I’ve been waiting for more model clarity to come but there is still not great agreement on what exactly will happen and when with the upcoming storm. While I have a few more answers, there’s still questions about this forecast. Good ole intuition and experience is a forecasting factor for this storm.
Winter alert have been posted for some areas around Denver – scroll down for more.
With big March storms we look for a closed low to develop east of the Rockies. The storm coming will never completely cutoff from the main flow so it won’t be considered a very strong storm. However, this chunk of energy that is rolling through our area is tapping into a lot of moisture and is bringing it towards eastern Colorado. At this same time, a cold front with reinforcing lift coming in from the north will meet this moisture and produce widespread precipitation.
The chunk of energy and moisture is coming from a warm place so this is a warm storm which is why forecasting snow is very difficult currently. Nonetheless, this is our upper pattern setup. We have sufficient moisture and adequate lift from the coming from the cold front that it won’t take much for precip to develop. That’s really one of the big stories here, the fact that this storm will have a lot of moisture with it.
I digress. Let’s talk about temperatures. Temperatures on Tuesday were warm. 60s and 70s across the region which has warmed ground temperatures and roads temperatures as well. It’s going to take a lot to cool those down sufficiently to allow any snow to accumulate. On top of this, temperatures will rise well into the 50s on Wednesday before the cold front moves in so any moisture that develops Wednesday afternoon will be rain. Snow levels will be around 7,000-7,500 feet Wednesday morning into the afternoon and will drop through the evening on Wednesday.
The timing of when the rain changes to snow will have big repercussions in terms of how much snow you get. In general, the higher your elevation, the more snow you’ll get. Nailing down where the bullseye of precipitation occurs has been up for debate as well with each model run shifting it from the SW Suburbs of Denver to the NW Suburbs of Colorado Springs. The Palmer Divide and the Foothills in between Denver and Colorado Springs look favored regardless.
The image above is the NBM (National Blend of Models). It shows a general consensus of what all the models are showing so it’s a good reference point for where a precip. bullseyes may occur. In this scenario, the most moisture would come from Boulder to Colorado Springs with the sweet spot over the northern Palmer Divide.
But how much snow?! Jeeze, isn’t that the million dollar question. If we take a look at model trends, is gives us a better understanding of what could happen and what some of the computers are thinking.
Most of the models, in the very recent trends have been showing a bit more snow over the latest runs but the overarching theme has been up and down and up and down. Clearly a tricky atmosphere to forecast for.
Here are a few things that we know about the snow.
~ It’s going to be warm and that is going to limit snow potential
~ cold fronts usually come in quicker than suggested in the models
~ rain helps to cool the atmosphere
~ snow can fall when it’s 38º
~ even heavy snow when it’s 36-37º will not stick to anything except grass and elevated surfaces
~ don’t forget, models suggesting 6-10″ of snow for Denver aren’t accounting for as much melting as we’re likely to see so expect half or less than half of model totals right now in the metro areas of Denver and Colorado Springs.
With that said, here’s some expected snow totals for out area. This is subject to change and we could very well see totals go up but let’s start here and adjust as necessary. Where the most confidence is, winter alerts are already posted. That’s for areas like Boulder, Conifer, Bailey, Castle Rock, Monument, Perry Park, Woodland Park, Lakewood and Parker.
Although Denver is not under an alert just yet, I’m expecting one at any time now because the Thursday morning commute will be impacted by ice and slushy snow.
Overall, an impactful storm is looking likely by Thursday morning. This won’t be the *big* one but it will provide some heavy snow and it will be wet. As you get out to shovel, keep that in mind this will be a dense snow. Snow will continue Thursday morning into the afternoon hours and will taper of quickly from north to south. We should see some melting occur Thursday afternoon due to temperatures warming to around 40º so it’ll be a sloppy wet day for some.
Looking ahead, we must keep in mind that our next storm looks to move in for Monday and Tuesday of next week and that storm is looking healthy. Healthier than this incoming storm meaning bigger snow totals.