January snowfall, temps, slightly below normal
SUMMIT COUNTY If it felt cold and dry during the past month, the weather stats from two local observation sites support that perception.Global warming notwithstanding, January was a cold month in Summit County, with average temperatures at the Dillon National Weather Service observation site running a few degrees below historic averages, based on records going back to 1909.Low temperatures dropped below zero 14 times during the month. The coldest reading was Jan. 16, at minus 20 degrees. The high temperature for January was 44 degrees, recorded on Jan. 11. It may not have felt like it, but the mercury climbed to or above freezing on 16 days. The average high temperature for January was 29.6 degrees, compared to the historic average 31.3 degrees. The average minimum temperature was minus 2.3 degrees, compared to the average minus 1.3 degrees.With 11 inches of accumulation, snowfall at the Dillon site was also below the January average of 18.6 inches. Measured as water, that snow melted down to .59 inches, well below the average 1.09 inches.In Breckenridge, precipitation for the month was a little closer to average, with 18.5 inches of snow (average, 22.2 inches) in January. Total water content was 1.44 inches, compared to the average 1.54 inches. About half that moisture came from one strong, wet storm early in the month, said Rick Bly, who measures snow and rain for the National Weather Service.For the hydrological year that began Oct. 1, the totals dipped slightly below average for the first time so far, with total snowfall through Feb. 1 adding up to 74.8 inches, compared to 77.1 for the average.But the somewhat dry January conditions didn’t put a huge dent in the overall Blue River Basin snowpack, said water commissioner Scott Hummer. Basin-wide, the snowpack is still 104 percent of average, with the highest reading (117 percent) at Hoosier Pass.For the greater Colorado River Basin, the snowpack is 92 percent of average, with lower readings farther west; 70 percent at Vail Mountain and 74 percent at Mesa Lakes, on Grand Mesa near Powderhorn Ski Area. The driest basin in the state currently is the Yampa River, standing at only 68 percent of normal.And while local powder hounds may be jonesin’ for fresh snow, they can consider themselves lucky compared to Jackson Hole skiers, who are suffering through the third-driest winter since Jackson Hole Mountain resort started keeping records 40 years ago. As for the outlook, weather guru Klaus Wolter, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the split flow in the Jet Stream may persist through early February, driving many storms far to the north and south of Colorado. “The ‘split flow’ so typical for El Niño seems to want to continue into February, with the added twist that we keep getting these cold air ‘infusions,’ ” Wolter said. That same El Niño (warmer-than-normal sea surface temps in the eastern Pacific) may result in a wet spring for Colorado, especially in the southwestern part of the state, Wolter previously predicted.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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