A white Christmas is in store for Summit County and the rest of the High Country
December 21, 2018
Rejoice, ye pure in heart and fond of powder: More snow is on the way.
According to several forecasts, including the daily snow report from OpenSnow.com's meteorologist Joel Gratz, there should be snow falling on the High Country several times in the next week, with a good chance of a big dump on Wednesday and another storm that may land in the area by the end of the week.
Snow falling Friday night into Saturday will provide ideal powder conditions on Saturday morning. Gratz predicted 4 to 8 inches in the central mountains when it's all said and done on Saturday, "with at least a few inches of fresh snow for the first chair and more falling through the day." Powder will be better in areas of the county farther west-southwest of the Divide, especially at Breckenridge and Copper.
Daytime Sunday should be mostly dry, with snow starting up again Sunday night into Monday. Gratz gave a softer prediction of a powdery Christmas Eve with 3 to 6 inches landing; however he noted that models are not as confident about that storm. Snow showers may extend through Monday night on Christmas Day, giving a good chance that both the Front Range and High Country will see a white Christmas.
Looking further down the week, Wednesday has a good chance of seeing significant snowfall that will mostly benefit the southern mountains. The moisture will settle and provide snow to most of the mountain region Wednesday night into Thursday. There is another chance for a different storm to track into the area at the end of the week and again by New Year's Eve, but those predictions are not clear at the moment.
The season's wealth of snow in the central mountains has been a welcome surprise, as a weak El Niño event was expected to bring higher-than-average temperatures and lower-than-average precipitation. However, El Niño has yet to materialize this season, and while the High Country is seeing more of the typical pattern we're used to, the southwest part of the state — which has already been dangerously dry for quite a while — has been seeing less than average snowpack.
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The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center still sees a 90 percent chance of an El Niño event this season. While the water surface temperatures in the Pacific have been above average — one of the factors necessary for El Niño — the atmospheric component has not aligned, leading to average conditions persisting.
Climate experts say a possible reason for the delay is a different pattern known as the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which unlike El Niño is a short-term event that passes through in four to six weeks. The oscillation is disrupting the conditions necessary for an El Niño event, but once it passes the atmospheric component might finally fall into place. That would basically mean a drier, warmer mid to late winter.
In the meantime, blaze trails while the powder falls.