Forecaster: El Nino could bring lots of rainy, cloudy summer days — Aspen Daily News

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 Aspen Daily News (Collin Szewczyk):

According to forecaster Cory Gates, the valley is heading into a moderate, and possibly strong, El Nino summer, which will bring more rain and cloudy days.

This week’s precipitation levels would be considered above average in most years, but not in an El Nino spring, Gates said.

However, he called this week’s deluge a “30-year rainfall” in and around Basalt.

“This ain’t going away. It will be a wet summer,” Gates said Friday. “The water’s way too warm in the Pacific, and we’re going to have a jet stream. … This is an El Nino spring and summer. I guarantee it, 100 percent.”

What is a bit unusual is that the weather pattern is getting stronger, with Pacific water temperatures likely to be 1.4 to 1.5 degrees above normal, he said…

According to river data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the deluge has caused the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood to rise from 2,700 cubic feet per second (CFS) last week to more than 7,000 this week. The Roaring Fork has grown from 70 to 140 CFS in Aspen, and from 473 to 776 CFS in Emma, during the same time frame.

The Crystal River near Redstone has also increased, from 268 to 616 CFS since last week.

Even though the water flows downstream very quickly during these rain events, it still benefits the health of local rivers. The strong flows help to move sediment down river, improving the riverbed habitat for the tiny organisms upon which trout feed, said Chad Rudow, water quality coordinator for the Roaring Fork Conservancy…

Gates said 7 to 8 inches of snow fell above 12,000 feet during the past week, and 3 to 6 inches between 10,500 and 11,200 feet.

But Rudow noted that many of the snowpack measuring sites are at elevations that may have seen the precipitation falling as rain.

He said the Roaring Fork watershed snowpack was at 60 percent of average, in terms of snow-water equivalent, last week, and is now at 58 percent. The Colorado River Basin as a whole dropped from 52 percent of average to 46 percent this week.

Rudow added that the snowpack on Schofield Pass fell from 19 percent of average last week to 16.5 percent on Thursday.

But the snow telemetry station at Ivanhoe Lake, near Hagerman Pass, did see an increase this week from 99 percent of average to 101 percent, he reported.

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