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NOAA forecast misses as Denver records 14th-coldest winter in history

Winter finishes up cold and snowy for most of Colorado. Spring recordkeeping starts on March 1, with more snow and cold in the forecast.

DENVER — It’s probably safe to say this winter in Colorado was a little more extreme than expected. Winter, in weather recordkeeping by the way, is from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28.

The average temperature in Denver this winter was 28.5 degrees. That’s the 14th coldest winter in Denver history – and that record goes back 151 years.

The preseason winter forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) called for average temperatures, which in Denver is 31.8 degrees. The final average was 3.3 degrees below that number. 

I'm giving that forecast a D grade. Even using a 1-degree margin of error, that's off by quite a bit.

Credit: KUSA

The first busted winter forecast for NOAA in 5 years. At least in Denver. 

NOAA doesn't really get their forecasts graded, and it's difficult to put an entire region into context because weather data isn't sorted into the polygons that NOAA creates on their outlook maps, but it's fun and useful to look back and give them a grade.

And of course, the 9NEWS weather team essentially agreed with the logic behind NOAA's winter outlook this season, so we are all in the same boat.

Down in southwest Colorado, NOAA called for a high chance for above average temperatures this winter. Using Durango as an example there, it was 2.9 degrees colder than average. 

That's the 2nd coldest winter there in the 24-year record. Just about as off as the Denver forecast, so another D grade.

The winter snow forecast in Denver called for average snow, which is 21.5 inches. The total ended up being 30.7 inches. That’s a fairly significant miss but using a 3-inch margin of error it's not too far off, so they earn a grade of C-.

Credit: KUSA

In Durango, the forecast called for a high chance for below average snow. Well, that was off by 22.9 inches because Durango end up with nearly 4 feet (47.5") of snow this winter. The forecast gets a flunking grade in southwest Colorado.

As for spring snow in Colorado -- its huge. Over the last 30 years, 35% of Denver’s snow has fallen in the spring months of March, April, and May.

Credit: KUSA

The official spring forecast from NOAA is calling for average precipitation and average temperatures in Denver, with below average precipitation and above average temperatures in southwest Colorado. So we’ll see if they can improve their grades by the end of May.

Credit: NOAA
Credit: NOAA

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