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Thursday October 30th 2014 7:37am

Summary:

  • Thursday and Friday will be dry and sunny
  • A few showers on Saturday with heavier snow possible in the San Juans
  • Snow showers will be heaviest Sunday afternoon through midday Monday
  • Average accumulations Sunday > Monday about 2-4", some areas 6"+

 

Details:

Yesterday there was some snippiness in the comments (go figure;-) about this October being the warmest/driest October that people can remember. I really hate when we talk about the weather in terms of "what we can remember" because our memories about the weather are usually not that accurate.

So I did some quick searching through SNOTEL data, which is available on a free-to-use site with an easy-to-use-interface, and looked at data for Copper Mountain for the month of October over the last 30 years. I chose Copper Mountain because it has a SNOTEL station at mid mountain and also because it's somewhat centrally located among the larger resorts of central and northern Colorado, though of course we could look at data from any of the other ~70 SNOTEL sites around the state and my guess is that the data will tell a similar story.

The first graph below shows the snow water equivalent (amount of liquid if you melted the snow) as of October 28. Right now the value is 0 because even though we've had snow this month, the warmer temperatures have melted this snow. Looking back over the last 36 years to 1978, about 14 other years had 0 snow on the ground as of 10/28, just like this year. Some of these zero snow years might just be missing data, but even assuming that 10 years didn't have snow, that's about 25-30% of the seasons over the past 36 years that had no snow on the ground, just like right now. So yes, having zero snow is not average and only occurs about a quarter of the time, but it's also not unprecedented.

The lower graph shows average temperatures during October since 1985. There is not much of a temperature trend over the past 29 years, and this year does appear to be the second warmest October only behind October 2004.

colorado temperature and snow

Hopefully this data is helpful and allows us to have a discussion based on facts rather than imprecise memories of recent weather.

Ok, on to the weather...

Thursday and Friday will be dry, sunny, and warm. Enjoy!

Our weekend storm will push some moisture into Colorado on Saturday, targeting the San Juans will rain and snow showers during the day and Saturday evening. The snow level will likely be above 10,000-11,000ft, so look for a few inches of snow above this elevation.

The brunt of the storm will move through our state from Sunday afternoon through Monday afternoon. As I mentioned yesterday, this storm will be splitting with some energy going north and some going south. This isn't great news, but based on the model trends over the last 24 hours, I still think we'll sneak out decent accumulations of 2-4 inches in general with the San Juans and central mountains between Crested Butte and Aspen likely receiving upwards of 6 inches. 

Temperatures will cool on Sunday night through Monday with the snow level pushing down to 7,000ft or perhaps a bit lower. This also means that snowmaking operations should be in full swing on Monday and likely continue into Tuesday.

The middle and end of next week goes back to dry weather with average to above-average temperatures. Our next storm might then arrive sometime around November 10th plus or minus a few days, but this is based on weak model trends and not a clear signal of a storm.

JOEL GRATZ

Event Announcements:

  1. My friend Joel Bettner climbed and skied Denali (a 20,322ft mountain in Alaska) this past summer. He'll be talking about the experience at REI Boulder next Wednesday 11/5. The event is free. Here's a highlight film he made about the experience. 

  2. CAIC's Benefit Bash (party!) is next Saturday, 11/8, in Breckenridge. Tickets are $40, are good for beer, food, a raffle, and entertainment, and the money supports CAIC. More info here.
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Wednesday October 29th 2014 8:38am

Summary:

  • Dry and sunny Wed, Thu, Fri
  • Few showers on Sat, mostly in San Juans
  • Cooler with snow Sun & Mon, accumulations likely under 6 inches

 

Details:

October's temperatures have been about 2-3 degrees above average for Summit County (I looked at this area because it's central and where many of the early-to-open ski areas are located). Two to three degrees may not sound like a lot, but it is significant over the time span of one month. Looking back at the past 100 years, only 20% of Octobers have been warmer than this one. So, temperatures during October 2014 have not been unprecedented, but they have been on the high end of the scale. Unfortunately this has forced Keystone and Copper to delay their openings.

Temperatures will continue to run average to above average through Friday with plenty of sun and just a few high cirrus clouds.

On Saturday, moisture will push into the state from the southwest. This could produce a few afternoon showers, but most areas will be dry. The exception is over southwestern Colorado in the San Juan mountains where the midday and afternoon showers could be more significant and might produce a few inches of snow.

Also, on Saturday, our next storm will push into California giving them much needed snow and rain.

colorado snow forecast

However, by Sunday into Monday, this storm will split into two pieces, which means that Colorado will NOT experience a direct hit.

colorado snow forecast

In terms of temperatures and snowfall, look for cool and cloudy conditions on Sunday with snow showers, especially during the afternoon. The snow showers will continue Sunday night and likely last through Monday. Since the storm is splitting, it's likely that the snow showers will come through in weaker waves rather than in one strong push, so it's hard to time the heavier snow and pin down the location of the best accumulations. Overall I see this storm as delivering perhaps an average of 2-4 inches to most areas with a bit more in spots.

Snowmaking conditions will improve from Sunday night through next Tuesday with the cooler air, which is good news even when natural snow accumulations look to be on the low side.

The rest of next week should be dry with maybe a few showers from the southern part of the splitting storm that might sit around for a few days. In the long range, the next chance for a storm will likely be around November 10th, plus or minus a few days.

JOEL GRATZ

Event Announcements:

  1. My friend Joel Bettner climbed and skied Denali (a 20,322ft mountain in Alaska) this past summer. He'll be talking about the experience at REI Denver tonight 10/29 and at REI Boulder next Wednesday 11/5. Both events are free. Here's a highlight film he made about the experience. 

  2. CAIC's Benefit Bash (party!) is next Saturday, 11/8, in Breckenridge. Tickets are $40, are good for beer, food, a raffle, and entertainment, and the money supports CAIC. More info here.
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Tuesday October 28th 2014 8:41am

Summary:

  • Cool temps for snowmaking continue through Wednesday
  • Dry and mostly sunny through Friday
  • Next storm gives us only a glancing blow with light snow Sat/Sun/Mon

Details:

Snow showers on Monday produced another 1-2 inches after the Sunday-night snow band moved through, so many mountains along I-70 wound up with about 3 inches of snow from this storm while locations further north like Steamboat received up to 8 inches.

loveland snow stake
Loveland snowstake as of Tuesday morning. Source: Loveland Ski Area
 

Tuesday through Friday will be dry and mostly sunny across the entire state. Temperatures will be great for snowmaking on Tuesday morning and again Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, so look for the snow guns to be cranking. Overnight lows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night won't be as chilly but I think they will be cool enough to allow for continued snowmaking at higher elevations.

The next storm will bring scattered snow and rain showers to Colorado on Saturday (perhaps a few heavier showers over the San Juans), then there will be another round of showers on Sunday and again on Monday. The brunt of the storm will miss us and track over Utah, Wyoming, and Montana, so we'll be left with a few waves of weaker energy that will likely only produce a few inches of snow (though there could be some upside surprises, we'll see).

colorado snow forecast
Forecasted liquid equivalent precipitation shows the heaviest precip missing Colorado. Source: Weatherbell.com

 

Even though the upcoming weekend storm will not bring a lot of snow, it will bring back cool temperatures for later on Sunday through the middle of next week, and this should allow for productive snowmaking.

In the longer range, the west coast looks active starting around November 10th through the middle of the month, but I don't know if this activity will be able to push east into Colorado. Time will tell of course!

JOEL GRATZ

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Monday October 27th 2014 7:05am

As of 7am Monday the snow band is moving through the I-70 corridor and down into Aspen. Overnight, the band put down some hefty totals in a few areas that were lucky enough to see the heavier cells. One of these areas was Steamboat where the summit pow cam shows about 8 inches.

steamboat

The 24-hour SNOTEL precipitation measurements show about 0.4 inches of liquid equivalent as an average across northern Colorado (about 4 inches) though a few spots measured closer to 0.8-1.0 inches, which likely equates to about 10 inches.

snotel

The 7am Monday morning radar shows the band moving southeast over Aspen, Beaver Creek / Vail, and into Summit County.

colorado radar

Who's making turns with the rock skis in Steamboat?

JOEL GRATZ

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Sunday October 26th 2014 7:09pm

As of 7pm the band of showers is just moving into northwestern Colorado and the forecast looks to be on track. 

colorado radar
Colorado radar at 7pm Sunday evening. Source: Weathertap.com

 

This band will push across the mountains tonight with a somewhat brief but intense period of snow and rain resulting in a couple of inches for elevations above 10,000ft. Temperatures are warm right now and likely won't get to their coldest readings until after the band moves through, so the best snowfall will take place at the highest elevations.

The rest of Monday will be cool with lingering clouds for northern Colorado, and then Tuesday through Saturday will be dry and warmer. Our next chance for snow will be on Sunday November 2nd, with another storm possible around the 9th or 10th.

I'm flying back from Pittsburgh to Denver early on Monday morning so wanted to get this update out before then. Saturday night's Penn State vs Ohio State game was a good one and it left me exhausted with a barely audible voice after cheering for the entire game. The result of the game was a loss, but man was it fun to be at Beaver Stadium with 107,000 fans at night. Penn State was where I studied meteorology during my undergrad days (then I moved to Boulder for grad school).

penn state football game beaver stadium

Alright, enough about Penn State ... enjoy the Monday morning views of snowcapped mountains:-)

JOEL GRATZ

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