November 11, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Dylan Carey | Illustration by Rowan Kempen

The La Niña weather pattern is expected to impact the weather in Colorado this winter. This season will mark the third year in a row that La Niña has affected Colorado, a phenomenon that has only happened two other times in the last 72 years. However, a study by Advancing Earth and Space Science projects that La Niña winters will become more common in the western United States. Historically, La Niña winters only occur once every three to five years.

La Niña affects winters in Colorado by promoting warmer, drier weather in southern Colorado while northern Colorado experiences greater chances and consistency of snowfall. The divided effect is largely a result of Colorado’s location being roughly in the middle of the United States in terms latitude (north/south).

However, on aggregate, Colorado tends to experience warmer, drier winters during La Niña. For the broader United States, La Niña typically results in colder weather with more precipitation in the north and warmer weather with less precipitation in the south. The La Niña weather pattern could significantly impact Colorado and other states in the southwest United States that are already experiencing drought.

Furthermore, water levels in the Colorado River are at historic lows, and the Colorado River is the main source of water for people in the American southwest. If water levels fall too low, Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam will not be able to generate hydropower anymore. Therefore, another La Niña season could significantly impact Coloradans and people in the American Southwest.

La Niña will also likely impact Colorado College students in terms how they recreate in the outdoors. For example, ski resorts in northern parts of the state like Steamboat, Eldora, and Winter Park will likely have better conditions during the season.

Meanwhile, ski resorts in southern Colorado such as Monarch, Crested Butte, Wolf Creek, Telluride, Purgatory, and Silverton will likely have relatively little snowfall leading to below average conditions. However, the warmer, drier conditions, particularly in southern Colorado, will also make activities such as hiking, climbing, biking, and backpacking more viable this winter.

Students should keep weather forecasts and La Niña conditions in mind as they make plans for Block Breaks during second semester. It would be foolish to plan an expensive ski trip to a resort in southern Colorado when skiing conditions will likely be disappointing throughout most of the season.

I hope this article gives students a better idea of what to expect this winter given the forecasted La Niña conditions. Despite the projection of lower snowfall this season, I believe there is still much to look forward to as the cold months approach!

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