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Snow could jump start winter, forecasters say

Forecast

Friday: Snow showers. High near 33. West northwest wind 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80 percent. New snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.

Friday night: Snow showers likely before 7 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 16. West northwest wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high near 40. West northwest wind 5 to 10 mph.

Source: National Weather Service

EAGLE COUNTY — By the time you read this, there should be snow on the ground … should be.

Tom Renwick was moonlighting as a forecaster with National Weather Service in Grand Junction during the government shutdown when we found him, which is also what he does when the government is not shut down.

He predicted that the storm that rolled through Thursday night would leave 4-5 inches of white gold in the valley from Eagle to Vail, and up to 7 inches on the mountains. The forecast for today continues to be cold but is expected to warm up Saturday and Sunday, Renwick said. Tuesday may reach the upper 60s to low 70s before another front rolls through in about a week.

Joe Ramey, meteorologist and climatologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the Vail Valley can expect a normal winter … maybe.

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“Seasonal outlooks are fraught with danger. When you’re talking about a forecast further out than a few hours, what you’re calculating is a shift in probabilities.”
Joe Ramey
National Weather Service meteorologist and climatologist

“Seasonal outlooks are fraught with danger. When you’re talking about a forecast further out than a few hours, what you’re calculating is a shift in probabilities,” Ramey said.

El Nino

Forecasters often look into the Pacific Ocean for their clues, Ramey said.

Basically, El Nino puts a groove in the atmosphere that the jet stream tends to follow, bringing us a dry, wet or neutral winter.

That’s called El Nino Seasonal Oscillation, or ENSO, and so far this year we’re in an ENSO-neutral pattern, Ramey said.

That means that there’s no groove in the weather highway, and that makes it even tougher to predict.

So Ramey crunched the data and found that since 1950 we’ve had 19 enso-neutral years. Most came in below-normal snowfalls. Two were extremely wet, 1992-93 and 1996-97, Ramey said.

That means we should expect to get smacked pretty hard early in the season, November and December, and again in the spring around late March and April. In between it could be dry.

Then again …

“There’s always hope. It can always change,” Ramey said.

And Ramey said he doesn’t always listen to himself.

“There’s always hope for a wet winter, and I bought a ski pass. I’m putting my money on a strong winter,” Ramey said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail daily.com.


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