It’s no secret that Colorado has been receiving atypical, late-season rainfall and early-season snowfall. A storm which moved through Colorado Sunday, September 22, 2013 into Monday morning, September, 23, 2013 dropped three to six inches in the high country. We caught up with Colorado Open Snow Forecaster Joel Gratz to determine why this unusual weather is happening and if there will be any affect on the Colorado snowfall this winter. What he revealed is that perhaps there is a silver-lining to all this precipitation the state’s been experiencing.
Gratz said that after he received his one-hundredth email to his inbox, all with the same question: “Does all this September rainfall mean Colorado will have a lot of snow this winter?” He decided to investigate. While combing through the annals of Colorado weather, what he discovered was quite compelling.
“There is a correlation there between heavy, late-season rainfall in Boulder and snowfall in the high country. (Typically the summer rains in Colorado are over at the end of August, however Colorado is still experiencing heavy precipitation—and the month of September is nearly over). The top five wettest Septembers are followed by winter snowfall 10-20 percent above average throughout the state,” said Gratz, “The thing that actually really struck me was the snow as least average, I didn’t see any years that were below average.”
Gratz also said that records indicated that wet weather patterns in the fall often translate into the continuance of an active weather pattern into the winter.
This is good news for the 2013/14 winter conditions. But there’s more information that could potentially benefit powderhounds. The slow-moving storm system which caused flooding in the Colorado Front Range could lead to snow storms that, similarly, last for longer than usual periods. Gratz said this type of system is called “blocking pattern” and is a newer phenomenon linked to warmer global temperatures due to polar ice cap melting. Much like the human body’s circulation, the earth regulates its temperature with currents, winds and weather systems, which attempt to spread temperatures out over the globe. Thus, because the polar ice caps are melting and global temperatures are rising, storms are slowing down.
Gratz said this sort of research and observation is still new and it can prove difficult when attempting to understand the fluctuations in polar ice caps and how it will affect storm systems. While these sort of storms are hard to predict at this point from one year to the next, blocking patterns can lead to persistent snowfall for certain areas, he said.
To learn more about Colorado snow for the 2013/14 season, visit Open Snow.
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com managing the website and blog content, I couldn't be happier. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.