The snowiest month of the year on Colorado’s Front Range is just past the halfway point with no measureable snow having fallen in Boulder County.
As the blustery winds of late winter send plastic bags, dust from construction sites and other detritus hurtling across the arid landscape, area residents probably wonder when they’ll ever see moisture.
Soon, is the answer; but the next two weeks would have to bring a dramatic shift to get the area close to its normal snowfall levels for March.
“Historical evidence suggests that El Niño years increase the odds of a snowy March, but it’s not working out that way this year so far,” meteorologist Matt Kelsch said in an email. “There is a chance of snow Thursday night, but it’s looking pretty minor. There don’t appear to be any big storms in the making through at least the start of next week.”
Nezette Rydell, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service in Boulder, said, “Odds are overall amounts will be on the low side (from the Thursday night system) but at least 2-3 inches. The potential for more is there … but it’s too uncertain to bite off on a higher amount just yet. Stay tuned.”
Boulder saw a snowier than average February, with 21.8 inches falling, well above the past 30-years’ February average of 14.4 inches. However, most of that came in the first two days of the year, with 16.6 inches coming down Feb. 1 and 2.
But this month, Boulder has seen no measurable snow, and only 0.01 inches of rain. Over the past 30-years, Kelsch said, Boulder has averaged 1.93 inches of precipitation (rain and melted snow), and 16.4 inches of snow in March.
Rydell pointed out that while the lowlands have been snow-starved, the mountains have fared much better, with 6 to 12 inches of snow having fallen in the high country courtesy of a system that moved in Monday. Another 4 to 10 inches were expected to fall in mountain locations on Tuesday night, Rydell said.
Meanwhile, as the story of March continues to be written, February is still making headlines, with the recent finding by NASA that February 2016 was the warmest seasonally adjusted month in more than a century of global record keeping.
NASA’s analysis revealed that February was 1.35 degrees Celsius (2.43 Fahrenheit) above the 1951-1980 global average for the month. And that trounced the record set just one month before by January 2016, which had run 1.14 degrees Celsius above the 1951-1980 average for that month.
In their WunderBlog, a blog on the Weather Underground website, local weather blogger Bob Henson and his colleague Jeff Masters draw connections between February’s anomalies and the current El Niño, one of the strongest such phenomena on record.
“El Niño effects on global temperature typically peak several months after the highest temperatures occur” in the critical portion of the eastern tropical Pacific in which El Niños are closely evaluated, they state.
Because the weekly anomalies in that area peaked in mid-November, they write, “it’s possible that February 2016 will stand as the apex of the influence of the 2015-16 El Niño on global temperature, although the first half of March appears to be giving February a run for its money.”
And in an email, Henson said, “This month, we’re part of a dry patch that extends into most of Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California. It’s remarkable to have so little rain and snow across the southwest corner of the country at this point in an El Niño, when it’s usually wetter than average.”
He added, “Nobody knows exactly why the Southwest has been so dry in the last several weeks. It does appear that the typical El Niño-related storm track tended to push north of its usual position across the Southwest this winter. Seattle ended up with the wettest winter in its history (another paradoxical result in an El Niño year).”
By contrast, it hasn’t rained in Phoenix since January.
The relatively wintry system that moves through the Front Range late Thursday into Friday morning is forecast to be chased by a quick rebound to sunny with a high of 58 Sunday — the first day of spring.
Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, email@example.com or twitter.com/chasbrennan