Summit County might get its first real snowfall next week, according to expert Joel Gratz
September 25, 2018
It's just about time to dig those boots out of the closet. There is a fair chance that Summit County and other mountain communities see some snowfall next week, according to climate model versions analyzed by local weather expert Joel Gratz.
Gratz, creator of Opensnow.com, used an average of 51 different climate model versions in Crested Butte, as well as a 10-day forecast for temperatures over Copper Mountain. The models indicate that there might be "something interesting" coming up next week — hopefully the right combination of precipitation and dropping temperatures needed to produce the fluffy stuff.
"For a storm (or storms) that are 7+ days away, having 50% of the model versions show something significant is actually respectable, so this bears watching," Gratz wrote in his latest blog post.
However, those models aren't terribly reliable seven or more days out, and Gratz estimated there is a 20 percent chance of snow based on the current data. The predictions will get better as we get closer to Sunday, when temperatures are set to drop alongside a patch of moisture predicted to sit over the central and northern mountains next week.
If it does snow next week, the first snow would be in line with past years, with first snowfall seen at the end of September or early October. Last year, the first visible snow came down mid-September with a light dusting on Summit's peaks and valleys.
However, the earlier snow last year did not wind up being a sign of a good season. The 2017-2018 winter was the third driest on record in Summit, followed by a drier summer and a vicious wildfire season across the west.
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Most of the state is also experiencing drought, with most of Summit experiencing "extreme drought," the second most severe stage of drought. The state continues to hope for an average or better-than-average precipitation period this winter season, with most average yearly precipitation collected with snowfall in the mountains. A second dry winter could lead to a "compact call" and water cuts across the west, and an even more prolonged drought could lead to border battles over water not seen since in the West since the 19th century.
With that in mind, ski country and the Front Range should be thankful for every snowflake that falls from now until next spring. But before you get your hopes up, Gratz stressed that the models he ran indicate a trend toward snow, but not a prediction.
"We should NOT use these 7+ day forecasts to say exactly what's going to happen," Gratz wrote. "In fact, even though we're looking at 51 model versions, past research has found that the actual weather in the future is many times outside of the range of these 51 models versions."
Gratz ended on a hopeful note, encouraging his readers to check for updates throughout the week.
"The bottom line is that we could have some fun weather later next week, and I'll keep an eye on it," he wrote.