EAGLE COUNTY — A winter storm was expected to bring a good bit of snow this week to the mountains — but mostly to the south of Aspen. But another storm, from a different direction, may hit early next week.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning on Tuesday for the Rockies between Pagosa Springs and Steamboat Springs. But forecaster Tom Renwick, of the service’s Grand Junction office, said he didn’t expect the storm to deliver much snow to the northern part of the mountains.
Tuesday afternoon, Renwick said the first two waves of the storm were expected to move through Colorado, with a chance of more snow Wednesday. But that system came into Colorado from the southwest, which usually means more snow for the southern mountains.
That pattern seemed to be playing to form Tuesday.
“It’s coming down pretty hard in Silverton,” Renwick said Tuesday afternoon.
Meteorologist Joel Gratz, one of the founders of opensnow.com, a snowsports-oriented website, reported Tuesday morning that the current storm was unsettled and hard to predict. By mid-afternoon, Gratz had revised his forecast to predict the storm would bring “substantial snow” throughout the Colorado mountains. The afternoon called for 3 to 6 inches in most areas, with some heavier snow possible in spots.
The storm was expected to move out of the state Wednesday, with sunny skies returning through the weekend.
Both OpenSnow and the weather service are forecasting another storm — this one coming from the northwest — to move through the state early next week. Renwick said the storms from either the northwest or due west tend to bring more snow to the central and northern Colorado Rockies.
Two storms in a week is good news for this time of year.
“We’re right where we want to be right now,” Renwick said.
But like the stock market, current conditions aren’t an indicator of future performance. And this year, it’s hard to tell just what the winter will be like. Much of our winter weather has its start in the Pacific Ocean west of Chile. When the water in that part of the ocean is warmer or cooler than normal, storms tend to set up in a certain way. For instance, the massive winter of 2010-11 was fueled by a “La Nina,” or cooler-than-normal pattern.
This winter, though, water temperatures are about at their seasonal averages, which leads to a general long-range forecast of “it’s hard to tell.” On the other hand, long-range forecasting remains a dicey proposition, although forecasters correctly predicted that 2011-12 would bring drought conditions in the second year of a “La Nina” pattern.
For the most part, though, “There’s a reason we don’t forecast more than one or two storms out,” Gratz said. And, Gratz added, his research shows there’s little correlation between fall storms and what might come in the next few months.
If the snow does fall in the coming weeks and months, at least we’ll have a good foundation for more snow.