Wet or dry NM winter? Dueling predictions issued

October 18, 2013 • State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexicans hoping for a wet, snowy winter have dueling forecasts to choose from this year.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports ( ) Friday that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts warmer-than-average temperatures and below-average precipitation. That’s the exact opposite of a forecast last week from the private company, which predicted a wetter and cooler season for the region.

The NOAA modeling is still preliminary, and its full winter forecast won’t come out until next month because of delays caused by the 16-day government shutdown.

Meantime, the Northern New Mexico mountains have already had two snowstorms, sparking optimism for improved snowpack levels this season. One of the systems dumped 6 inches of snow at the Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort, which plans to open Nov. 16. The earliest snow on record for Santa Fe was Sept. 30, 1961, according to the National Weather Service. The average first day of measurable snowfall from 1941 to 2011 is Nov. 16.

But NOAA’s early long-range winter forecast calls for higher temperatures and less precipitation than average, in particular for New Mexico and Texas. Above-median precipitation is predicted for the Northern Rockies and the Western high plains.

The forecast is based on patterns in the Pacific Ocean that is referred to as El Nino and La Nina, with La Nina signaling a drier winter. Although the preliminary signs, according to NOAA, are for below average precipitation, officials say it is not as negative as it was this time last year.

Sipapu is making snow to add to its natural base gained from the snowstorm earlier in the week. The small ski area is usually the first one in the state to open.

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