December snowstorm boosted Aspen’s 2016 precipitation above annual average

Staff report
Kevin Boselli shovels snow off of the roof of the Art Tee Gallery Aspen in Hyman Mall on Wednesday.Shovels might be working fast and furious over the next two days with a winter storm warning forecast for Aspen.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |


Aspen and Snowmass Village are under a winter storm until 5 a.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

The snow accumulation is forecast at 15 to 30 inches with higher amounts possible on west-facing slopes, the weather service said in its warning. Unfortunately, the blow will accompany the snow. Winds are forecast at 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 50 mph.

The lower Roaring Fork Valley, including Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, is forecast to receive 6 to 12 inches of snow.

The storm is so widespread it is supposed to affect all of the Colorado mountains, according to the weather service. Travel will be difficult.

The big snowstorm that hit Aspen on Dec. 17 helped the region top its annual average for precipitation in 2016, according to records kept at the water plant.

Aspen received 23.39 inches of precipitation for the calendar year at the water plant. The annual average since 1951 is 22.52 inches.

The precipitation data includes water equivalent contained in snowfall.

It was a year that swung from extremes. January through March was all above average in a winter that wouldn’t end. January produced 2.49 inches of precipitation, well over the average for 1.9 inches for the month. April was about even.

Then conditions dried out for May, June and July. The water plant recorded only 0.65 inches of precipitation in June compared with an average of 1.22 inches.

August saved the day before conditions dried out again in the fall. The water plant recorded 2.93 inches of precipitation in August compared with the average of 1.79.

September, October and November were are well below the monthly averages.

December also was looking bleak until the big dump. The water plant recorded 13 inches of snow in a 24-hour period Dec. 17. The ski areas reported as many as 19 inches of snow from the storm.

For the month, the water plant recorded 32.32 inches of snow compared with an average of 25.21 inches. Total precipitation for December was about an inch above average.

Even though 2016 was wetter than average, it was drier than the three previous years. The water plant recorded 24.70 inches of precipitation in 2015, 27.28 inches in 2014, and 26.35 inches in 2013.

Only 17.91 inches fell in 2012.

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the National Weather Service uses two weather stations in the Aspen area — the one at the water plant and one at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. There was a huge discrepancy in the precipitation measurements for 2016 between the two sites. The airport recorded only 15 inches of precipitation last year while the average there is 23.26 inches.

The sites are less than 4 miles away from each other. The water plant is at the bottom of Castle Creek Valley while the airport is out in the valley flats. There is about a 330-foot difference in the elevation of the sites. The water plant is about 8,148 feet in elevation while the airport is at 7,820 feet.


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