Snowpack Update and “Droughtlook”

3/24/19 10 am

After today things should get “Springy” for at least a few days with temps climbing up to or slightly above seasonal averages. There is some cold air in Canada that is going to attempt to marry with a storm coming in from the NW US Thursday or Friday. This has the look of more of a classic Denver and Front Range storm, the GFS and Euro are at odds as to where the cold air will arrive which will have a huge effect on how the scenario plays out. At the moment that is our next best chance of snow.

Snowpack Update

The good news continues below you can see the totals have increased.



Here is more great news! The Drought outlook between now and June


White, beige or olive are the colors you want to see. We are in white. I will get an update on Tuesday but at the moment the seasonal forecast from the Euro shows below average temperatures and above average precipitation, it also shows considerable snow for the mountains over the next 6 weeks.

Not to be outdone the CPC (Climate Prediction Center) shows above average precipitation for the next 3 months.

Thunderstorm Season

I have not talked about our thunderstorm season, but I expect a very active spring this year. It doesn’t always happen, but this year should be different. You may remember my mentioning this in the past but the weather has a way of perpetuating itself, I have referred to it the last few years as feedback. When you have noteworthy wet seasons like this winter with a nearly endless supply of moisture at the surface and in the soils it will work in concert with convection and lift from a disturbance, or in some instances, just convection created from a higher angle of the sun to trigger storms. The small disturbance that went through on Friday took advantage of this and a funnel cloud developed in Cortez.


Thanks, Brent McWhirter for sending that in.

Being able to enjoy thunderstorms this year will be nice, last year most of our storms were dry based, this year there will be plenty of evaporative moisture to avoid this.  Last year most of the soils were parched and any precipitation evaporated before reaching the ground. The dry perpetuated the dry, the wet will perpetuate the wet conditions. Tracking thunderstorms will be a lot better than tracking fires, we are fortunate that Colorado still has responsible forest management practices. Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said about California, after one of the wettest winters California could have a horrible fire season.

I promised a sneak peek at next winter. That is almost impossible to do at the moment. But there are a couple of interesting things I wanted to share. Two questions I often get are about ENSO (El Nino and La Nina) as it relates to winter. Also, people in my age category will talk and say something to the extent that “winters are not what I remember them being (except this year)”. Regarding El Nino and La Nina, I always tell people that El Nino and La Nina by themselves have very little impact on us in winter, there are so many other things that influence our weather. Regarding the second comment, as you will soon see there is an element of truth to that statement.  One of those things I haven’t talked about is the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Which is basically a (multidecadal) climate cycle that affects sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic. The reason nobody talks about it that much is that it doesn’t change very often. In fact, since 1900 there have been only 4 cycles. There are positive (warm) cycles and negative (cold) cycles. In my life, I have been in 2 cycles a cold cycle that started in the early 1960’s, and a warm cycle that started in the mid-1990’s. There is a direct correlation between surface temperatures, ocean temperatures and the AMO.

First, let’s look at a couple of graphs, this graph is smoothed out so that you can see the trends. Red shows the positive (warm) cycles of the AMO, blue show the negative (cold) cycles.


Here is a more precise graph running through 2017.


The next one shows you 2018


Here is the correlation between cold and warm AMO with regards to surface temperatures.


Most people born in the ’90s have no memory of a cold AMO cycle. While there are anomalies that happen in any cycle it is important to note that 9 of the top 10 snow seasons in Durango occurred during a cold AMO cycle. You can see by the graph that for only the second time in 18 years the AMO was in a cold cycle. An Atmospheric Scientist who was world famous for his hurricane forecasts for decades Dr. Bill Gray predicted the increase in Atlantic Hurricanes as we transitioned into the warm AMO cycle I believe in 1996.  Dr. Gray predicted we would be in the warm cycle until 2020, although he passed away in 2016 his meteorological department at Colorado State still puts out their hurricane forecast every year. Many Atmospheric Scientists I follow have started zeroing in on 2020 as it quickly approaches.


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One thought on “Snowpack Update and “Droughtlook”

  1. cwa

    Thank you for the thoughts and discussion of the broader stuff. Love the drought update!
    Wow, the AMO stuff is thought-provoking and interesting.

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