Only two states had Winter Weather Warnings in effect Thursday…Alaska and Hawaii. And now this Winter Warning has turned into a Blizzard Warning for Hawaii.
It’s only for the high peaks (Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa) on the Big Island of Hawaii, but above 11,000 feet, it’s going to be nasty with snowfall reaching 12 inches or more and winds of up to 100 mph.
Of course, even wet heavy snow could drift significantly with winds that strong. There will be periods of zero visibility on the mountaintops.
There’s also a High Wind Warning (for the mountaintop areas), a Gale Warnings and Small Craft Warnings (for most of the island waters).
There’s a Wind Advisory for the island of Kauai and a Flood Watch for most of the state. High surf is likely, with waves up to 14 feet possible.
Much of Hawaii has been on the dry side, especially the Big Island. Hilo received less than 40% of average rainfall in November. Kailua had only 12% of average rainfall in Hawaii. The wet pattern should stick around for at least a week.
Honolulu had just 0.09″ of rain in the month of November. The average rainfall for November at Honolulu is 2.25″. For the year, Honolulu has had 10.14″ of rain. Average to date is 14.35″. During the month of November high temperatures varied from 80 to 88 and they were 0.2 deg. warmer than average.
Unprecedented hot and dry temperatures in Colorado
It’s been 224 consecutive days (and counting) since it snowed a measurable amount in Denver, and it has just broken the record for the latest date for a first snowfall — a record that has held since snowfall records began in 1882. In that time, Denver has never entered December without measurable snow.
This extended dry period has implications for the state’s long-standing drought, a dwindling water supply and a population that wants to hit the slopes.
“Everywhere across the state is experiencing some kind of drought conditions. Denver has just recorded their second-least snowiest November with no measurable snow observed,” said Ayesha Wilkinson, a National Weather Service meteorologist. This November is behind only 1949 when literally no flakes fell from the sky.
Colorado looks representative of the rest of the country, too, at the start of meteorological winter on December 1, and only 11.1% of the United States is covered in snow.
Ski resorts push pause on opening day
While the state endures one of the driest and warmest periods in modern record-keeping, the effect it’s having on ski resorts can’t be overlooked.
Like Telluride, some ski resorts were forced to delay their opening day until after Thanksgiving, foregoing revenue from the extended holiday weekend.
Ski resorts have had to make artificial snow to cover the deficit and make it possible for skiers to return safely to the mountains. Even so, the weather hasn’t exactly played ball.
“Normally we have about 300 hours of snowmaking under our belts by this time of year, but we’ve been able to run our guns about 200 hours” Loryn Duke, director of communications at Steamboat Ski Resort, explained. “Our snowmakers are literally filling in for Mother Nature.”
Optimal snowmaking conditions involve a “combination of low temperatures and low humidity,” also known as the wet bulb. Conditions within the mountains must remain at or below freezing both at night and during the day to help maximize the base snowpack.
“We have all the tools in our kit to assist Mother Nature and then once Mother Nature shows up, we are ready to welcome her,” said Duke.
Snow in Colorado is not only crucial for the nearly $5 billion ski industry, but it’s also imperative for the state’s access to fresh water.
Drought conditions worsen across Colorado
Over two-thirds of Colorado’s water supply comes from the snowpack, according to the Environmental Center at the University of Colorado Boulder. Less snow means less water, which is bad news for everyone, considering the long-standing drought plaguing the western United States.
The Colorado River Basin, whose headwaters originate in the western part of the state, supplies more than 40 million Americans with their drinking water. A water shortage has been declared for the first time.
Colorado’s specific drought situation has once again taken a turn for the worse. After some brief improvement over the spring and summer, the statewide percentage under moderate drought was 88% last week and now sits at 95% with no precipitation in the forecast until next week.
Denver just recorded its 3rd warmest November on record. The heat continues into December as record highs are challenged once again, along with below-average rainfall, consistent with the ongoing drought. To date, Denver has only received 12.37 inches of liquid precipitation while normally we would have 14.14 inches.
Winter conditions can make a comeback
Just because it’s been a slow start to the winter season, it doesn’t mean the rest of the winter will follow suit. December has historically been known to produce some healthy snowfall totals in Denver, with an average of 8 inches for the month. This often equates to feet of snow in the mountains, where skiers welcome it with open arms.
Meanwhile in Colorado, drying soils, high evapotranspiration, low mountain snowpack, and mounting precipitation deficits resulted in expansion of moderate to extreme drought in many parts of the state. November 28 USDA statistics had 84% of Colorado’s topsoil short or very short of moisture and 33% of the winter wheat in poor to very poor condition. That’s bad news for the already widespread food shortages across the US. [Weather.gov, KRDO, WOODTV]
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