Have a cup of cheer and enjoy what is likely to be a white Christmas in Durango and much of Southwest Colorado.
Jeff Colton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the region is likely to see a weak system move in Sunday night and Monday and then a second, stronger cell is expected to come in Christmas Day and extend into the night.
“It’s going to be a one-two punch,” he said.
Monday’s system will probably just leave just an inch or two in Durango and 2 to 4 inches of the high country of the San Juan Mountains, according to the NWS forecast. Colton added, he wouldn’t be surprised if the Sunday night-Monday morning storm doesn’t produce snow or only a dusting for lower elevations like Durango.
The heart of Monday’s storm will track to the north of Southern Colorado and favor snowfall in the north and central mountains of Colorado, he said.
However, the Christmas Day storm, Colton said, looks like a better chance of producing snow in Southwest Colorado with 2 to 4 inches possible in Durango and 4 to 8 inches possible in the San Juans.
The Christmas storm is tracking to the south, Colton said, and the mountains of northern New Mexico are likely to receive the most snow on Christmas.
“Depending on how the (Christmas) storm tracks, your numbers could be lower. If it tracks further south, that would take some of the punch out of it for you guys,” he said. “But even if it tracks further south, you should still see some snow.”
On Thursday night and early Friday, a third system is expected to move into Southwest Colorado, and this system could be the strongest snow producer for Southwest Colorado, Colton said.
“It’s looking good now, but it’s still early. The computer models are all showing Thursday evening, early Friday for the time frame, but the tracking is different,” he said.
As for the expected weak to moderate El Niño, Jimmy Fowler, also a meteorologist with the NWS office in Grand Junction, said an El Niño watch is still on, but an official El Niño has yet to be declared.
The Climate Prediction Center maintains a 90 percent chance exists that a weak to moderate El Niño will form this winter and a 60 percent chance exists that it will extended into spring 2019, Fowler said.
The warming surface sea temperatures in the southern Pacific Ocean are present for an El Niño but the increased thunder storms and precipitation in the atmosphere in the eastern Pacific, another needed condition for an El Niño designation, has not yet been witnessed, Fowler said.
“Once the CPC sees the precipitation and thunder storms, I’m sure they’ll declare it an El Niño,” he said.
El Niño years typically favor above-average snowfall in the mountains of Southwest Colorado.