Will Vail Valley have a good winter? The long-term forecast has positive news

The latest long-range forecasts for Colorado show equal chances of above- or below-average temperatures and snowfall from December through February of 2024.
Chris Dillman / Phil Daily Archive

From the height of skunk cabbage to the length of the beards grown by locals, there are a number of ways to predict the coming winter. Most of them are worthless.

The long-range forecasts compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are somewhat less worthless. Conventional forecasts are reasonably accurate for up to about 10 days. Long-range forecasts use historical data and general trends to give a look at likely weather patterns in the coming months. In short, these are forecasters’ best educated guesses.

The administration recently released its forecasts for next winter, December of this year, and January-February 2024. And the news isn’t bad. The forecast calls for equal chances of above or below average temperatures and snowfall across Colorado. Given the drought conditions that have dominated many of the past 20 years, “leveling the playing field” seems like an acceptable scenario.

Forecasters at OpenSnow.com They don’t forecast the weather more than about a week in advance, but they do track trends, and they recently published those long-range forecasts.

Alan Smith of OpenSnow is a meteorologist and the company’s COO.

Support local journalism

Part of the basis for the long-range forecast includes La Niña and El Niño patterns in an area of ​​the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 miles west of Ecuador, Smith noted. In La Niña years, ocean temperatures are cooler than normal. El Niño years show warmer than normal temperatures.

Smith noted that none of those ocean fluctuations affect snowfall in central Colorado, including Vail and Aspen. Steamboat Springs tends to benefit a little more from La Niña years, while Wolf Creek tends to benefit from El Niño years.

However, two of the past three El Niño years have brought above-average snowfall to the state, Smith said. Smith added that the current El Niño pattern shows temperatures “well above average” in that region of the Pacific Ocean.

El Niño patterns tend to have the greatest impact early and late in the winter. October and November tend to bring more snow. Historical patterns show a lull in December, January and February, followed by more snow in March and April.

Get the most important news and latest results in your inbox. Register here: VailDaily.com/newsletter

However, Smith said, it is wise to treat seasonal forecasts with caution.

“There will always be factors that cannot be predicted months in advance of an El Niño or La Niña event,” he said.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *