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Drier winter predicted for the Rockies

If the early skiing conditions have you stoked for the season, it would be best not to read the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

The 211-year-old publication is predicting a slightly warmer, much drier winter for the Rocky Mountain region.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are hedging their bets.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac expects temperatures to be three to five degrees above normal. December and January, as a whole, will be particularly warm, according to the publication. It also foresees less than average snowfall for the mountains.

“Precipitation will be 30 to 50 percent below normal,” said the almanac. “The snowiest periods will be in mid-November and early February.”

The almanac, which says that its weather predictions are the most popular section of its publication, combines the study of solar activity with climatology and meteorology to come up with its forecasts. It conducts annual reviews to gauge its success.

“When all is said and done, the results are almost always very close to our traditional claim of 80 percent. Weather predicting is, after all, an inexact science,” the almanac said.

So how did the Old Farmer’s Almanac’s prediction hold up for the Aspen area during November? It predicted fairly well that we would have snow showers then sunny skies from Nov. 21-30. It accurately foresaw some snow Nov. 8-12, but botched the storm that hit the weekend of Nov. 14.

For December, the almanac predicts temperatures four degrees above average overall and precipitation a half inch below average. The first half of the month will be dry; the second half will have better chances of snow showers and flurries, so says the almanac.

While the publication says the first week of February will be snowy, it indicates that snow sliders shouldn’t count on a long extension of the season. “While there will be snow showers in mid-April, there will not be any big spring snowstorms.”

NOAA’s winter outlook, updated on Nov. 20, is comparable to throwing a dart at a board to predict the weather. The agency’s prior outlook said the Rocky Mountain region was in for a warmer winter. Now it’s backed off that forecast due to new data.

NOAA instead says that the Rocky Mountain region has “equal chances” of having above, below and near-normal temperatures as well as precipitation. How’s that for waffling?

NOAA said data indicates California and Florida can expect drier winters while Washington, upper Idaho and eastern Oregon will be wetter. Texas, Oklahoma and the eastern half of New Mexico may also experience a wetter winter.

NOAA’s maps showed that western Colorado remains in a moderate to severe drought.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]


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