midwinter, but then…when you flip the switch from midwinter to spring as imminent, then we become distinctly more favored again to be in the path of some of these storms.”

Doesken also noted that current weather patterns look a lot like an El Niño. That usually means the southern part of the state will get more moisture coming across from California.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Adrian D. Garcia):

Fort Collins temperatures have plummeted to minus-5 and soared to 75 degrees in January alone. But the most significant changes of the season likely lie ahead, according to weather experts at the Colorado Climate Center in Fort Collins.

“Expect to see more dramatic weather before February, March and April pass,” State Climatologist Nolan Doesken said Tuesday. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to sharply rise or fall during autumn, winter and spring along the Front Range…

“Temperatures have not been abnormal for this time of year,” Doesken said. “What was abnormal was how warm it got yesterday (Monday) when we had the warmest day in January on record.”

Temperatures reached 75 degrees Monday, according to readings from Colorado State University’s Fort Collins weather station. The previous record for the month was 73 degrees, set in 1996. Tuesday set another record for the day with an official high of 72 degrees, breaking the record of 65 degrees set in 1987.

Average temperature for this time of year is the mid-40s…

It’s all a part of the continuum in the jet stream,” Doesken said.

Put more simply, cold air made its way from the Pacific Ocean up to the Canadian Rockies and then curved back south over the Midwest before turning sharply toward the East Coast with the result of snow and freezing temperatures. Boston was expected to receive nearly 2 feet of snow.

Colorado was right on the edge of that wind pattern, leaving warm air in the West and pushing cold air on, Doesken said.

Even without recent snow, Northern Colorado’s snowpack is looking only slightly below average.

“For us, a large fraction of our moisture comes, or fails to come, in the March-April-May period,” Doesken said. “We have a lot of time to catch up and accelerate or fall behind. There’s a whole lot more to this winter we haven’t seen yet.”

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