DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado’s 2015-2016 Winter season may be one for the record books as El Niño conditions strengthen in the Pacific Ocean.
The El Niño forecast released by NOAA suggests a colder winter with more snowfall than normal.
Ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific have been as much as four degrees warmer than average over the past few months. Historically, this setup has brought more moisture into the state during the winter months, especially southwestern Colorado, but Denver has also seen its largest snowstorms during El Niño years.
When unusually warm water builds up along the equator, the jet stream frequently favors the southwestern United States. This “conveyor belt” effect carries moisture-rich air off of the ocean while organized low pressure systems slam the Four Corners.
The ocean temperatures that have been observed recently show values similar to our 1997/1998 winter season when an unforgettable October snowstorm dropped over 21 inches in Denver.
NOAA projects that El Niño conditions have a 90 percent chance of continuing through the winter season and an 85 percent chance of continuing into Spring 2016.
Although it’s still too early to tell exactly how much snow is on the way, Mark Jackson with the National Weather Service says our part of the country is in the bullseye.
“We have better odds of an increased number of storms over a winter season that can add up to above normal precip.”