La Nina predicted to affect weather on the Western Slope

By: James Hopkins Email
By: James Hopkins Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - The end of Spring saw the end of El Nino, but with the end of one weather anomaly comes the start of another.

Winters on the Western Slope are usually pretty mild, for Colorado. "Normally we stay above zero, that's a good thing," says Mike McLean. McLean is a third generation peach farmer in Palisade and last winter was a harsh one. "We lost some blocks of peaches from the cold, we got too cold," says McLean.

The US experienced a moderate El Nino winter, causing the snow for Colorado to shift to the south, leaving the north central mountains lacking in snowpack.

El Nino also caused our spring to be cooler than average, but with the end of spring came the end of El Nino and the start to a new shift. "This has been a strong monsoon season, one of the strongest I've seen in years," says Dr. Mike Meyers of the National Weather Service.

During the month of July, La Nina conditions developed as sea surface temperatures across the eastern equatorial Pacific cooled. One of the effects of La Nina is on the Atlantic hurricane season. The Climate Prediction Center estimates a 90 percent probability of an above average hurricane season, which can add fuel to our late monsoon season. "Sometimes we do get those that move through and we can pull that moisture up," says Meyers.

So far, Grand Junction is the only place that's having a dry monsoon season, with rainfall a half inch behind. But a dying hurricane that gets sucked up into the monsoon flow can change that quickly. "That would be a big rain producer in September and October if that does happen," says Meyers.

La Nina is forecasted to strengthen as we continue into winter, causing a different shift in the track of the winter snow storms. "When we have a strong La Niña we have more precip across the north and less across the south," says Meyers.

This shift will favor the north central mountains, the exact opposite as last winter, allowing the snowpack to once again build up keeping the Western Slope supplied with plenty of drinking water.

It also allows more warm air to track north causing an above average winter for most of the west in terms of temperatures. News that will help Mike McLean sleep better this winter. "If it snows a lot in the mountains and keeps us fairly warm down here that would be a good season," says McLean.


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