KUSA — Climate scientists say the weather phenomenon known as El Niño will return this fall, and that could have some big impacts to Colorado’s winter.
The last time El Niño visited the country was in 2015, and it was a monster.
“This is the ‘Godzilla’ El Niño, if it matures and comes to fruition,” said NASA Climatologist Bill Patzert back in August 2015.
He was right. That 2015 El Niño grabbed the headlines, switched the country’s weather pattern upside down, and broke the record for the strongest El Niño ever, peaking just a couple of degrees higher than the 1997 El Niño. Since El Nino’s are measured in three-month averages though, the 2015 event actually tied 1997.
NOAA has issued an El Niño Watch and said there is a 60 percent chance of an El Niño developing this fall, and a 70 percent chance of an El Niño winter.
The pending 2018 El Niño is not expected to be nearly as strong as those famous ones in 1997 and 2015, but it is already grabbing some attention.
“Well with El Niño in the forecast, that means the likelihood of us having more snow increases, so that means more powder days for Purgatory,” said Kim Oyler, a spokesperson for Purgatory Ski Resort in southwestern Colorado.
She announced an opening date of Nov. 17, and gave credit to El Niño for generating some excitement in that drought-stricken part of our state.
“We want that snow because that’s what drives our customers, and that’s what drives our business,” said Jessica Kieper with Thunder Mountain Lodge on the Grand Mesa.
She and her husband run the small resort that specializes in snowmobiling during the winter, and they are looking forward to another El Niño after getting hammered in 2015.
“It was amazing, you jump off the snowmobile and it was just chest deep powder, it was great,” Kieper said.
Instead of Godzilla, they called it the ‘Bruce Lee’ El Niño, and even put a figurine on their snow stake and watched it get buried in 465 inches of powder in 2015.
Although El Niño have brought varied snowfall totals in the Colorado mountains, the last four El Niño’s have brought above average snowfall to the Front Range and the Denver metro area, and will often alter the jet stream to favor average to above average snow for most of Colorado.