Dec 022010
Authors: Christopher Boan

For those of you who have noticed the lack of snow that Fort Collins and the Front Range have received so far, you’re not alone.

According to Wendy Ryan, an atmospheric sciences professor at CSU, Fort Collins has only met 33 percent of its average snowfall for this time of year –– or 5 inches this year compared to 15.56 inches last year.

“Wildfire risk depends on a variety of factors but would more likely depend on if we have a wet spring,” said Ryan.

All hope is not lost for Fort Collins to meet its average snowfall, however, USDA Snow Survey Supervisor Mike Gillespie said.

“We’ve got three quarters of winter season left, so there are plenty of opportunities to still receive more snow in the Front Range area.”

Some areas, including parts of northeastern Colorado, according to Gillespie, have received up to 160 percent of their normal snowfall at this point in the year. The same does not ring true, though for the southern regions of Colorado, which are struggling to receive any moisture.

These parts are most affected by the “La Nina” pattern, which occurs when the Pacific Ocean’s water temperatures are colder than usual. According to NOAA, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, a “La Nina” causes warmer than usual temperatures in the southern parts of the country, while creating colder than usual temperatures in the western states.

Another reason, Gillespie said, that Colorado’s Front Range has not received its usual amount of early snowfall is due to the lack of “updrift snow,” which occurs when cold air rushes up the base of the mountains but cannot complete said climb, resulting in a rush of cold moisture that dumps snow onto our region.

Both Ryan and Gillespie pointed to the fact that the winter months historically are Colorado’s driest as well, especially amongst the lower elevations of the state. The spring months of March through May are Colorado’s wettest months, providing Fort Collins with over a third of its total moisture.

The bottom line though, Ryan and Gillespie say, is to calm down and wait out the winter.

“Only time and snow rulers can tell,” Ryan said.

Staff writer Christopher Boan can be reached at

By the numbers

0.7 inches
Monthly precipitation this year, 0.12 inches below normal, 36th wettest in 122 years

5 inches
Snowfall This Year (Oct-Dec), 10 inches below normal, 82nd wettest winter in 122 years

15.56 inches
Average Snowfall from October to December

52.2 degrees
Average temperature this fall (Oct-Dec), 6th warmest in 122 years

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