National Weather Service raises chances for La Niña winter
October 16, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A Steamboat Springs meteorologist is questioning what impact a La-Niña winter might have on snowfall in the area.
Last week, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center determined the chances of La Niña occurring were 55 to 65 percent.
La Niña occurs when there is a cooling of the waters in the southern Pacific.
While some forecasters believe this is beneficial to Northwest Colorado in terms of snowfall, meteorologist Mike Weissbluth is not convinced.
Weissbluth, who runs the snowalarm.com website, said Monday there is not convincing evidence to indicate regional weather can be predicted by La Niña or its counterpart El Niño.
"While some weather forecasters insist that all of Colorado is affected by El Niño or La Niña, the fact is that northern Colorado is not well correlated with either," Weissbluth said. "During El Niño years, the location and amplitude of the ridge of high pressure in the Pacific is critical, and the Steamboat Ski Area may be in favorable northwest flow if the ridge is far enough west, or benign weather if the ridge is further east and closer to our area."
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He said the absence of the ridge during La Niña winters means storms moving across the Pacific are not influenced by a relatively stationary weather pattern.
"This tends to keep the storms moving, and long stretches of either quiet or stormy weather are less likely," Weissbluth said. "In my view, an accurate seasonal forecast for northern Colorado based upon the slightly-better-than-chance probability of a La Niña event, combined with the absence of strong correlations in our area to that event, is impossible."
In the short term, Weissbluth is calling for beautiful fall weather this week until there is a possibility of some light showers Thursday night.
Showers are more likely Friday as a cold front moves through the area.
"Showers will stay as rain in the Yampa Valley ahead of the front before changing over to snow by overnight Friday," Weissbluth said. "Like the last Saturday storm, this one will also be quick moving, bringing a cool start to the weekend with showers ending early in the day."