Colorado Weather Forecast #164: Feb. 8, 2022 - Feb. 14, 2022

Weak storms for the northern mountains Wednesday and Friday, with some Front Range impacts on Friday. Stronger storm in a week.

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Updated Tue Feb 8, 2022 7:30pm MST | Published Tue Feb 8, 2022

By Thomas Horner

7-Day Snow Planner (Through Feb. 16)

Northern Mountains

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

6am New Snow

0-4"

Thu

0-1"

Fri

0-5"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

0-1"

Tue

1-8"

Wed

6am Powder Potential

7%

Thu

0%

Fri

11%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

0%

Tue

30%

Wed

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

0-1"

Thu

0"

Fri

0-4"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

0"

Tue

1-7"

Wed

6am Powder Potential

1%

Thu

0%

Fri

10%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

0%

Tue

27%

Wed

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"

Thu

0"

Fri

0-1"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

0"

Tue

0-8"

Wed

6am Powder Potential

0%

Thu

0%

Fri

1%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

0%

Tue

31%

Wed

Southern Mountains

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

6am New Snow

0"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

0"

Tue

0-9"

Wed

6am Powder Potential

0%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

0%

Tue

29%

Wed

Denver Metro

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

6am New Snow

0"

Thu

0"

Fri

0-1"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

0"

Tue

0-2"

Wed

6am Snow Accum. Chance

0%

Thu

0%

Fri

67%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

0%

Tue

71%

Wed

Snowpack Status

We’re about two months from hitting the average peak snowpack in the Colorado high country. As with most winter seasons it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster – a scary, near-record low early season was followed by an impressive stretch of storms that dropped feet of snow in the mountains and brought us to well above average snowpack. We’ve been in a quieter stretch lately, at least in the mountains – but down on the Front Range, the past month has been quite productive.

The end result? Colorado’s snowpack is almost exactly at the median across the board. Here’s the statewide chart:

(via NRCS)
(via NRCS)

And a chart of Boulder’s cumulative snow totals:

(via BoulderCAST)
(via BoulderCAST)

Both charts are at exactly 100% of normal!

Of course, the reality is more nuanced. In southern Colorado, the northern San Juans and Sangres are really hurting for snow particularly at higher elevations:

(via University of Arizona)
(via University of Arizona)

Taos is looking great though!

In northern and central Colorado, a bit more of a mixed bag…

(via University of Arizona)
(via University of Arizona)

Much of the Elks, Flat Tops, Mosquito, Park, and Tenmile mountain ranges are running a deficit, with the higher elevations of Summit County and the Front Range looking closer to average, and even above-average conditions in the northern Front Range (RMNP etc.)

Spot checking a few SNOTEL stations seems to confirm the overall veracity of the snow model data above. Here’s the SNOTEL at Cameron Pass, which is notably above average:

(via NRCS)
(via NRCS)

Forecast Discussion

Over the next week our snowpack will slip back below normal across the state as we have only a couple weak waves of snow lined up.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

Temperatures during this time will at least be fairly average, though eastern Colorado will be somewhat warmer than normal.

Wave #1 (Wednesday to Thursday)

A huge dome of high pressure is building off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

Low pressure is to our east which puts Colorado generally directly beneath the jet. We’ll see a hint of moisture and a bit of energy work through the region from Wednesday to Thursday.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

For snow totals, guidance ranges from essentially 0” of snow across the entire state (the HRRR, the GFS) to maybe some sneaky totals in parts of the Front Range (the NAM, the WRF-ARW). The trusty European and Canadian Models sit at around 0-2” for northern Colorado, with diminishing returns in central Colorado.

We actually really like how the Blend is handling this right now:

This model is picking up on the potential for some pockets of actually decent totals in parts of northern Colorado. With the amount of dry air entrained in flow aloft, it’s going to be next to impossible to forecast the exact winners and losers but guidance has pointed towards the Indian Peaks Wilderness and James Peak Wilderness areas along the Divide as the potential winners.

Along and north of I-70, we’ll forecast 0-4” of snow by Thursday morning, with potentially for a few sneaky spots of 6” – but also a lot of goose eggs.

South of I-70 and north of US-50, less than 2”.

South of US-50, 0 to Trace. Same goes for east of the Divide (the Front Range urban corridor, etc.)

Wave #2 (Friday to Saturday)

A slightly broader trough will traverse the region from Friday to Saturday. This could be stronger than Wave #1, but there’s some pretty decent disagreement between the global models. The Euro’s guidance would actually mean a non-event:

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

In this scearnio, large-scale lift from the jet remains just out of our state.

The GFS has the jet dipping significantly further, putting us more in the left exit region of the jet and thus getting some more serious lift over Colorado, which would drive snow production. This model, in addition to the Canadian, shows a pretty decent cold front push down the Front Range on Friday morning. This could get an upslope snow storm going during the day and into Friday night.

Since models are still in disagreement over the setup, we wont go into too many details, but most evidence points towards the best totals being to the east of the Divide (the Front Range) and in northern Colorado, with snow ending by Saturday morning. A reasonably optimistic scenario would look like this:

Powder day? Probably not…Except for perhaps Eldora.

Saturday and Sunday look windy, with a warming trend into Sunday and the potential for temperatures in the 50s on the Front Range due to downsloping winds.

Wave #3 (Tuesday to Wednesday)

Models have been consistently forecasting a much stronger storm around the 15th which would bring more serious snow totals to Colorado.

For the setup, another ridiculous heat dome forms over the northern Pacific Ocean (further west than this week’s high pressure system), which breaks down as a decent trough drops into our region.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

There’s a lot of uncertainty about how this will play out – the Euro has some of the energy splitting (bad for snow totals), the GFS has a closed low tightening and tracking a bit further east (better for Front Range snow totals), and the Canadian has gone all the way with that thought process, with a much less progressive system that closes off tightly and tracks over southeastern Colorado. That would result in a pretty legit Front Range snow event (at least 6-12” in Denver, 1-2ft. in the foothills).

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

If the system followed a similar track as above, and remained more vertically stacked over Colorado, this would be quite the storm!

However, this could play out in far less exciting ways. The Blend’s mildly optimistic snowfall forecast doesn’t look too shabby, if not particularly exciting:

This product generally bumps totals up as proximity to the event increases, so it’s not a terrible starting point considering the system is a week out. The fairly even distribution of snow across mountain ranges also belies that there’s quite a bit of uncertainty over how this system will evolve – a closed low with southwest flow? Open wave with northwest flow? Too early to tell.

Overall, we’re pretty confident that Wednesday morning will be a powder day in parts of the Colorado mountains, we just can’t predict where yet.

Longer Range

As we mentioned in our previous forecast, we think the aforementioned system (Wave #3) will be the start of a more productive weather pattern as high pressure remains entrenched over the Gulf of Alaska and flow aloft appears to be west enough to allow stronger disturbances to more consistently drop into our region.

The Canadian ensemble certainly shows this, with a storm every other day (nothing particularly strong, but it adds up). Looking at the PNA teleconnection, we can see a consistent downward slope in the Canadian model’s guidance (the GEFS looks similar):

However, the Euro, which was more bullish in regards to this sort of scenario, is now toying with the idea of that center of high pressure breaking down and flow becoming more zonal, which would mean weaker, less consistent snow totals. Its PNA chart is more flat, which is not really what you want to see if you’re looking for a more interesting large-scale pattern in regards to impacts on our region:

Across the ensembles, we can see the signal remains for at least some sort of bump in snow production, so we’re still holding on to our thinking that the end of February could still be decent.

If you’re cynical though, you’d probably give some though to the Euro guidance being more reliable, in which case, our chances are starting to dry up.

Catch you later.

--

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