Colorado Weather Forecast #160: Jan. 31, 2022 - Feb. 6, 2022

Updates on the coming frigid Tuesday-Wednesday storm.

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Updated Sun Jan 30, 2022 9:00pm MST | Published Sun Jan 30, 2022

By Thomas Horner

7-Day Snow Planner (Through Feb. 7)

Northern Mountains

Park Range and N Front Range: Steamboat, Buffalo Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass, Bluebird, RMNP, IPW, Cameron Pass

6am New Snow

0-1"

Tue

0-7"

Wed

0-4"

Thu

0-1"

Fri

0"

Sat

0-1"

Sun

0"

Mon

6am Powder Potential

1%

Tue

24%

Wed

11%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

2%

Sun

0%

Mon

I-70 Corridor

Front Range, Gore Range, etc.: Winter Park, Berthoud Pass, Jones Pass, Loveland, A-Basin, Keystone, Breck, Copper, Vail Pass, Vail, Beaver Creek

6am New Snow

0"

Tue

1-7"

Wed

1-5"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0-1"

Sun

0"

Mon

6am Powder Potential

0%

Tue

26%

Wed

18%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

1%

Sun

0%

Mon

Central Mountains

Elk Mountains, Sawatch Range, Grand Mesa, West Elks: Aspen Resorts, Crested Butte, Powderhorn, Sunlight, Kebler Pass, Independence Pass, Cottonwood Pass, Monarch

6am New Snow

0"

Tue

0-7"

Wed

0-6"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0-1"

Sun

0"

Mon

6am Powder Potential

0%

Tue

20%

Wed

18%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

Southern Mountains

San Juans: Telluride, Red Mountain Pass, Silverton, Coal Bank Pass, Purgatory, Wolf Creek

6am New Snow

0"

Tue

2-8"

Wed

1-14"

Thu

0-1"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

6am Powder Potential

0%

Tue

30%

Wed

34%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

Denver Metro

Denver and surrounding suburbs: Lakewood, Westminster, Aurora, Highlands Ranch

6am New Snow

0"

Tue

1-3"

Wed

1-3"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

6am Snow Accum. Chance

0%

Tue

80%

Wed

80%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

27%

Sun

14%

Mon

Summary

  • Another mild day on Monday.
  • Windy on Monday. Very strong gusts along/east of the Divide and in the foothills. Some of these gusts could reach the I-25 corridor. Pockets of strong gusts in the Front Range urban area.
  • Cold front pushes down the Front Range on Monday evening-ish, maybe even the afternoon. Temperatures drop into Thursday morning as an Arctic airmass moves through the region.
  • Snow from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday morning.
  • See below for details on my snow forecast. In general:
    • Mountains along I-70 and north still pretty marginal. Lots of dry air: 2-7”.
    • Northern mountains just east of the Divide (RMNP, IPW): 4-10”.
    • Northern mountains along / just west of the Divide (A-Basin, Berthoud Pass, etc.): 3-8”.
    • Aspen area: 4-8”. More uncertainty here due to being on the border of the driest air. Could trend up significantly.
    • Crested Butte: 5-10”. Again, more uncertainty here.
    • Telluride / NW San Juans: 5-10”. 6-12” near Silverton / Red Mtn Pass.
    • Purgatory / SW San Juans: 7-14”.
    • Wolf Creek: 1-2ft., pockets of 3ft. in the SE San Juans.
    • High southern Sangres, including Taos: 10-20”.
    • High northern Sangres, including Cuchara: 1-3ft.
  • And the Front Range and Plains:
    • Denver metro area east of I-25: 2-6”.
    • Near and along I-25, from Castle Rock to Ft. Collins: 4-9”
    • Western suburbs: 5-10”
    • Near the base of the foothills (Boulder, Golden), and lower elevation foothills : 7-14”
    • Colorado Springs: 5-10”
    • Palmer Divide: 4-9”
    • Eastern Plains: Generally 2-9”… best totals north of I-76 and along/north of eastern I-70.
  • Very cold on Wednesday night. Widespread negative temperatures.
  • Slowly warming into the weekend. A weak wave on Saturday could bring an inch or two of snow to some areas.

Retrospective

Highs in the Front Range topped out in the 50s to low 60s today – overall, a bit cooler than yesterday as expected, thanks to a weak system traversing across New Mexico today. Here was satellite imagery from this evening:

(via College of DuPage)
(via College of DuPage)

You can see the system over New Mexico, snow cover in the Colorado mountains, and the band of snow from our previous storm in northeast Colorado. Overnight lows in the snow-covered mountain valleys of northern Colorado were again frigid, with -25 degrees recorded near Granby, -29 degrees near Walden, -21 degrees near Gunnison, and -34 degrees near Kremmling.

Monday

A storm is on the way and it will bring snow to most of Colorado from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Monday will feature one more day of mild temperatures in the Front Range, especially as more snow cover has disappeared and warming downsloping winds will be stronger. Expect lows in the low 60s for parts of the Denver metro area, and Colorado Springs, and perhaps in other locations along the I-25 corridor. There will be more cloud cover by the afternoon.

The mountains will be a bit cooler than this weekend as cooler air begins to advect into western/northern Colorado ahead of our coming storm…but the valleys could be a bit warmer thanks to the influence of the winds.

Winds on Monday will be gusty in the Front Range and particularly strong along/east of the Divide and in the foothills. Expect windy conditions in most of the mountains, weaker in western Colorado.

Model guidance is showing winds over 90mph in parts of the foothills. Some of these gusts will reach the I-25 corridor, but it depends on how the mountain wave sets up. Could see some pockets of gusts up to 60mph in the metro area, but low certainty.

The initial cold front will push down the Front Range on Monday evening, or maybe even as early as Monday afternoon. Temperatures will continue to plunge into Thursday morning as more and more Arctic air filters into the state.

Storm Tuesday to Wednesday

Weather models are starting to reach a consensus over the track and evolution of our approaching storm. The focus is really turning towards the southern Colorado mountains and the Front Range. A broad upper-level trough will traverse across the western United States and over Colorado. At the lower levels, a center of low pressure will likely cut off near the Four Corners region and track east-southeast over New Mexico.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

This system will also help draw down some Arctic air into Colorado.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

Snow Totals: Mountains

Here are some rough annotations in regards to the overall setup:

Totals in this map, and the below map, are likely significantly too low in the areas that are showing more than 5” of snow. For the mountains of northern Colorado, this looks more correct.

Probability maps do well in showing the distribution of higher totals:

Northern Mountains

The setup of moisture and lift means the northern Colorado mountains will largely miss out on this storm. Model guidance for Steamboat only has Trace to 4” of snow, with most guidance only calling for around 1”. Buffalo Pass and Cameron Pass would not fare much better. The exception is right along the Divide and to the east, which would benefit from an easterly upslope (more on that later).

There’s still some uncertainty over where the moisture plume will end up in Colorado, but it could end up well to the south of I-70. If that were the case (as is suggested on the Canadian model and NAM), snow totals from Powderhorn to Vail to A-Basin would be a paltry 1-6”. Still, guidance is uncertain here so we will broadbrush a forecast of 2-7” for ski areas along and just north of I-70.

The easterly upslope from the Plains (more on that later) wont be quite deep enough to really reach the Divide. Generally 4-10” for RMNP, IPW, Mt. Evans area. The mountains near Kenosha Pass could do considerably better. A-Basin, Loveland, and Berthoud Pass could get a small piece of the action too, so looking at a 3-8” forecast.

Central Mountains

Similar story for near Aspen, though a bit more uncertainty – we’ll say 4-8” for now. The GFS suggests 7-14”, but is an outlier here.

Crested Butte should do better as it will actually pick up some pieces of the moist southwesterly flow. I’ll go with a 5-10” forecast but will point out the potential to bust low is pretty significant as moisture will be spotty.

Southern Mountains

Things get much more interesting as we look further south in Colorado where moist southwesterly flow will bring more consistent, heavier snowfall. Telluride only partially benefits from this, we’re thinking 5-10” for snow totals. Purgatory 7-14”. Silverton and Red Mountain Pass 6-12”.

The bullseye continues to be Wolf Creek. A foot of snow is a safe bet, maybe even two. The mountains to the southwest of Wolf Creek could get up to three feet of snow.

The Sangres will also do very well, both from westerly flow (better for the southern Sangres – thinking 10-20” for Taos) and from the easterly upslope from the plains for the northern Sangres and Wet Mountains. Maybe 12-24” for Cuchara, totals of a 1-3ft in the higher Sangres.

Snow Totals - Front Range and Plains

With better consensus over a more favorable storm track, and models resolving some mesoscale features better (cold air damming), we’re upping my snow forecast for the Front Range. Totals will drop off pretty quickly for areas east of I-25. My forecast for the airport itself and Aurora is still 2-6” but totals uptick pretty dramatically to the west of I-25.

Near/along I-25, from Castle Rock to Fort Collins, maybe 4-9”.

Cold air damming results in isentropic lift over the western metro area…essentially an enhanced upslope. So the best totals in the Front Range should actually be in the lower reaches of the foothills and near/just to the east of the base of them.

In the western suburbs looking at totals of 5-10”, but like I said, totals should greatly increase towards the base of the foothills (Boulder, Golden) thanks to cold air damming. Forecast for those areas is more like 7-14”. Colorado Springs looking like 5-10”.

Due to the more direct easterly component of these winds, the Palmer Divide wont really outperform the Denver metro area. We’re thinking 4-9”.

Pueblo 3-8”.

For the eastern plains, the forecast is still a bit of a mess. Generally 3-9”, with the highest totals to the north of I-76 and also along/north of I-70.

For the foothills, 8-16”.

Snow Timings

Meaningful snow will start on Tuesday afternoon. The strongest snow will be from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning, letting off into the afternoon somewhat. Pockets of lighter snow will continue into Thursday morning.

Cold Air

This approaching air mass is very cold and in some parts of Colorado temperatures will be 40 degrees colder than average. Large swaths of Colorado will see temperatures in the negatives on Wednesday night.

Here are some potential lows:

Thursday to Sunday

We’ll slowly warm up into the weekend, but only slowly. A weak shortwave could bring some light snowfall to parts of Colorado on Saturday.

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