Thursday February 7th 2013 11:05am
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Summary: The southern San Juans (Wolf Creek, Durango, Silverton) should be good on Saturday, and most other areas including Silverton will be good on Saturday last run or Sunday morning. Also, there won't be much upslope with this storm (big change), so areas east of the divide won't see a ton of snow.
Now let's get to the details. The weak storm moved through as expected on Wednesday afternoon and evening, though a few places saw more snow than I predicted, especially along I-70 west of Dillon. Since much of this snow fell around and just after sunset, it was hard to see on webcams (but we did update many webcams over the last few days, including some that have lights so you can see snowfall at night). One of the best cams is at Copper Mountain. Last night you could see the snow piling up, but some people thought that there was more snow than the four inches measured this morning. The problem? Your old Chemistry class nemesis, the meniscus. Snow sticks to the ruler and makes it look like a bit more is on the ground than is actually there in reality.
At Copper's snow stake, they have a mini truck that is four inches high. If that is buried, then their Snow Day Pass kicks into gear. You can see in the image above that the truck was just barely buried, which is a good indication that the snow report would say 4", not the 7" it looks like on the ruler.
Other areas around the state also saw some nice snow. Steamboat's 2" report was surprising as I heard there was a bit more there. Also I had a friend say about 5" fell on the hill at Breck last night, so their report sounds good. Can anyone confirm the 8" at Beaver Creek? Their snow stake is to the east side of the mountain (skier's right). Overall, last night the models lost and the detailed data won. The data showed good moisture, cooling temperatures, and a favorable wind direction for the northern and central mountains. But the models only showed an inch or two of snow. I forecasted up to 3", but obviously that was still on the low side of reality. Trust the data, Joel, trust the data:-) Hope you enjoyed this morning!
In the bigger picture, you can see our storm coming ashore into British Columbia and Washington. This is the storm that will cross Colorado this weekend.
By Friday afternoon and Friday night, the storm will be to our west and will start the snow going for the southern San Juans (Wolf Creek, Durango, Silverton). Some stronger snow squalls and showers will likely move from south to north across the state Friday night. If you happen to hit one, you could see a quick inch or two or three, but the exact locations of these showers is impossible to predict, so I only put a tiny amount of snow in Friday night's forecast outside of the San Juans.
Saturday will be a transition day as the storm moves across the state. Winds will switch from south to west and this will kick off snow for most of the state. Unfortunately, because the storm will rapidly move across the state and then intensify to our east, there won't be much time for upslope flow (from the east) and this means less snow than I originally thought for the eastern foothills and front range cities. Darn! There will likely be a period of snow, but I'm not looking for large accumulations. On the other hand, the positive is that west and northwest winds will fill in behind the storm, and this brings a better chance of snow to the mountains west of the divide. We need the moisture east of the divide as well, but as long as the moisture is falling in the state, it's a good thing for rivers and reservoirs. I think the best snow (north of the southern San Juans) will fall Saturday afternoon and Saturday night, making Sunday morning a great day to ski or ride. Check the detailed resort-by-resort forecast here, and click each resort for even more in-depth information, including temperatures.
By later Sunday and Monday, a complicated pattern sets up with multiple storms. The gist is that clouds and snow will likely stick around Colorado Sunday night through Monday night, and I think there could be another round of heavier snow for southern Colorado Monday afternoon and Monday night, and this time it could include the southern foothills and plains east of the divide and roughly south of Colorado Springs.
By Tuesday morning all of our storms have exited stage right and we're back to cool but drier weather for Tuesday, Wednesday, and most of Thursday.
It looks like the next storm will arrive on Friday(ish), February 15th. Too early for details, but something will happen, hopefully for much of the state.
As promised in my past updates, the pattern looks pretty good starting around President's Day. This DOES NOT mean it'll snow every day for the last two weeks of February, but it does mean that our chances of snowy weather are pretty good and we should increase our snowpack through the month. The chart below shows an ensemble forecast, where one model is run many times (30+) with slightly different parameters. This tests the model to see if changing a few things will create a similar forecast or a radically different forecast. Each of the model runs is shown by the "spaghetti" lines on the right. The average of all the runs is shown on the left. You can see there is tremendous variability in the forecasts on the right (all the different lines ... if there was 100% certainty, then each colored line would be identical to each other). However, all of the lines are basically saying some type of dip (trough) for the west coast and Rockies, and this is a good thing.
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Looking forward to a fun weekend!
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