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Snow Trend for Colorado - Iffy

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
According to the National Weather Service's long-term climate forecast, the US is headed for warmer and drier winters; this year, and the next two.

This news, combined with a slow snow start throughout the Rockies, is sobering.

We just moved to Colorado this summer. I feel like a kid who arrived at the amusement park just as the last rollar coaster is put away. :

We've gloried in the 7 weeks of early skiing at Loveland. Hence, we've no cause for immediate complaint. But, the man-made snow is wearing thin, and little snow is forecast in coming weeks.

I reasoned that Summit County should be among the last regions affected by Global Warming due to high base elevations (9K to 10K), and peaks towering past 13K.

Perhaps my logic is flawed, and the Rockies are as susceptable to GW as lower-level sites in Europe - some of which have suffered serious terrain loss.

Does anyone know how soon, and how seriously GW is predicted to impact skiing in the Rockies?
post #2 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain_Strato View Post
According to the National Weather Service's long-term climate forecast, the US is headed for warmer and drier winters; this year, and the next two.


We were forecast to get 1-2" last night and got 9" and it's still snowing. Another storm is on it's way. Long-range forecasts are worthless. The snow will come and we'll almost certainly end up +- 50" of normal. Once a few big storms roll through the dry November will be a distant memory.
post #3 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain_Strato View Post
Perhaps my logic is flawed, and the Rockies are as susceptable to GW as lower-level sites in Europe - some of which have suffered serious terrain loss.
Do you mean the Europe where most areas this year are having the best early snow since the early 50's?
post #4 of 29
Thanks "breckview" thats what I needed to hear.

28 days and counting !
post #5 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by breckview View Post
[/b]

We were forecast to get 1-2" last night and got 9" and it's still snowing. Another storm is on it's way. Long-range forecasts are worthless. The snow will come and we'll almost certainly end up +- 50" of normal. Once a few big storms roll through the dry November will be a distant memory.
Nice--over on the other side of the lake we got what was forecast. 1-2" here in Summit Cove. Looks like the Basin & Keystone got about that as well. At least it is still snowing
post #6 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by easy rider View Post
Thanks "breckview" thats what I needed to hear.

28 days and counting !
I think those coming in a month should be glad we had a dry November. I don't think November's snow total has any predictive value for December or any other month except that we go through dry stretches every winter. And if we're going to have one, November is the best month because:

1. Due to staffing, terrain generally doesn't open early with "normal" snowfall in November anyway. With a spectacular November, they'll bump the opening schedule by a couple weeks but it would be extremely rare to open the entire mountain regardless of how much snow has fallen.

2. November snow can melt as it can get warm. Yesterday it was in the 50s at Breck and that isn't rare.

3. Without unusual prior coverage, big snowfalls in November don't really give you an epic powder day because it just hides obstacles.

I'd much prefer a slow start with small snowfalls building coverage and then big storms coming later.
post #7 of 29
Yeah, long range forecast are worthless. You might as well rely on the Farmer's Almanac or wooly caterpillars. Weather folks can hardly get the forecast right for this week, let alone the winter. Don't worry, it will come, we have 4-5 more months of ski season.
post #8 of 29
I'll agree with everyone else. Colorado is a sure thing as far as weather goes. However, you might need to adjust some of your plans depending on how the season shakes out. There no guarantee Summit County will even have a few great days - there's been a few years where the best days of the season are only mediocre. (For comparison, in a good year I wouldn't even bother skiing unless there was more than 8" of fresh snow. In bad year that might be the best storm you get in a given month.) However, it's almost certain that some resort somewhere in the state will have some epic days at some point during the season. In that case, keep your legs in shape, be ready to travel across the state and to do it on the spur of the moment during the week.
post #9 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by UGASkiDawg View Post
Do you mean the Europe where most areas this year are having the best early snow since the early 50's?
I think he means in past years. The last decade has seen some harsh winters for the Alps.
post #10 of 29
Thankfully most of the posters here realize that these long term forecasts are worthless drivel.

There is no trend up or down in snowfall over the past 30-40 years at the 97 areas in North America where I have data, except for the Whistler base that gets more rain due to its low elevation. The Whistler alpine remains one of the most consistent bets for early snow, this year being Exhibit A.

Does November snowfall correlate with December? Very slightly. I would advise destination visitors to avoid Colorado this December, because the base tends to build gradually anyway, so the odds are against steep natural terrain being skiable until mid to late January with the slow start.

February and later I wouldn't worry much. The season would have to continue unusually dry for skiing to stay bad that long. There is zero correlation between November and January snowfall.
post #11 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by breckview View Post
[/b]

We were forecast to get 1-2" last night and got 9" and it's still snowing. Another storm is on it's way. Long-range forecasts are worthless. The snow will come and we'll almost certainly end up +- 50" of normal. Once a few big storms roll through the dry November will be a distant memory.
The recent dump is cause for jubilation. But, it doesn't change the big picture, which I'm not convinced is "worthless". Too many researchers (not dummies) have spent enough time assessing a broad range of variables for GW to be discarded as bunk.

Perhaps the Alps are having a decent early season this year (I haven't checked). But, recent years have been a catastrophe for Euro-operators. Austria didn't see their lower elevations open much at all, and some mid-season photos of Alp resorts looked like balmy summer, with greenery, flowers and bare hiking trails.

My real question is: how relevant is all this to Colorado's ski industry? I don't have the data and was hoping someone might. To what degree does Colorado's high elevation offset the very real impact of GW?
post #12 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain_Strato View Post
My real question is: how relevant is all this to Colorado's ski industry? I don't have the data and was hoping someone might. To what degree does Colorado's high elevation offset the very real impact of GW?
The ski areas are under political pressure to act concerned whether they are or not. IMO, if GW does exist and continues, it would be the best thing that could ever happen for business and property owners at high altitude ski areas such as Copper, Breck, A-Basin, Winter Park, etc. Put another way, if temps were to rise at the worst of all projections, in 20 years it would still not rain at Breck in the winter.
post #13 of 29
[ I like hearing in the face of the negative forecasts for snow and colder temps for the Rockies and other sections of the country that the accuracy of these long range forecasts might be suspect. The La Nina situation seems to be the basis for forecasting a poor snow year for most regions except the PNW.

I live here in SW Pa. and the last two years our early winter weather has been a huge disappointment, not even allowing for favorable snowmaking at night. A repeat of this type of weather again this year is pretty disheartening.
post #14 of 29
(bites tongue).....

(oww).....

I really try to avoid the hostile debates, they make me so angry. But at the very least, let's put it this way:

- The interior west is exhibiting the bulk of climate warming trends, meaning it is getting hotter and drier.

- The projected change in annual temperature 2035-2060 for Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, in general when different models are compared, is ~4.5 degrees or more.

- This means that snow will fall later, melt sooner, and what falls is more likely to fall as rain.

- The projected change in the Palmer drought index 2035-2060 puts Colorado in the bullseye of projected drought.



- In addition to snow falling later and melting sooner due to increased temperatures, there will also be less of it. The season will be shorter and there will be more days of rain in winter, even in the rockies.

- Snowpack is projected to be down 24% in the years 2010-2039. In the years 2040-2069, snowpack is projected to be down 30%.




- Ultimately, the ski industry is the least of our worries. By 2030, due to the combining forces of less snowpack and increased population, there will be no additional water to serve the metro area due to the over-appropriated Upper Colorado Basin. Limited/no water for snowmaking. Increased incidence of incredibly destructive wildfires. Decrease the water table, lose vegetation. Lose vegetation, increase temperature. When rain does fall, it will fall on drier ground which has less absorption ability and will lead to flooding. And so on.

- But yeah, it'll be ok, it's just the Canary in the coal mine, let's not worry about it. I'm not looking to pick a fight, I just the big picture was as tangible and scary to everyone else as it is to me. :

http://www.rockymountainclimate.org/
http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2007/s2787.htm
http://www.research.noaa.gov/climate/
http://www.drought.noaa.gov/index.html
post #15 of 29
Thread Starter 
The old saying: "Be careful what you ask for", prevails. I asked for data and got it (mostly from Dawnhill).

I'm not sure I feel better.

A projected 24% decline in snow pack from 2010 to 2039? That's not comforting. Nor are hotter summers, wildfires, drought, vegetation loss or flooding.

Looks like our kids may be shouldering a burden for our errant ways.
post #16 of 29
On the weather last night they showed the late November snowpack map and it wasn't good. I think the best region was from Rocky Mountain Nation Park east (S. Platte Basin if I remember) and it was @ 55% of normal for this time of year. The SW part of the state was as low as 27% of average. Tried to find that map online but no success. Hopefully the storm for this weekend actually materializes and gives us a couple days solid of snow in the mountains.
post #17 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by dawnhill View Post
(bites tongue).....

(oww).....

I really try to avoid the hostile debates, they make me so angry. But at the very least, let's put it this way:

- The interior west is exhibiting the bulk of climate warming trends, meaning it is getting hotter and drier.
This isn't the place to debate theoretical Global Warming Models. Temp records for Breck exist back to 1859 and it's not getting "hotter and drier" here.
post #18 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by breckview View Post
This isn't the place to debate theoretical Global Warming Models. Temp records for Breck exist back to 1859 and it's not getting "hotter and drier" here.
Actually, if you look at Captain Strato's original post, it is exactly the place to put the information he was looking for.
His question was "Does anyone know how soon, and how seriously GW is predicted to impact skiing in the Rockies?"
No, I personally don't know. But there are agencies whose sole purpose is to provide models for this exact question, so I thought I would provide that and give him more information that just a local anecdote. But I'm glad it's not hotter and drier in Breck, carry on.
post #19 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
Thankfully most of the posters here realize that these long term forecasts are worthless drivel.
Don't knock what you don't understand. The correlation to snowfall is one issue; long term modelling is another. There is of course a difference between modelling and forecasting, which seems to go over your, and "most of the posters" heads.

The changes modelled 10 years ago are proving fairly accurate. In my field we see this much more dramatically than snowpack. Increased precipitation in some areas, decreased in other areas. Warmer summer conditions in very critical areas. The prediction from the modelling? Increased large area wildfires. What are we seeing on the ground? Increased large area wildfires.
post #20 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry_Morgan View Post
The changes modelled 10 years ago are proving fairly accurate.
If you take ten different models, ten years from now at least one will probably be "fairly accurate" just by chance. Secondly, there's no real definition of "fairly accurate" and therefore almost anything could be argued as such.

Quote:
The prediction from the modelling? Increased large area wildfires. What are we seeing on the ground? Increased large area wildfires.
Increased from what exactly? Was the period over which the "increase" was "measured" long enough to be signicant. How is "increase" even defined? Was "increase" defined with the model's creation or now to backfit the model's predictions? Was the model tracked in real-time independently without bias? Could the model have been influenced by outside variables such as more illegals camping in fire prone areas during Santa Anna's? Were the failed models abandoned thereby creating the false impression that the entirety of the models were "fairly accurate".

No need to answer any those questions. I've created hundreds of predictive models in my field.

There is no apparatus for tracking the historical record of weather forecasts either short-term, long-term, locally, nationally, or global. The same goes for climate models from the past or those created today.
post #21 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by dawnhill View Post
Actually, if you look at Captain Strato's original post, it is exactly the place to put the information he was looking for.
Actually, if you look at the rules of EpicSki, if this thread turns into a debate on Global Warming it will probably be moved to the Supporter's section and you won't be able to read it.
post #22 of 29
Quote:
I asked for data and got it
No. You got a theoretical computer projection.

We have had warming over the last 30 years and the data shows that it has not affected snowfall in western ski areas yet. The effect of warming has been to raise the rain/snow line slightly with no effect whatsoever on overall precipitation.

Due to altitude, as breckview noted, Colorado would likely be one of the last ski regions to be affected by continued warming temperatures. But we are supposed to believe a computer model that says the warming over the next 30 years will be much different in character to that observed over the past 30 years. The basis of science is to validate theory with hard evidence. With respect to precipitation there is no evidence.

Some areas in the Alps have been affected already. But it is again due to altitude and rising rain/snow line.
post #23 of 29
It is all just cyclical. There are no canaries or Al Gores in any coal mines. It is just nature doing her thing, and that thing right now is a warming trend. Has no one ever heard of the ice age? Do you really think weather just remains static over the centuries. No, it does not. The only comforting thing is that weather predictors are often wrong, especially long-term. Just relax and enjoy the sunny weather, the snow will come sooner or later.
post #24 of 29
Quote:
It is all just cyclical. There are no canaries or Al Gores in any coal mines. It is just nature doing her thing, and that thing right now is a warming trend. Has no one ever heard of the ice age? Do you really think weather just remains static over the centuries. No, it does not. The only comforting thing is that weather predictors are often wrong, especially long-term. Just relax and enjoy the sunny weather, the snow will come sooner or later.
Your hypothesis seems well researched so I'll subscribe to your theory in lieu of all those whacky scientists who think we are having an impact on our environment.
post #25 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain_Strato View Post
According to the National Weather Service's long-term climate forecast, the US is headed for warmer and drier winters; this year, and the next two.
Long-term forecasts? Not very accurate... Probably equal to random.
post #26 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by breckview View Post
Long-term forecasts? Not very accurate... Probably equal to random.
I wonder if Capt Strato has changed his tune. Hasn't snow accumulation for Colorado been above average this year?

BTW, isn't the Farmer's almanac the only long term weather resource we should be paying attention to? It's been pretty spot on for the Sierras this year.
post #27 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain_Strato View Post
According to the National Weather Service's long-term climate forecast, the US is headed for warmer and drier winters; this year, and the next two.

This news, combined with a slow snow start throughout the Rockies, is sobering.

We just moved to Colorado this summer. I feel like a kid who arrived at the amusement park just as the last rollar coaster is put away. :

We've gloried in the 7 weeks of early skiing at Loveland. Hence, we've no cause for immediate complaint. But, the man-made snow is wearing thin, and little snow is forecast in coming weeks.

I reasoned that Summit County should be among the last regions affected by Global Warming due to high base elevations (9K to 10K), and peaks towering past 13K.

Perhaps my logic is flawed, and the Rockies are as susceptable to GW as lower-level sites in Europe - some of which have suffered serious terrain loss.

Does anyone know how soon, and how seriously GW is predicted to impact skiing in the Rockies?
At least for this season the point is moot. Colorado and Utah are enjoying record snowfalls. 500"+ at Alta on March1. The only true indicator is when my wife gets a headache the day before a huge storm.
post #28 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by cuff46 View Post
At least for this season the point is moot. Colorado and Utah are enjoying record snowfalls. 500"+ at Alta on March1. The only true indicator is when my wife gets a headache the day before a huge storm.
So headache's for your wife must be love/hate for you. You may be getting none that night but you can look forward to what's coming the day after!!!
post #29 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magnus_CA View Post
So headache's for your wife must be love/hate for you. You may be getting none that night but you can look forward to what's coming the day after!!!

ABSOLUTELY!!!:
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