El Niño was a November no-show in Aspen
December 9, 2015
It's still in the early innings of winter, but many weather forecasters swung and missed when it came to November and the effects of El Nino, at least for Aspen and the surrounding mountains.
The Aspen Water Plant, an official National Weather Service station, reported it received 19.8 inches of snow in November. That is 2.31 inches, or 10.5 percent, below average for the month, the water plant's records indicate.
October also produced less snow than average. Only 0.3 inches fell at the water plant. The average is 8.89 inches.
The situation wasn't much better on the slopes. November was "spot on average" at Snowmass, while October was "a little low," according to Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle. For the season-to-date through November, Snowmass has received 61 inches of snow, he said. The average is 72 inches. That's 15 percent below average.
Multiple weather services forecast a strong start to winter, but it hasn't materialized — yet. Steve Root of AccuWeather forecast November would see snowfall 150 to 170 percent above average, based on analysis of past El Nino winters. He said back in October that data suggested December snowfall would be 190 to 200 percent above average for the Aspen area.
The National Weather Service's Grand Junction office had forecasted "early snow, late snow, but not in the heart of winter" for the Aspen area.
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OpenSnow.Com hedged a bit and said winter could go either way for the four ski areas of Aspen and Snowmass Village. It forecast a total season snowfall at anywhere from 86 to 122 percent of average.
AspenWeather.net, a micro-forecaster, took a bigger picture view as well instead a month-by-month look. It forecast snowfall 15 percent higher than average for the season.
The Old Farmer's Almanac didn't hop on the El Nino bandwagon. It forecast a weak to neutral El Nino, but it still missed the mark for November. It estimated it would be warmer and wetter than average for the mountains of Colorado for the month.
For the record, the snowpack at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River east of Aspen was 89 percent of average Tuesday.
The forecasters can get back on track in a hurry. A cold front is barreling toward Colorado from the northwest and is expected to bring powder Thursday night into Friday, with a possibility of snow over several of the following days.