Colorado Weather Forecast #185: May. 6, 2022 - May. 15, 2022

Some much needed moisture (and pow), an overview of the snowpack, and discussion of potential rain, snow, and winds over the next 10 days.

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Updated Sat May 5, 0001 5:00pm MST | Published Thu May 5, 2022

By Thomas Horner

7-Day Snow Planner (Through May 12)

Northern Mountains

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

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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

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Central Mountains

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

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Southern Mountains

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

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Denver Metro

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

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Retrospective

Ahh, finally some nice sky water. April was a brutal month across most of the state, especially in the San Juans and the Front Range. These areas only received 10% or less of the usual amount of snow/rain for April:

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

Here’s what that means in terms of inches of precipitation:

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

The central and northern mountain ranges of Colorado generally fared better. Slightly below average precipitation took these areas from a slightly deeper than average (or average) snowpack to a slightly shallower than average one.

There is a distinct north to south gradient across Colorado when looking at the state of mountain snowpack:

This distribution is actually not too surprising given the prevailing La Niña conditions. These are forecasted to persist into the summer.

In terms of drought, things are not looking great as we head towards summer:

The past few days have been a welcome change, at least in the Front Range, with widespread prolonged rain and snow.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

Some areas in northern Colorado picking up double digit snow totals. The past week of snow has been enough to stop or even overcome the melt/compaction of May:

Melt and compaction are a big deal this time of year – new snow gets obliterated almost immediately, and a foot of snow will quickly end up looking like less than half of that by the next day. And you know what really exaggerates the melt? Dust.

There’s a lot of it across the Colorado mountains after some powerful wind events. It’s most obvious in the San Juans, which generally look brown on the latest satellite imagery.

Here’s how the Front Range looked a few days ago (with more new snow on top of this):

…and here’s the San Juans near Wolf Creek on the same day:

Zooming out a bit shows just how significant the difference is:

Wolf Creek’s webcams paint a pretty bleak sight:

…while the mountains around Keystone look much more pristine. There’s some smoke from a slash pile burn that’s visible.

No surprise that the Elk Mountains in central Colorado are sitting sort of in the middle – a bit dusty.

So overall, skiing conditions deteriorating rapidly in the San Juans…

…while the Front Range’s season manages to soldier on.

Forecast Discussion

The next 10 days look to be mostly dry and warm.

Our next chance for snow (and rain) comes late Saturday night / early Sunday morning, and is entirely limited to northern Colorado.

The above probability of precipitation is quite low for a 12-hour period, and translates to something like a 5% chance of more than an inch of snow for parts of northern Colorado. There continues to be precipitation chances into Monday as a trough to our west further encroaches on the state. This looks to be associated with light, spotty precipitation as there isn’t much moisture entrained in flow aloft.

Probability of precipitation for Buffalo Pass
Probability of precipitation for Buffalo Pass

Perhaps the best chance for a few sneaky inches of snow comes on Sunday night as a jet max may become located over northern Colorado. This could induce a band of strong snow over the area for a few areas.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

Unfortunately, our proximity to the jet also means strong gusts are likely across much of the high country from Saturday to Monday.

Any cold air associated with the system to our west shouldn’t make it much further than northwest Colorado – most of the rest of the state will be experiencing above average temperatures though a weak cold front may work its way down the Front Range by Tuesday.

Things look warm across the board on Wednesday before a shortwave grazes us.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

Right now, this doesn’t look too likely to produce widespread snow, but it’s worth keeping an eye on as many operational models have a couple inches of fresh snow for at least a few areas of Colorado. Previous runs looked very exciting, but that is no longer the case.

This wave could be pretty slow to clear out of the area as a different center of low pressure over the Gulf of Mexico retrogrades our way. This would, in theory, stall the wave to our west out a bit.

Earlier model runs had this evolving as a powerful extratropical cyclone event with blizzard conditions and heavy precipitation across Colorado, but most models have flipped to almost an entirely dry solution. That’s why it’s important to not buy into 5+ day forecasts from individual models too much! Either way, we’re expecting some amount of precipitation, stronger winds, and cooler temps from Thursday the 12th and possibly into the following the weekend.

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