El Niño expected to be strong

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Scott Condon):

Joe Ramey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said some of the hype makes him cringe. An El Niño pattern — caused by warmer than average water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean — will definitely affect the weather in western Colorado this winter, but it’s still impossible to forecast with certainty what it will mean for specific locations in the mountains, he said. He has examined the 23 El Niño winters since 1950 to see how they affected Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Crested Butte, Telluride, Silverton and other Colorado ski resorts.

What he found for Aspen was “early snow, late snow but not in the heart of winter.”

Conditions have tended to be drier and warmer than average during December, January and February.

“What El Niño tends to do is produce snow outside of that window,” he said…

One factor that could make its mark on this winter is the El Niño is forecast to be strong to very strong. Ramey took a look at Aspen weather over the last two very strong El Niños — in 1982-83 and 1997-98 — to see what they produced. The 1982-83 winter was the sixth snowiest on record, based on data collected at the Aspen Water Plant, he said. Weather data has been collected there since 1979.

The snowfall was even more prodigious on the slopes. Old-timers say it was one of the best winters ever.

Snowfall was also above average for Aspen in 1997-98, Ramey said, with a particularly wet February, March and April.

However, Aspen’s snowiest winters since 1979 didn’t come during the strong El Niño years. The most snow fall October through May came in 1993-94 and 2006-07…

“It’s not easy to encapsulate what El Niño means,” he said.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Forecasters have nicknamed the current El Niño “Bruce Lee” and say it is already the second-strongest on record for this time of year. The Weather Service says it could be the biggest they’ve seen in 50 years.

The World Meteorological Organization says it appears Bruce Lee will strengthen before the year ends. And according to the Weather Service’s climate prediction center, temperature and precipitation impacts could last into 2016.

“There is a greater than 90 percent chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16,” the prediction center said in an El Niño advisory. “And around an 85 percent chance it will last into early spring 2016.”[…]

“The biggest correlation we see is many of our bigger storms and stronger storms have occurred in El Niño years,” Meier said. “As far as above-normal precipitation and below-normal precipitation (in Colorado), we haven’t seen any correlation.”

Leave a Reply