Dec 11, 2020 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Daniel Soares | Photo by Patil Khakhamian
Like most of 2020, this year has been a disappointingly lackluster season for snow in Colorado Springs. So far, we have only received a total six inches of snowfall — 31% less than the historical average. But why have we not had much snow? The reason, or at least part of it, is a cyclical weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean called La Niña.
La Niña is the opposite of El Niño and typically occurs every three to five years, developing towards the end of summer and continuing into late February. The phenomenon is a result of lower-than-average sea temperatures, which create a jet stream of cold air that passes through the upper half of the U.S. You can check out graphics on La Niña’s effects here.
Due to this jet stream, the states in the northwestern part of the U.S. tend to have a more intense winter, while the Southeast experiences warmer than average temperatures accompanied by dry air. Unfortunately for Colorado College students, Colorado Springs is typically at the lower edge of the jet stream and the upper bound of the dry air wave. This means that we miss out on the benefits of La Niña and receive winters that are warmer and drier than average.
Conversely, while Colorado Springs should not get their hopes up for a white Christmas, strong La Niña years usually lead to substantial snowfall in northern Colorado. If the ski resorts are able to manage COVID-19 and remain open, then skiing some deep powder would be a welcome silver lining to close out the year.
Sadly, the cooling effects of La Niña have become increasingly less dramatic as the planet continues to get warmer. 2020 is projected to be one of the top three warmest winters on record, and Colorado (especially Colorado Springs) has a grim temperature outlook.
Even in the regions of the U.S. which would normally experience harsh winters due to La Niña, above average temperatures are expected. The impact of this weather, or really the lack thereof, is a massive red flag for where the world is headed. Without drastic measures to address climate change, snowless winters might soon become the norm.