Well, what a quick-hitting and impactful storm that was! Most of the Denver metro woke on Thursday to a foot of snow!

The forecast on Tuesday called for 2-3″ of snow in Denver Wednesday night to Thursday as an Upslope snow event set its sights on the Front Range. Then Wednesday, models started to show higher totals for the Denver area and a winter weather advisory was issued for 2-5″ of snow. Then the snow start and it didn’t stop. Eventually, later Wednesday night, the National Weather Service in Boulder upgraded the Winter Weather Advisory to a Winter Storm Warning will 7-12″ of snow possible!

So, what happened? How did we go from a 2-inch storm to a 12-inch storm in less than a day?!

Denver Convergence Zone

Denver’s weather is just so cool. Because of the topography around us, some wild things can happen and one of those wild things happened Wednesday night. During an upslope wind event, winds coming from the east generally get pushed UP the mountains which creates clouds and moisture. Areas near the Foothills and Palmer Divide normally perform the best in these scenarios.

What happened last night was that the Upslope winds were creating the lift that we needed to create moisture. In the lower levels of the atmosphere, Denver had winds coming from the northwest and winds coming from the southeast creating and area of convergence. When you have winds that clash together (pictured below), the air gets forced up which creates more lift and more moisture.

The is a super unique weather event confined to Denver due to the elevation of the mountains to our west and the Palmer Ridge to our south. This convergence zone is the cause for our big snow totals overnight. On top of the forecast 3-6″ of snow there was the possibility of jet enhancement, or added energy from the strong winds way up high. That also set up over us creating the perfect scenario for a big snow event. Which played out.

NWS Boulder Explainer

Here’s a look at the radar loop during the event:

Radar loop during snow event

The above radar clearly paints solid snow falling over Denver for 8-10 hours. This is what led to the big totals.

Making this even more exciting is the amount of moisture that is in this snow. As you should know, we are under a very bad drought so this snow will create a decent dent in what we are lacking currently

Liquid equivalent of what fell

We will be mostly dry and clear today (Thursday) and Friday. Saturday we bring back a slight chance of snow but nothing that should come remotely close to what we recently saw.

And finally, a look at where we stand this season.

Most areas along the Front Range are doing pretty well snow total-wise. Boulder and DIA are the only places below normal and not by much either.

Keep warm and try and stay dry!


Leave a Reply