From Colorado Public Radio (Miguel Otárola):
The winter weather we all have waited for is nowhere to be found.
It’s not just the case in Colorado, where more than 230 record high temperatures were broken in the first three days of December, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. News outlets have reported the hottest-recorded December temperatures in Wyoming, Montana, Washington and North Dakota.
Although temperatures in the Front Range have finally fallen to normal levels, a decent early winter snowfall remains but a memory.
State and regional weather and climate experts agree that though it likely will be a warmer winter than normal, it’s still unclear how much snow will end up falling in Colorado. National Weather Service forecasters say most of the state has an “equal chance” of having below or above-average snowfall this season. The lower third of the state is projected to have less snow than average.
“It’s all over the backdrop of climate change,” said Greg Hanson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder. “We’ve been trending warmer for years now.”
A potentially warmer, drier Colorado winter is also tied to La Niña, which is occurring for the second year in a row. This climate pattern starts by churning up colder water in the Pacific Ocean. That pushes the jetstream north and brings wetter weather to the Pacific Northwest and drier, warmer conditions to Colorado and other western states.
“The storm systems that do come through, they’re pretty starved of moisture by the time they get here,” Hanson said. “Any precipitation we get is light and quick hits. And that’s what we’ve seen so far.”