December was seventh snowiest on record in Summit
January 3, 2008
SUMMIT COUNTY ” After a relatively warm and dry start to the winter, Ullr came through in a big way in December, dropping twice the average amount of snow on weather-watcher Rick Bly’s deck in Breckenridge.
Bly, who records snow and rain amounts for the National Weather Service, said it was the seventh-snowiest December on record, with 43 inches of powder, compared to the average 21.9 inches.
Some long-time locals probably remember the snowiest December ever, when 86.9 inches of snow fell in 1983.
“We did a lot of catching up,” Bly said. For the weather year beginning Oct. 1, snowfall is 39 percent above average, based on records going back more than 100 years.
Average January snowfall is just about the same as December, at 22.2 inches. The highest-ever snowfall total came in January 1899, the record-setting winter that left Summit County buried and cut off from the surrounding area.
It’s hard to say what the next few months will bring, but Bly is hopeful that the steady flow of storms will continue.
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“We seem to be in a nice storm pattern,” he said.
In Dillon, where Denver Water officials also keep track of daily snow and temperature readings, 29 inches of snow fell in December, with the biggest single-day total coming back on Dec. 6, with 9 inches. The snow melted down to 2.4 inches of water, about double the historic average based on records going back to 1909.
Last year, only 12 inches fell at the Dillon site in December, despite the pair of big holiday blizzards that bopped the Front Range and shut down Denver International Airport.
Despite the beefy December snowfall, there are still indications that La Nina conditions, with colder-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific, could lead to dry skies for the next few months.
That’s been the seasonal outlook from Klaus Wolter, a Boulder-based researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But Wolter has also said that La Nina forecast modeling isn’t easy to do with any great degree of certainty.
And Summit County wasn’t the only area blessed with generous December snow. Vail reported the snowiest December since 2000, with 97 inches of snow at the ski area, and Aspen also flirted with an the all-time December snowfall record of 72 inches, set in 1983.
The December dumps helped build up the mountain snowpack to decent levels by the end of the month. The Upper Colorado Basin snowpack was at 103 percent of average as of Jan. 3, compared to 101 percent on the same day one year ago.
Snowpack in the Blue River Basin is at 110 percent of average, said Scott Hummer, water commissioner for the State Engineer’s office. Hummer also said local streamflows have stayed near historic means for most of the winter.
Flows have also stayed strong downstream of the big snowmaking operations in Keystone and Breckenridge, in the Snake and Blue rivers respectively. Those readings have steadily stayed above state-set minimum instream flows established to protect aquatic life, Hummer said.
The daily average high temperature at the Dillon site was 26.7 degrees, well below the historic average 31.4 degrees. It was the first time in about six months the daily temperatures dipped below the long-term historic average. The warmest reading for the month was 48 degrees on Dec. 5. The coldest day of the month was Dec. 28, when the thermometer climbed to seven degrees, the only day with a single-digit high.
Low temperatures dropped below zero 12 times, with the lowest reading (minus 18 degrees) coming on Dec. 28. The average low temperature for December was 2.6 degrees, slightly above the historic average reading of 1.1 degrees.