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Thursday June 12th 2014 3:35pm

Happy summer folks! 

Even though the summer doesn't officially begin until June 21st, we're in the final stage of our melt so it sure feels like we're moving into the next season. 

colorado snow

There is still a good bit of snow above 12,000 feet, with less in southern Colorado (Telluride pictured below on June 12th) and more in northern Colorado.

telluride

For the last 30 days, most of Colorado recorded about average precipitation and temperatures. This is a vast improvement over the last two summers when early June was already hot, dry, and full of smoke.

The longer-range models show drier and warmer weather for the end of June, but then hopefully an active monsoon season in July and August which should cool us down and deliver a healthy amount of precipitation.

I'm at Copper Mountain attending the Colorado Ski Country annual meeting, and they just shared their skier numbers. For the 2013-2014 season, Colorado recorded 12.6 million skier visits which is a new record, besting the previous record of 12.56 million during the 2006-2007. For more stats and perspective, read this article by Jason Blevins at the DenverPost.com (he's a much better writer than I am): http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_25950508/colorado-skier-visits-surge-12-6m-2013-14

Enjoy the next few weeks of mountain activies, and as the ground dries out and the temperatures rise, please keep all fires contained and ensure they are fully out before you leave the campsite. And ask others to do the same. It would be a wonderful summer if we keep large swathes of the state from buring due to human-started fires:-)

JOEL GRATZ

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Tuesday May 20th 2014 9:17am

Summary

It's been dry for a few days, but more active weather begins now and lasts through Memorial Day. Look for thunderstorms in the eastern foothills and plains Wednesday through Memorial Day, with afternoon showers over the mountains Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Details

As I wrote about last week, there will be increased chances for rain and thunderstorms at the end of this week and lasting through the Memorial Day weekend.

Over the mountains, dry weather will persist through Thursday, then moisture will move in from the south and this will help to form afternoon showers on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Memorial Day might be drier, but I'm less certain about this. Don't expect any of these days to be a washout, but afternoon showers and storms are likely. Snow levels will be high throughout the weekend, likely above 12,000ft or even higher.

Over the eastern foothills and plains, moisture has already increased along and north of I-70. Expect a few evening storms to form over the foothills on Tuesday, then more numerous afternoon thunderstorms on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Again, none of these days will be washouts, but there will be afternoon rain and lightning to watch out for. The best chance of storms on most of these days will be from the foothills east to Kansas, and from I-70 north to Wyoming.

One thing to watch out for: The possibility of heavy rain along the front range and foothills on Sunday into Monday. This area is still cleaning up from the September flooding, and with stream channels not at full capacity due to debris, a high water table, and plenty of snow left to melt, heavy rain in this area during a short period of time wouldn't be very welcome.

I have little confidence of which area of the front range could see a period of heavy rain on Sunday into Monday. Anywhere from the Palmer Divide between Denver and Colorado Springs up to central Wyoming could get hit. For the last two days, the European model has been forecasting about 2.0-2.5 inches of rain falling on some part of this region on Sunday into Monday, and when the European models starts to offer consistent predictions, I've learned that it's wise to pay attention.

Don't put any confidence in the location of the heaviest precipitation in the map below ... just use it as a guide to see that there is heavy precipitation forecast for some part of the front range. While the highest precipitation totals are about 3.5 inches, that includes about 1.0-1.5 inches of possible rain from thunderstorms during the week, before the heavy rain event starts on Sunday into Monday.

colorado snow

I'll keep you updated!

JOEL GRATZ

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Saturday May 17th 2014 1:23pm

Summary

Annnnnnnd, that's a wrap. Another 5 inches fell on Friday night at Abasin in the last wave of northwest flow, and now it looks like spring and summer will be here full time. From now on I'll be posting about once per week with some general weather updates, and more often if interesting weather is in the forecast. Thanks for a great season, and enjoy the snow at Abasin which should last into June:-)

Details

The final wave of energy and moisture passed through northern Colorado in northwest flow on Friday night. This was relatively well forecasted by the high resolution NAM 4km model. The webcam on Vail Pass around 9pm Friday night showed the snow falling:

colorado snow

Arapahoe Basin picked up 5 inches on Friday night with about 0.4 inches of snow-water equivalent, for a ratio of 12.5 inches of snow to 1 inch of liquid (12.5:1). That's pretty typical for late-season snow as temperatures were in the upper 20s on the slopes.

This snowfall concludes a stellar strech of 10 straight days of fresh snow at Arapahoe Basin, totalling 39 inches. 

colorado snow

In addition to the fresh powder, another good thing happened on Friday night as across the world the Triple 8 expedition reached the summit of Cho Oyo, an 8,201 meter (26,906 foot) peak close to Mt. Everest. I've been forecasting for them over the last three weeks, in touch daily via text message if you can believe it. 

moniz cho oyo

They had plans to summit three 8,000 meter peaks, Cho Oyo, Everest, and Lhotse. But the climbing on the south side of Everest has stopped for the season due to respect for Sherpas who died in an icefall a few weeks ago as well as due to on-going tensions between the Sherpas and the Ministry of Tourism in Nepal. I don't know what their plan is, but even a single 8,000 meter peak is a fantastic accomplishment, especially for Matt Moniz who is still in high school! More here: http://www.climb7.com

Back to Colorado, the week ahead looks dry and warm over the mountains with afternoon thunderstorms over the foothills and eastern plains along and north of I-70. For the holiday weekend, these afternoon showers will continue on the plains and extend over the mountains, but they look more like a nuisance than a washout.

JOEL GRATZ

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Thursday May 15th 2014 4:54pm

Summary

Northwest flow will continue to bring snow to the mountains along and north of I-70 with the heaviest snow falling Friday afternoon through Saturday morning (6+ inches). Then we'll dry out and warm up through next week, with rain and snow showers returning for Memorial Day Weekend.

Details

Ah, northwest flow. It giveth, and it maketh me feel like I'm not that good at my job. We've been talking for days about the mountains along and north of I-70 seeing afternoon and evening snow showers as moisture moves over the state in northwest flow. Yesterday I said that each afternoon could bring 1-3 inches of snow to favored areas. Well, last night the northwest flow keyed in on the Loveland Pass area and dropped about 0.5 inches of snow-water equivalent, which translated into 7 inches of overnight snow for Abasin. This is a snow ratio of 14:1, similar to what you'd see in mid winter, not mid May. A few of the models forecasted about 0.3 inches of snow-water equivalent last night, but that would usually translate to 3-4 inches at this time of the year, not 7 inches.

colorado snow

The blue and green dots show that the highest accumulations fell near Loveland Pass on Wednesday night.

Last weekend, the European model forecasted that northwest flow would continue all of this week and that snow would fall over the northern mountains. I actually wrote a draft post where I said that Thursday (today) could be a powder day, but then deleted that because it's impossible to predict the times of heavier snow in northwest flow one week out, and because I didn't think we'd have snow ratios high enough to turn 0.2-0.4 inches of liquid equivalent precipitation into signifcant snow. Funny how that worked out, eh?

This northwest flow will continue through Saturday. Another wave of moisture and energy should arrive Friday afternoon and last through Saturday morning, and some models are highlighting another 0.5 inches of SWE along the divide mountains, along and north of I-70. Using history as a guide, this could translate into 6 inches of snow or more by Saturday mid morning.

colorado snow

Precipitation forecast from Thursday through Saturday from the high resolution NAM 4km model. Notice the blue dots along the northern divide, showing the likely location of the heaviest precipitation. Source: WeatherBell.com

We'll finally lose the northwest flow on Sunday, and most of next week should be dry over the mountains with thunderstorms on the eastern plains along and north of I-70.

A slow-moving storm will hang out over California and Nevada next week, and it will finally move east over Colorado during the Memorial Day Weekend. This means that rain (and high elevation snow showers) should fall over the holiday weekend, and while it won't be a washout, you'll likely get rained or snowed on at some point if you're in the mountains all weekend.

JOEL GRATZ

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Wednesday May 14th 2014 9:11am

Summary

The mountains along and north of I-70 will see snow showers Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoon with 1-3 inches each afternoon under the heavier showers. The next storm will bring showers and thunderstorm to the eastern plains next Tuesday through Friday, with snow and rain showers likely over the mountains during Memorial Day weekend.

Details

First up, some fun. A meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Alaska wrote the following description of the weather models, comparing each one to a personality encountered while speed dating. It's funny, and pretty accurate:

nws model description dating

Now to the weather...

While southern Colorado will see near normal temperatures for the rest of the week and weekend, northern Colorado along and north of I-70 will see afternoon snow showers through Saturday. The heaviest showers should fall on Friday into Saturday. Total accumulations will be light, but each afternoon the heavier showers could produce a few inches.

Sunday will finally warm up to average temperatures and dry out for the entire state. This warm and dry weather should continue into Monday as well.

Then a storm will stall between California and Colorado for the rest of next week and will move over Colorado around Memorial Day Weekend.

The mountains should stay dry through the middle of next week, then the mountains will have a higher chance of rain and high-elevation snow showers late next week through Memorial Day weekend.

For the eastern plains, winds from the south and east will bring high amounts of moisture to the area from I-70 to the north, so expect afternoon showers and storms next Tuesday and Wednesday, with these storms potentially pushing further south toward the central and southern plains next Thursday and Friday.

colorado snow

In sum, much of next week will be dry over the mountains with storms over the eastern plains, then Memorial Day Weekend could be a little cooler and wetter than normal (likely not a wash-out, though).

Also, I just took a peek at the long-range forecasts for the summer, and they show average to below average temperatures with average to above average precipitation. Some of this forecast is based on the likelihood of El Nino to develop. Let's hope this is the case and we have a boring fire season!

JOEL GRATZ

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