Forecasters: This winter proving tough to predict |

Forecasters: This winter proving tough to predict

EAGLE COUNTY — Weather forecasting isn’t among the dark arts the way alchemy is, but it is a tricky endeavor. This year’s long-term forecasts are particularly unsure.

Thanks to relatively stable water temperatures in a portion of the Pacific Ocean usually responsible for generating precipitation-laden storms, that long-term forecast is more unpredictable than usual. Temperatures in that portion of the Pacific are trending warmer than average, but National Weather Service climatologists don’t believe the pattern will trigger an actual El Nino pattern.

Those patterns tend to bring above-average precipitation to states in the Southwest, as well as the southern portion of Colorado.


With roughly neutral water temperatures in the zone, forecasters are predicting slightly above-average temperatures for the West Coast and above-average precipitation in the desert of the Southwest. The rest of the official weather service map is shaded in “too tough to tell” white. That means precipitation and temperatures could be above, below or near historic averages. Those predictions are for December, January and February.

Moving into the spring, the forecast model shows a possibility of wetter-than-normal months in February, March and April.


Joel Gratz, the Colorado meteorologist for, doesn’t look that far ahead, preferring to focus instead on patterns that have already formed in the Pacific and are moving inland from the western U.S.

Gratz’s early December forecast calls for warmer than usual on-mountain temperatures, with a chance of snow showers today and Thursday.

For Vail, those storms could drop between two and four inches on the slopes, with the chance of a bit more falling thanks to atmospheric moisture.

Gratz and the National Weather Service are both predicting dry conditions for Friday and Saturday, with the prospect of another weak storm hitting the area into Sunday.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

Support Local Journalism