It’s Snow Joke

The science behind the snow (or lack thereof)

By Larissa Geilen, Grace Miller, and Hannah Schlote


Many people are wondering where the snow is this year, and rightfully so. In a state that is known for things like the Steamboat Springs champagne powder, it can be baffling to have a dry ski season. Many people have been pointing to La Niña as the culprit.

La Niña is a natural phenomenon caused by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the pacific. Typically colder ocean temperatures lead to colder conditions in the northern United States. The northernmost areas of the Rockies can usually see more snow in a La Niña year and most of the northern and midwestern United States are often slammed with snow because of this.

AP environmental science teacher Elizabeth Kirkpatrick has noticed the recent La Niña conditions as well.

“When we look at La Niña events recorded this year, weather in the western US is drier and warmer than usual due to the jet stream being altered slightly from its typical path,” Kirkpatrick said. “According to the NOAA website, meteorologists have recorded warmer temperatures and below average snowfall in Denver during 79% of the La Nina events since 1950.”

Colorado’s front range doesn’t receive much snow when La Niña is a factor, and this year many of Colorado’s mountain resorts have been faced with a lack of snowfall as well. Since states like Colorado and Utah aren’t specifically north or south, but in the middle, it can be hard to foresee the effects of La Niña on snowfall. However, it’s important to remember that La Niña isn’t the only factor influencing weather conditions in the United States. Routine changes in temperature and air pressure, wind direction, and humidity can also lead to significantly drier winter conditions.

The lack of snowfall is certainly disappointing for avid skiers and snowboarders, but it also affects daily life in the Denver-metro area as well. Kids haven’t been going sledding as often and, as far as Douglas County is concerned, there haven’t been any snow days. On the flip-side, though, we haven’t had to shovel our driveways as much as usual. Perhaps going forward we need to improve our snow day rituals in an effort to save this snowless season.

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