Thursday, 3 Oct 2019, 7:00pm
How much snow is Pagosa Weather going to have this winter? How cold will it be?
Unless you were hiking the Continental Divide Trail or out elk hunting in the last week, I am sure you heard that Washington, Idaho, and Montana were slammed by the first winter storm of the season. If you have been in the back country, let Pagosa Weather bring you up to speed.
An area of low pressure and associated frontal system brought as much as FOUR FEET of snow to areas of western Montana. Babb, Montana, near Glacier National Park reported 52″! I’ve attached the NWS chart that shows all the details.
Since then, I have heard talk around town as to what we might expect for this winter. Will it be a repeat of last year with near record snowfall or will we slip back into drought conditions?
If you are a believer of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, Pagosa Weather has the potential for a “Low Temps, Deep Powder” winter. If you look at Montana, they’re under the “Parade of Snowstorms” banner. Based on last week’s snowfall, that forecast is off to a great start. But let’s dig a little deeper into our winter…
After a strong El Nino event in 1997-1998, Pagosa Weather has learned to pay more attention to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle and we have learned how the El Nino and La Nina events can impact our winter snow accumulation. “La Niña is sometimes referred to as the cold phase of ENSO and El Niño as the warm phase of ENSO.”
You can see in the image above for El Nino, Pagosa is under the “Wetter” green area. The Polar Front Jet is to our south. In the La Nina image, the Polar Front Jet is to the north, and Pagosa is under the “Drier” purple area.
Typically, under an El Nino event, the Pagosa area sees more than average snow. However, that can vary wildly. Last year, there was just a weak El Nino and we had record snowfall. The main impact of either a cold or warm ENSO event is that the pattern gets stuck.
There are always ridge/trough couplets that encircle the globe with their associated low and high pressure systems. Under a neutral ENSO event, these couplets continue on their journey around the globe and we see regular cycles of stormy weather for a period of a few days and then several blue bird days before the next storm marches through. And these storms give equal consideration to all parts of the country and everyone throughout the Intermountain West sees close to average snowfall totals.
This year we expect to be influenced by a neutral ENSO. According to the NWS, “The El Niño of 2019 is over, and neutral conditions have returned to the tropical Pacific. Of the three possible outcomes—El Niño, La Niña, or neutral—forecasters give neutral the highest odds (75% chance) of lasting through winter.
That means Pagosa Weather should see roughly average snowfall here in Pagosa Country, around 100 inches. Understand that official snow measurements in Archuleta County have not been taken for a number of years and CoCoRaHS measurements are sparse. Of course, more CoCoRaHS volunteers can help fill Archuleta County’s significant data gaps. Shawn and I will continue to build that database and will closely track how the ENSO impacts our area.
Based on the long range forecast, don’t worry about getting the mukluks out yet. After a round of clouds and spotty showers tonight, we’ll be back to pleasant fall days for the foreseeable future. Pagosa Weather will keep you updated!