Colorado winter weather: The eastern drought persists, the snowpack stinks, and it may get better in December

Reported snow conditions on Dec. 1, 2016.

The National Weather Services expects the drought in eastern Colorado to continue. Much of the area east of the Rockies has for several weeks been in “moderate drought,” including Denver and the plains, and that should keep up through December, NWS reports.

The mountains also have significantly less snow than normal, but that may be changing, according to a new federal forecast.

Here’s where we’re at now:

Reported snow conditions on Dec. 1, 2016.
Reported snow conditions on Dec. 1, 2016.

So far, Denver has only recorded 1.7 inches of snow, while the average season might have dumped 12 already, according to Weather5280’s wonderfully detailed reporting.

Reasons for optimism in December:

Things are looking better than they were. Just two weeks ago the entire state was below 20 percent of normal snowpack, while the chart above has most areas inching past 60 or 70 percent.

The mountains have been getting pulses of snow all this week, and that’s expected to continue with “measurable” snowfall late this week for the central and northern mountains, as Matthew Makens writes. We may see just a little bit of snow on Friday in Denver from that.

And if things keep going like this, we may get back to an average snowpack by mid-December, OpenSnow reports in an also wonderfully detailed story.

Also, federal forecasters are seeing colder-than-normal temperatures and higher-than-normal precipitation through December.

NOAA's December outlook.
NOAA’s December temperature outlook.
NOAA's December precipitation outlook.
NOAA’s December precipitation outlook.
Double however:

NOAA still isn’t as optimistic about the rest of the season. The agency is expecting higher temperatures and normal precipitation for Colorado over the December-to-March period, though other forecasters are expecting the heaviest snow toward the end of winter.

Meanwhile, if you really want to get some good skiing… go to Utah. They’re running significantly above normal snowfall. Stupid Utah.

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.