The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a warmer- and drier-than-average winter for 2012-2013 after the El Niño weather pattern didn’t develop as predicted.
When El Niño is present, warm water in the Pacific Ocean causes a shift in tropical weather patterns, which in turn affects the jet stream over the United States. El Niño occurs when an area of warm water develops in the Pacific Ocean roughly every five years west of northern South America.
Because it didn’t develop like it was expected to, NOAA’s National Weather Service modified its original weather judgment.
“This is one of the most challenging outlooks we’ve produced in recent years because El Niño decided not to show up as expected,” Mike Halpert, a deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in a press release.
As a result, the temperature prediction shows Colorado could have higher-than-average winter temperatures from December through February. Before, the winter was expected to be wetter than average.
Bernie Meier, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Boulder, said the recent weather activity has many people only guessing on what the winter will bring in precipitation.
He said the national models show the chance that temperatures are going to be higher than normal, but that doesn’t mean it will happen.
He said some recent models show an average winter in Colorado.
“It’s not trending really dry or really wet,” he said. “My best guess would be middle of the road.”
The long-term outlooks don’t predict if and when winter storms will hit. He said those types of weather predictions can only be made about a week in advance.
The seasonal outlooks look at a variety of data, and that data is used to predict the potential for how warm or dry a winter could be.
In any event, winter precipitation is much-needed in Park County.
Jeff Vanis, a unit fire manager for the U.S. Forest Service in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, said energy release components, which measure the heat that could be given off by a material when burned, were at record highs last summer.
He said ERCs are close to what they were in 2002 during the devastating fire season thatyear.