iSeeChange: Could December Storm Give Clues to the Rest of the Season?

Dec 4, 2013

Credit Hugh Carson

A winter storm has hit western Colorado, with the National Weather Service saying several feet of snow are possible in some areas of the central mountains.

According to the National Weather Service the low pressure system bringing the storm through originated in the arctic region, and will likely make temperatures drop about 20 degrees across western Colorado.

The Weather Service also says this particular storm could have an impact on temperatures for the remainder of the winter, and that the amount of snowfall produced from this storm could even longer-lasting impacts, possibly affecting weather and watershed conditions into next summer.

 Jim Pringle with the National Weather Service forecasting office in Grand Junction says while the storm may not have major immediate impacts, it could help predict how snowpack levels will look for next year.

"The moisture content should be sufficient to have very important input into our overall season snowpack that we'll be looking at by next spring," says Pringle.

Pringle says long-range outlooks right now are predicting above-normal rain and snow to the north, and below-normal precipitation to the south. He says even a slight shift in where the seasonal jet stream sets up could affect whether we see more rain and snow, or less.

"That jet stream pattern, where that is prevalent during the winter months, will determine what we get here in western Colorado," says Pringle.

Snow Depth in the Central Rockies, as of 12/4/13
Credit National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center, National Weather Service

If the jet stream does set up for more rain and snow through the next few months, that could bode well for the watershed.

"If we continue like this, with these kind of storms through the winter and into the spring, then yea, we will have a significant amount of water in our mountains to deal with our needs through the next summer period," Pringle says.

But he says despite the forecast for a wetter winter, there's still the chance that things could be about the same this year, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"There's equal chance that we could have near-normal precipitation, which would be okay," says Pringle. "Near normal, I mean that should meet our needs for the water year, but it'd be nice to have just a little bit above normal."

Even if this storm doesn't lead to a significantly wetter winter or a fuller-than-usual snowpack, there's still the chance that a wet spring could help out our water resources.

"Our good start to the season this fall has been wet, and if we get a wet spring, it may not be all that problematic if we don't get a lot of snow in the January-February time-frame," Pringle says.

KVNF's Brian Cambria contributed reporting