October is usually the month when the season’s first snow falls. So the 2017/2018 snow season is off to the races – two or three inches so far at mid-afternoon on this 9th day of the month, and it is still snowing (the photos accompanying this post were taken this morning along the Tower Trail, about an hour after the rain turned into snow). Not since 2013 has the park seen any measurable October snow, when a total of 7″ fell. It’s nice to see that stretch of snowless Octobers come to an end.
Looking back over the past few decades of precipitation records, October’s snow totals can vary quite a bit, and sometimes it can snow a whole lot! In 2009, October saw a whopping 30.3″ of snow; 1976 saw 28″, and 1997 brought 25″ of white stuff.
It does beg the question: Does a snowy October portend a snowy winter? Well, looking back at those three snowy Octobers, both the 09/10 and 97/98 winters were well above average. In fact, the 97/98 winter was the snowiest in the last four decades, when 209.5″ of snow whitened the Beulah landscape. Slightly less than the seasonal average of 118″ fell over the 76/77 snow season. So, will the 2017/2018 snow season be a heavy one? Well, if today’s snow can be followed by some good pre-Halloween snows, it just might!
The snow continues to fall as the afternoon wears on. I can just hear my cross country skis out in the shed, trembling with excitement! Maybe this will be a winter with lots of good skiing and snowshoeing in the Mountain Park. Come on snow!
~ Ranger Dave
After what was likely the driest fall and winter the park has ever experienced, the new spring season has so far brought some very healthy doses of moisture.
With the spring equinox just a couple days past, a rather balmy March 23 brought with it over 3/4″ of moisture – most in the form of rain. A series of rainy and/or wet snowy storms culminated in the April 3-4 storm that dropped just over 2 feet of snow heavily laden with lots of water. Between March 23 and April 4, a whopping 5.55″ of moisture fell on the parched soils of the Mountain Park.
For comparison, over the six and three quarter months between Sept 1, 2016 and Mar 22, 2017, the park saw a total of only 2.95″ of moisture in the form of modest snow and some rain showers.
The season’s snow total is up to 59.0″ – exactly 50% of the average 118″ – still very low, but improving. The park is a whole lot wetter than it was a couple weeks ago, with an increased water supply and decreased fire danger. I hope that this wet pattern continues. I do think that the park’s spring wildflower display is going to be a whole lot better than it was looking to be a couple of weeks ago. ~ Ranger Dave
The last day of January just became the first day of February. January added 14.2″ to December’s 6.5″ of snow, bringing the season total to 20.7″ (Nov and Oct brought no measurable snow). Our snow season roughly runs Oct 15 – May 15, so we are 50% through the season. If half the park’s average 118″ fell in the first half of winter, then those 20.7″ put us at 35% of an average snow year. The latter half of the winter is usually somewhat snowier than the first half; so, factoring that in, the 35% figure is probably a bit low. Even so, we are still having an extremely dry winter. Unless the weather pattern changes, we may be in for a record dry winter.
The last blog, which I posted a few weeks ago, asked the question: When will it snow? It took some more waiting, as November came and went without any measurable snow. The answer to that question finally came on Dec 7, when I measured 1.2” of snow, with another 1.3” of new snow the next day. That is the latest first snow of the season as far as I have found in looking at weather records for the last several decades. Dec 17 and 18 brought another 4”, bringing the season snow total to 6.5” to date.
The seasonal average for the park over the past several decades is around 118” of snow. So, we are off to a very dry start of the snow season, after a very dry fall. I do know that things can turn around pretty quick as far as snow totals go. A couple of good-sized storms, lined up just right (like a well-placed Albuquerque Low) can drop lots of white stuff on the Wet Mountains and bring those numbers up pretty quickly.
So, my winter solstice wish this year for the place that I live and work is for several strong, slow-moving Albuquerque Lows to slide across northern New Mexico and upslope lots of deep snow packing a whole lot of moisture. Once that happens, break out the cross-country skis or snowshoes and experience winter in Pueblo Mountain Park. If you are not into these winter-sports, then put on a few layers, bring a camera, a thermos of hot cocoa, your journal, or a good book and spend some quality time in the winter wonderland that the Mountain Park can be. Come on snow!
Thanksgiving is a week from tomorrow and we have yet to see our first snow here in the park. Looking back at precipitation data through 1975 (40 years worth of data), I can find one November, 1981, when it did not snow, and one, 2012, when we received only a trace. November ’81 was followed by a December that brought 26″ of snow and a winter that wound up about 15″ below average snowfall. December 2012 saw 16.3″ of snow and that winter’s total was also around 15″ below average (which is around 118″).
One difference – we did not see two major wildfires come within a half mile and four miles of the park in October of 2012, or 1981. In fact, major wildfires happening in the Western US (or the Southeast US this year), which have become a regular part of the news the last few years, were not unheard of in 1981, but they were certainly not a common concern every year like they have become lately.
As I type these words on this mid-November afternoon, it is 71F and rather windy outside. The forecast says there is a 20% chance of rain – totaling less than a tenth of an inch – tomorrow and snow tomorrow night. Will November 2016 be snowless? Time will tell!
Here is a photo of what the woods look like in snow taken last winter – it sure looks nice, doesn’t it?