What Coloradans Can Expect From the Strengthening El Niño



Title: Bracing for El Niño’s Impact: What Denver Residents Can Expect This Ski Season

If you’re a Colorado resident, you’re likely well-acquainted with the term El Niño. As our Denver community bids farewell to La Niña, a weather pattern characterized by cooler than normal equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures, El Niño steps onto center stage. You might remember El Niño as the ‘fair-weather friend’ with a warmer touch, potentially leading to snowier – or even rainier – winters, particularly enhancing Colorado’s southern mountain regions.

El Niño Marks its Arrival

This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the onset of El Niño conditions in early June. While its impacts are felt across the globe, the Denver community need not worry urgently. El Niño traditionally influences Colorado weather only from September through February, creating wet and dry patterns typical of usual summers.

Come fall, Denver residents can anticipate wetter than usual conditions extending into early February, followed by a slight reduction in statewide precipitation.

A Swift Transition: From La Niña to El Niño

Though on ground level, the climate transition might seem abrupt, NOAA meteorologists assure the shift was gradual, influenced by various meteorological events, such as the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO). Unlike the radical weather flip we experienced an year ago going from a frigid winter landscape to sunlit spring in no time, this change was more nuanced.

MJO, a prominent disturbance of rain, wind, and clouds crossing the globe every 40 to 60 days, has been considerably weakened by La Niña in past years. Lamenting over the 222 snowy days Denver missed in 2021? Blame it on the weak MJO. However, late 2022 marked a promising change, as MJO regained strength, gradually eroding La Niña and making way for El Niño.

El Niño and Monsoon Season: A Relationship?

While El Niño is known to affect weather patterns, its influence on Colorado’s monsoon season (July to September) is minimal. Even if we experience heavier rainfall in the coming months, El Niño wouldn’t be the only culprit. Remember, it’s the fall season that should brace itself for the extra snowfall predicted.

The Unforgettable La Niña Impact

Did La Niña leave a dramatic weather imprint? The answer is largely positive. According to NOAA meteorologists, the first two years under La Niña’s spell skewed towards dryness, with precipitation peaking at below-average levels, only to drop sharply during spring. This year, however, saw improved snowfall periods, indicated by western Colorado’s above-normal precipitation rates.

Denver’s El Niño Impact: A Preview

As we approach fall and winter, Denver should brace for El Niño’s imminent strengthening. Let’s prepare for a potentially white, and unusually wet holiday season – a welcome change given our lingering drought. On the bright side for ski enthusiasts, Denver’s ski resorts may be in for a treat this season, with the possibility of increased snowfall promising perfect conditions for skiing and snowboarding. This is one weather ‘guest’ who has our wholehearted permission to overstay if it likes.