Well, it seems there has certainly been no shortage of weather to talk about this Fall and early Winter. It’s meteorological winter as of December 1st and it has certainly felt cool and snowy. I’m taking a quick look back at November and how it panned out compared to what was expected and I’ll also quickly chat about what to expect for December.
If you’re just looking for the forecast – scroll down until you see the Forecast headline but be sure to come back and read this because who doesn’t like some good weather talk?
The mountains have been seeing pretty consistent snow for a few weeks now. Snowpack has been holding nice since early November. The snow has accumulated enough to be dangerous. Early season avalanche danger is taking hold of the mountains this week. More on that below.
First, let’s chat about November. Statewide, temperatures were cooler than normal but precip surpluses and deficits depended on where you were.
Temperatures ran about 1-4º cooler than normal statewide making for a very cool November. The precipitation and snow map show what looks to be a semi-familiar map from last season. The northern (specifically NW) areas of Colorado saw above normal moisture and snowfall while the central and southern mountains saw less than normal.
For Denver, the rang largely true as well. It was a cool month with below normal precip. The images below are straight from the NWS in Boulder.
You can click through and see some specifics. One thing that sticks out to me is that Denver saw almost a foot of snow in November which is more than the 7.6″ that is normal. Even though we got more snow than normal, we got less moisture overall. That’s because of the cold air, it made the snow we saw fluffier with high liquid ratios.
November was supposed to be slightly warmer and slightly drier than normal and only half of that was right for Denver at least.
The December outlook shows much of Colorado seeing normal temperatures with normal precipitation. There are a for exceptions in the precip department but largely, we’re expected to have pretty typical December weather and with the current forecast, I’m thinking the mountains may lean a bit wetter than normal. Just a hunch.
Hopefully those aren’t my famous last words.
Snowpack is doing well in Colorado.
The statewide average is 96% of average with the southern areas fairing worse than the northern counterparts.
On a regional level, it’s been an impressive early snow season for a lot of areas in the western US.
The only areas not doing great are across portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. The storm track has been very active north and no so much south. A sure sign of the LA Niña pattern that continues to hold. there are some signals that we’ll transition to a neutral or El Niño phase by next summer…
Y’all, some areas of Colorado got hammered with snow overnight! I-70 was closed at the tunnel to let hazmat trucks through since Loveland Pass closed due to snow. Here are some snow stakes shots from this morning showing the fresh snow.
A few areas are closing in on a foot of snow already and the snow isn’t supposed to stop in the high country until Thursday.
An active weather pattern looks to continue maybe until….maybe Christmas for our mountainous areas. Much of the west is really benefitting from this active pattern with amazing early-season snow conditions and snowpack for many areas. Here’s a look at the atmospheric heights over the next 10 days. Remember, blues/greens mean cooler/stormier weather whiles oranges/reds means drier/warmer weather.
Colorado (and the rest of the west) really stays under a unsettled pattern this whole times with only a few moments of dryness/mildness. This should help keep snowpack good and juicy through the end of this year.
This means that mountain driving conditions with be bad more times than not while skiing and riding conditions with be prime as we head into the holidays.
Here’s a look at the snow that could stack up regionally over the next 10 days. You’ll notice severals “waves” of snow moving across the west.
Let’s start with the near term.
A consistent wind combined with the orographic’s (terrain) of Colorado, are what will bring steady, light snowfall to the area now through Thursday. A little pulse of enhanced energy will also traverse the state Wednesday bringing a period of heavier snow. Becuase of this, winter weather advisories are posted for the high country through today for the northern areas and through Thursday for the southern areas.
Snow will be rather consistent south of I-70 today and Wednesday. Here’s what the radar may look like now through Thursday.
It’s not out of the question for the Plains/I-25 corridor to get a quick snow shower or round of grauple this evening but most of this will largely be confined to the mountains. The San Juans, which largely missed yesterday’s snow event, will see better snow coverage today through Thursday. This should allow for near a foot of snow to add up near Telluride and Wolf Creek.
Additional snow to come looks like this:
Essentially, the focal point of the snow will be shifting south. Steamboat got close to 10″ of snow overnight but they’re only expecting a few inches more today. Meanwhile, Telluride saw hardly any snow overnight but they’ll close in on a foot of snow by Thursday. Mountain driving will be hazardous at times this week so please check CDOT ahead of any travels and be sure your car is ready for the snowy roads.
And of course, with all this fresh snow, we’re talking about high avalanche danger. Avalanche danger is at a 4 out of 5 for more mountains between today and tomorrow due to the fresh snow.
All mountains are under some kind of avalanche threat which will be varying from day to day so if you, or friends, are planning any backcountry adventuring, please check with the CAIC first. They have such great information regard where avalanches could be triggered and what faces of the mountains to avoid. We haven’t had any incidents this year regarding avalanches so let’s try to keep it that way.
Our next storm moves into the mountains starting Saturday night and Sunday and this storm could bring an additional 6-12″ of snow to many mountain locations. This will also be the next storm to watch for the lower elevations and I-25 corridor. The signal for snow along the I-25 corridor doesn’t look extremely impressive currently but it will be our next chance for measurable snow that I see.
This was overall a good update for snow lovers in the mountains! I’ll have to make a trip to the mountains sometime soon since it looks like more terrain will be opening and quickly for many mountains. For the lower elevations, December is usually a pretty snowy month. In Denver, December is the third snowiest month of the season. The last time we saw above-average snowfall in December for this month was back in 2016. We have plenty of the month left to go to get some storms in our area so enjoy the “normal,” not windy weather we’re currently experiencing.
Denver will have pretty “normal” weather for the rest of this week with highs and lows around normal all week. Peep the forecast for early next week, that’s the storm that could deliver so snow to the Front Range areas.
Stay safe out there and keep asking Ullr for more and more snow for the holidays!
Enjoy the weather!