Fall 2021 – The Driest Ever?

Surprisingly, the answer so far is, “no”. Looking at the snowfall for July through October for the past 11 years here in Nederland, there are two falls, 2014 and 2015, that actually had a little less snowfall:

In terms of precipitation for the same time period, 2021 has been the third driest fall so far:

As you can see, even though this fall has felt interminably dry and warm, there have actually been a few years in the past decade that have been a bit worst.

We have been stuck in a very La Nina-like pattern, at least along the Front Range. A ridge of high pressure has remained anchored over the southwestern United States. This has forced the jet stream and its associated storms and moisture well to our north. We have been getting plenty of wind as these storms pass by, but there has been little if any moisture, not even on the west side of the Divide.

Models are showing virtually no precipitation for Nederland and the Front Range communities into early December. Here is the 384 hour accumulated precipitation from the GFS:

GFS 384 Hour Precipitation Forecast

Over the next day we will experience a dramatic cool down with overnight lows Wednesday in the 15 to 20F range, the coldest of the season. But this shot of cold air will be short-lived. By this weekend we could see highs back into the mid and upper 40s F.

How much snow did the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 winter seasons end up with? Well, despite the slow start these seasons saw average to above-average snowfall:

Nederland seasonal snowfall since 2010

Whether or not this season will be analogous to those remains to be seen. For one thing, those where El Nino winters. This being a La Nina winter will likely trend drier. The 2020-2021 season was also La Nina, and it brought 186 inches of snow, but that was an anomaly. That snow total was also augmented by the big March 2021 snowstorm.

Any way we look at it, we need moisture. The fire in Estes Park today is just a reminder that the fire season is not over. We are not out of the woods yet.

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