What Does A La Niñ?a Mean For Southern Colorado?
A La Niña pattern typically means drier than average conditions for most of Southern Colorado, but that’s not always the case. La Niña will usually shift the Polar jet stream to the north, meaning cold air and storms typically miss Colorado to the north and north east. That pattern and storm track can often rob Southern Colorado of an up slope wind, which is a big ingredient for snowfall along the Front Range and the foothills. Past data has shown this often brings drier conditions to most of the I-25 corridor due to the lack of that moist, up slope wind.
SNOTEL data shows La Niña will usually provide above average snowfall to the Upper Arkansas River Basin, near or below average to the Upper Rio Grand and San Juan River Basins, and below average to the Sangre De Cristo and Wet mountains. While the data shows we are typically dry, there was a strong La Niña in 1999 and yet Colorado Springs saw one of it’s highest annual precipitation measurements on record.
The take away? Southern Colorado weather is always very active and difficult to predict. If we do see a La Niña develop,(remember the chance right now is between 55 to 65 percent) it’s no guarantee that we’ll get the usual dry pattern. Even if we do see the La Niña form, remember that we live next to a mountain range and we’re going to see a few big snows throughout the winter season.