Cold Winter (Brian Bledsoe)

When a Colorado native thinks of Winter, we usually don't get too excited about snow until March and April.  However, the traditional Meteorological Winter runs through the months of December, January, and February.  Anyone remember what December was like?  We had some snow, but it was really cold.  January was actually pretty nice, but February was cold and somewhat snowy.  In fact, December and February were both pretty snowy months.  Now, I know some of you may not think it was snowy.  Consider this though...  During those 3 months, Colorado Springs picked up 21" of snow and Pueblo came in at 19.5".  Both cities ended up being 4" above normal for those 3 months.  That's doing pretty well, considering we hardly saw any snow for the month of January. 

For the temperature side of things, here is an article from our good friends at the NWS in Pueblo:

 

In Pueblo, the average temperature for December through February was 27.8 F, making it the 9th coldest winter in the past 121 years, and the coldest since 1988 when the average temperature for the winter was 27.3 F. The coldest winter on record in Pueblo is 1899, when the average temperature was 23.9 F.  In Colorado Springs, the average winter temperature was 27.2 F, making it the 12th coldest winter in the past 115 years and the coldest since 1984 when the average temperature for the winter was 25.8 F.  The coldest winter on record in Colorado Springs is also 1899, when the average temperature was 23.0 F.  In Alamosa, the average winter temperature was 17.5 F, making it the 26th coldest winter in the past 78 years and the coldest since 2008, when the average winter temperature was 11.4 F. The coldest winter on record in Alamosa is 1992, when the average winter temperature was 6.8 F.  

The following data and links highlight an interesting comparison on winter temperatures across southeast Colorado and the phase of the "Arctic Oscillation" ( AO ). The AO is refers to opposing atmospheric pressure patterns in the northern middle and high latitudes.  The oscillation exhibits a "negative phase" with relatatively high pressure over the polar region and low pressure at midlatitudes, and a "positive phase" in which the pattern is reversed. In the negative phase, cold arctic air can be more easily transported across portions of mid North America, where as in the postive phase, this colder airmass can be shifted further north and east across Newfoundland and Greenland.

Over this past winter, the AO was characterised as being "highly negative" for the months of December and February, and "slightly postive" in January. This seems to be fairly well correlated with the monthly average temperature anomalies recorded across southeast Colorado.  The monthly temperature anamolies in Colorado Springs for December and February were 5.8 F and 4.0 F below average respectively, with January seeing an average temperature 2.6 F above normal. The monthly temperature anamolies in Pueblo for December and February were 5.9 F and 5.6 F below normal, with January seeing an average temperature of nearly 1.0 F above normal.

 

http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/daily_ao_index/ao.sprd2.gif

 

http://nsidc.org/arcticmet/patterns/arctic_oscillation.html

Kudos to the NWS for talking about the Arctic Oscillation.  This is a huge player in how cold or warm we end up being in the United States.  I've blogged about it several times and can be referenced below:

http://www.kktv.com/blogs/talkweather/81108967.html

http://www.kktv.com/blogs/talkweather/80182257.html

http://www.kktv.com/blogs/talkweather/73110407.html

Chief Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe

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