NOAA: “Equal Chances” Best Describe Winter Forecast for Colorado

U.S. winter outlook for precipitation in 2015-2016. (Click for larger image.)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / U.S. Department of Commerce

U.S. winter outlook for precipitation in 2015-2016.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, otherwise known as NOAA (an important branch of which is the Climate Prediction Center), issued its annual and always anticipated U.S. Winter Outlook last week.

What does the forecast say about powder conditions at Colorado ski resorts, you might be wondering. Hang on a second.

The big news is this year’s El Niño pattern in the Pacific Ocean is among the strongest on record. The climate predictors say it is expected to influence weather and climate patterns by impacting the position of the Pacific jet stream.

As of now, the odds are tilted toward a warmer than normal winter all along the West Coast and across the northern tier of the contiguous U.S. Cooler than normal temperatures are forecast for much of New Mexico and then east across the southern tier of states all the way to Florida.

Colorado is, according to NOAA’s anticipated temperatures map, among a handful of states that have “equal chances” of being warmer or colder. In the color-coded map of warmer to colder, our state is completely white. Not snow white. Plain white.

The good news, good at least in theory, for drought-stricken California is that it’s predicted to be wetter than normal this winter. The anticipated precipitation map also shows the northwest quadrant of Colorado in the plain white, equal chances category, while the rest of the state, including the central Rockies and the urban Front Range, shows a 33 to 50 percent change of being wetter than normal. Might as well fall as snow, right?

The map for drought tendency is not looking good for Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, Idaho or western Montana. The drought tendency for Colorado is, once again, plain white. No one really knows.

OK, what about that snow?

As the NOAA video explains, winter storms are the result of rapidly moving atmospheric conditions and can’t be predicted much more than a week in advance. But chances are it’s going to be wetter, and 50-50 that it might be colder, so there is always hope.

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