Southeast Colorado Update January 17th, 2017: February - April Outlook

The weak La Niña episode that prevailed since late summer has all but been erased. The sea surface temperature anomaly map below clearly shows not pronounced La Niña episode occurring. However, there are some slightly cool anomalies just west of South America:

The other thing I would like you to notice is that the sea surface temperature anomaly pattern in the North Pacific is tiered. From north to south...warm, cool, warm, slightly cool. I believe this gradient or tiered pattern is responsible for keeping the weather pattern much more variable and active. Now, that pattern has largely benefitted the mountains with some amazing snow totals. SOME areas of Southeast Colorado have benefitted from some decent snow totals. However, it hasn't been widespread or significant enough to keep the drought from continuing.

Total moisture for the last 90 days clearly shows the "haves" and the "have nots".

This isn't terribly concerning given that we are in what is traditionally a pretty dry time of year. However, it would be nice to capitalize on one or two of the storms that actually give us a shot.

The big question is will our weather pattern remain active and variable enough as we head into late winter and spring? Such a crucial time for moisture... There are some signals that aren't exactly strong signals, but we feel the forecast below represents a good look at the next 3 months.

Factors that we think are instrumental in keeping the threat of long lasting and regional drought at bay:

  1. Lack of La Niña influence
  2. Sea surface temperature pattern in North Pacific
  3. Tip toward further sea surface temperature warming
  4. Pacific Decadal Oscillation remaining positive/warm

Here's our 90 day forecast...

Weather 5280 Precipitation Forecast February-April

Weather 5280 Temperature Forcast February-April

We recognize that an ACCURATE 90 day forecast this time of year is a tough thing to do. So here is some additional info breaking down the three month period.

February: Could very well end up drier than average...especially east of the mountains. We are concerned about the possibility of some ridging over the Western US, which could lead to warmer and drier than average conditions. Just a concern we have...

March: We do not see anything significant that would preclude storms from coming in off of the Pacific Ocean. It is all about getting those storms to produce. With the Pacific Ocean likely warming a bit as we start spring, our chances for at least average moisture look good.

April: With the Pacific Ocean likely continuing to warm (not necessarily to El Niño status), and no reinforcing regional drought issues, our chances for average to above average moisture look good. A positive PDO and weakly warm ENSO regions are usually a good thing for most of Southeast Colorado.

While there isn't necessarily a tip toward drier than average conditions for Southeast Colorado from most models, one model does have us a bit troubled. The JAMSTEC Model does show a dry signal in the Plains for March-May.

Is it reality? Tough to say... Reason for concern? It does have our attention. But let me say this... There is always a chance for "flashy droughts" in the Plains. Meaning drought that comes on fast, is intense, but doesn't last long. That's just part of life in here. However, it is the regional and persistent droughts that we fear the most. We do not see that becoming a problem into the spring.