Aspen winter prediction: National Weather Services says higher temps, more precipitation

TJ David glides through the powder Friday on Aspen Mountain ,which drew gushing reviews from skiers and riders about the extraordinary conditions.
Photo courtesy of Aspen Skiing Co.

The long-range forecast for Colorado this winter says the chances are good for both higher temperatures and higher precipitation, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather models also indicate this winter will most likely be “El Nino neutral,” meaning Pacific Ocean temperatures, which affect the path snowstorms take across the West, have not risen or dropped significantly enough to trigger the El Nino or La Nina phenomenon, according to the weather service and Chris Cuoco, a meteorologist in The NWS’s Grand Junction office.

“It’s one of those things,” Cuoco said Monday. “When the set of conditions for El Nino-neutral result … they look at other cycles.”

Those other cycles indicate that most of Colorado will see a 50% chance of higher than normal temperatures from October through December. The southwest corner of the state has a 60% chance of higher than normal temperatures at that time, according to the Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

During the same period, the eastern three-quarters of the state is predicted to have a 50% chance for higher precipitation, while the western quarter of the state has a 40% chance for higher precipitation.

From November to January, the Climate Prediction Center models for the state change a bit. For that time period, the southern part of the state comes in with a 50% chance for higher temperatures, while the eastern half of the state has a 50% chance for higher precipitation. The western half of the state has a 40% chance for higher temperatures during that period.

For the period from December to February, the entire state has a 40% chance for higher temperatures, while there’s an equal chance for higher, normal or below normal precipitation during that time, according to the CPC.

The chances for the higher temperatures and precipitation, especially in the first part of the winter, are fairly significant, Cuoco said.

The El Nino/La Nina predictions are important because El Nino patterns tend to direct snowstorms across Colorado and the southwestern part of the country, while La Nina brings the bulk of winter snow to northern parts of the U.S. and Canada.

The El Nino-neutral forecast means forecasters discovered only a slight uptick in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean temperatures so far, Cuoco said.

“That means it’s not going to tell us much about what the winter’s going to be,” he said.

The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a “frigid and snowy” winter for Colorado this year after an accurate 2018-19 prediction last year for “teeth-chattering cold and plentiful snow.”

Powder hounds who need an Aspen-centered focus on what kind of snow this winter might bring should make plans for Thursday night. That’s when ​ will hold its annual winter outlook party from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Mi Chola in Aspen. is a subscription-based, micro-forecaster for the upper and mid-Roaring Fork Valley. Meteorologists Cory Gates and Ryan Boudreau will share their outlook for the slopes of the Aspen-Snowmass ski areas for the 2019-20 season.

The public is welcome, and there will be free food and happy hour specials.

September 2019 was “slightly drier and warmer” compared with September 2018, Cuoco said.

That weather pattern has led to red-flag wind and low humidity warnings for Tuesday between noon and 7 p.m. below 9,000 feet. Winds are expected to be out of the southwest at 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 35 mph, which can promote the rapid spread of wildfires, according to the warning.

Sunday’s gusty winds and warm temperatures led to an increase in size of the Granite Lake Fire, which is burning in a remote area of the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness. That fire grew to 695 acres and led to the closure of areas including the South Fork of the Fryingpan and the South Fork Pass Trail, according to an update Monday.

Aspen Times reporter Scott Condon contributed to this story.


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