Better starting picking your lines in the Flatirons, cuz this could turn into a huge upslope year in Colorado. At the Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Leadville on Friday, Joe Ramey of the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center confirmed an El Nino weather pattern for the year: wet down south, dry up north and big snow on Colorado’s eastern slope.
Last year at this time, Ramey predicted mild La Nina conditions with above-normal snow in the north and a mid-season meltdown–both of which came to fruition. So he’s got some cred. For 2009-10, he predicted the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) would conspire to create warmer, dryer weather in the northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest and cooler, wetter weather in the south (California, Arizona, and New Mexico), with Colorado high and dry in the middle. The one exception, he pointed out, is Colorado’s Front Range, where counterclockwise-rotating low pressure systems passing through to the south can hammer the eastern slope of the Divide. The last time we saw this weather pattern, lines in Eldorado Canyon, the Flatirons–and even the bleachers in Red Rocks Ampitheater–were getting ticked during and after each storm.
Like most weathermen, Ramey added a disclaimer. He said predicting the weather is really just a game of probabilities. He likened it to a dartboard, with larger pie sections corresponding to higher probabilities. In this case, the prediction above might be 60 percent likely this year versus 40 percent last year. If you throw a dart, then you’re more likely to hit the larger segment and get the prediction right, but you can still hit the smaller portion and eat your words. “The more I study this stuff,” he said, “the lower my confidence level gets.” So if you’ve already booked a trip to Crested Butte or Jackson, don’t cancel it yet for a week at Humphrey Summit, Arizona.