Monsoon ... Pikes Peak snow ... Does any of this affect our winter?
Short answer: No -- La Nina will play a bigger role on our winter temps and snowfall
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - What will winter be like in southern Colorado? You may be asking yourself that after pictures of August snow falling on Pikes Peak the past few days shook our Facebook page to the core ... some have asked if the active monsoon season will have any effect either. We’ll try to answer these questions below. First off:
Snow in August on Pikes Peak ... isn’t unusual
In fact, climate data has Aug. 30 as the average “first” snowfall on Pikes Peak as we approach the fall season. It doesn’t really make it any less magical (in my humble, snow-loving opinion). So while it’s not uncommon, it’s a sign that we are slowly but surely turning off the summer machine.
⬇️ I’m just glad people got as hyped as I did to see snowfall again! ⬇️
Will our good moisture from this year’s monsoon roll into the winter season?
Using history is an important tool to consider when *attempting* a long-range weather forecast. (I say attempting because anyone saying they know exactly what the next season will bring is full of you know what.)
I was interested in heavy monsoon summers and how the following winters have compared. I looked at Colorado Springs’ top 10 wettest monsoon seasons (June through August) and dug into the data on snowfall for the following winter. I was a bit surprised to see that significant monsoon seasons do not necessarily correlate with a harsh winter (snowfall-wise). In fact, most of those winters had snowfall that was pretty close to the 30-yr average of 33.6″.
There were also note-worthy winters that had significant monsoon summers:
Jun-Aug 1945: 11.44″ of rain | Jun-Aug 1997: 14.77″ of rain
Winter 1945-46: 7.3″ of snow | Winter 1997-98: 56.8″ of snow
As you can see, based on these two examples, a heavy monsoon season led to completely different winters. The winter of 1945-46 was Colorado Springs’ least snowiest ever recorded.
A third consecutive year of La Niña set to be the key player to start out winter
You may hear KKTV’s meteorologists talk about La Niña, El Niño, or ENSO. They’re all part of the same idea: a measure of how ocean water temperatures are distributed across the Pacific Ocean near the equator. Below is a graphic explaining how La Nina displays colder water at the equator near South America, with a warm wedge of water to the north to help “balance” things out.
It usually drives the jet stream/storm track well to the north across the western United States, especially during the winter season. It’s how we started out last year and the big reason we didn’t end up getting our first *real* accumulating snow until NEW YEAR’S EVE. It was the latest measurable snow on record at the Colorado Springs Airport.
The best way to get snow in Colorado is to have low-pressure systems go to our south. You’ve probably heard of an Albuquerque Low -- having the low go through New Mexico usually gives southern Colorado its best snows. During a La Niña pattern, the exact opposite happens; storms tend to go too far north, leaving our viewing area on the dry, windy, and warm side of those low-pressure systems. Remember all the wind last year? Yeah, we call that the “Niña wind”.
With another La Niña likely to kick off this winter season, it will probably be another slow start to winter/snowfall in southern Colorado. Long range weather data does indicate a possible weakening of La Niña come next spring... this may give us a better chance for snow by then. It’s also worth noting that same data also indicated that Niña was fading earlier this spring, only to have it go even DEEPER into a Niña phase this summer.
For now ... time will tell ...
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