Ready for more cold and snow? If long range trends hold, we could be in for another active month.
According to the Climate Prediction Center, the federal government’s official long-range weather forecasting arm, there are increased probabilities for a colder and snowier-than-average month of March for Denver and much of Colorado.
The underlying reason for the wetter-than-average outlook is likely linked to persistent El Nino conditions, or warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean.
These tend to lead to wetter than average winter and spring seasons for the southwestern United States, and this has already been an unusually active winter for much of the Rockies and California.
In addition to the El Nino, continuing surges of Arctic air from the north are expected to continue to bring cold temperatures into the central United States, especially in the next two weeks.
Nearer-term outlooks show particularly high chances for cold and snow in the next week or two. Based on a blend of longer-range computer forecast models, though, there are hints that we may start to gradually see a slow thaw toward the end of the month.
Seasonal and longer-range forecasting, however, is a tricky endeavor. These outlooks generally reflect larger scale factors and their possible effects on weather. However, Denver’s weather often depends on smaller scale and highly localized factors, so these outlooks shouldn’t be taken to the bank.
A storm system later this week and this weekend is expected to pass near the Front Range, which could bring more snow to the area by Friday or Saturday.
A potentially wetter and colder March comes at an especially interesting juncture of the year. March is climatologically Denver’s snowiest month, with an average snowfall of 11.4 inches. March tends to be fairly hit-or-miss in Denver in terms of snowfall, though, with periodic huge snow events like the March 2016 blizzard that bump up the average.
The last two Marches, however, have produced just 4.8 inches of snowfall combined. A colder and wetter March could be, at the very least, an indicator that we may get several snow chances over the next few weeks.
After last weekend’s snowstorm, Denver is already at 4.3 inches of snow so far this month, putting it within five inches of where Denver should be for the winter to date. Denver saw over 13 inches of snow in February, which also finished as its coldest month in over two years.
The active winter to date for Colorado and the Front Range has also helped alleviate drought conditions, especially for the fire-ravaged southwestern portion of the state.