December Outlook

11/27/21 Saturday 9:40 am

The next 12 or so days are going to have people wondering where winter is.  Especially all of the new residents who moved here since Covid. Those of us who have lived here for a while know that for the most part, winter does not usually get going until mid to late December.

I have the distinct advantage of being able to look at the long-term weather models. There is good agreement right now that we will start to transition into a wetter pattern after December 9th. The longer-term Euro weekly model and GFS extended model concur and they then show us entering a cooler and wetter pattern beginning around December 12th.

The model shows that pattern continuing for the duration of the run which concludes January 9th (Euro). To clarify, that is the end of the model run, not necessarily the end of the cooler wetter pattern. What is significant about this is that even with the first 12 days of the model runs showing basically ZERO precipitation, we end up with average precipitation for the lower elevations with above-average precipitation in the mid-and higher elevation areas.

The ridge should have a dominant hold on our weather for the foreseeable future. The transition that occurs is that the ridge begins to flatten out. This opens up the storm track, but it will take a few days before we see cold working its way down to the Western United States.

There is still some speculation out there that the cold may be in response to a stratospheric warming event that is coming. Stratospheric warming events often lead to the displacement or split of the polar vortex–a term we get used to hearing about in the winter. The polar vortex is nothing more than the low pressure that keeps our polar regions cold.

Stratospheric warming events often displace the polar vortex and drop it further south in the northern hemisphere. Determining where it will end up is tricky.

In December 1967, after a stratospheric warming event, extremely cold air led to snow in La Jolla, California. The cold air and storm track moved onshore and led to the biggest snowfall in history for Flagstaff and other areas of northern Arizona. Snow fell for 8 days. Flagstaff received 86 inches of snow during that period. Over 100 inches fell in some mountain locations. The storm tracked east into New Mexico and it was one of their worst winter disasters ever.

Colorado did not escape the storm, although the impacts were not as great/severe. The only storm data I have on it was that Grand Junction received 16 inches of snow during that storm. I do know that Durango reported 46 inches of snow for the month of December. Rico reported 62 inches of snow for the month. The towns of Telluride and Silverton both reported 45 inches of snow for the month, but I am not sure how much of it was attributed to this storm.

I forgot to mention the date all of this occurred: December 12th, 1967 through December 20th, 1967…

By the way, did you hear that Antarctica had its coldest winter on record this year? The average temperature at the South Pole during polar darkness (April through September) was -77 degrees. It was attributed to a stronger than usual polar vortex.

Time to look at some precipitation maps.

As I said, nothing to talk about between now and December 8th.

GFS ensembles mean through December 7th.

GFS extended ensembles mean December 7th through December 30th.

Euro ensembles mean through December 7th.

Euro extended model December 7th through December 31st.

The Euro extend model has a longer forecast period. Here is the projection for December 7th through January 9th.

Euro extended snowfall December 7th through December 26th.

Euro extended snowfall December 7th through January 9th.

My next update will be Tuesday, November 30th-unless I see something cool before that. Thanks for following and supporting the site!

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Happy Thanksgiving

11/25/21 Thursday 5:30 am

I hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving day! I am very thankful to live in a wonderful area and humbled and grateful to have as many followers as I do in our small bubble of Southwest Colorado.

Our patience is going to be tried again over the next 10 to 14 days as the persistent ridge builds back in over the area. There are signs that colder air will infiltrate the western United States around or after the 10th.

Don’t be too concerned about the lack of snow for November. I looked back over the years and I noticed in November 2001 Durango received nearly 15 inches of snow. For the remainder of the winter, they only accumulated another 20 inches. In contrast, in November 2009 Durango received 0.80 inches of snow during the month but had another 97 inches throughout the winter!  These are just two examples but I could go on and on.

I will break down the latest long-term Euro weekly run on my next update which will be on Saturday morning. That will give us a 6-week glance into the future.

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A Mid-Elevation Miss

No big surprises last night. Resorts hit the lower end of my expectations as warmer air worked into the area and the bulk of the precip missed us to the south.

It appears that Telluride is upgrading their webcams. I was able to get through once on their website and it looked like a little over 3 inches on the snow stake. Purgatory reported 3 inches, the snow stake says 4 inches, and I got 3 reports of over 4 inches just south of Purgatory. I also got a report of 4 inches in Rico as of 4 am and it was still snowing. A little lower, I got a report of 2.5 inches at Haviland.

The clouds and fog should clear later today. It will be chilly early tomorrow morning. Mid-and lower elevations may fall into the teens with single digits above 8,500 feet. The ridge is going to build back into the area for a while. I will talk more about that in my update tomorrow morning.

My next update will be Thursday morning. Thanks for following and supporting the site!

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Tuesday Afternoon Update

11/23/21 Tuesday 3:15 pm

My update is a little later than normal today because I had to finish up the last-minute Thanksgiving shopping. Hopefully, everyone is finished with their shopping because it was pretty crazy today. Here are a couple of highlights from today then I will move on to the weather. City Market north is out of mushrooms and low on fresh herbs. Albertsons decided it would be a good idea to reset their cheese wall. There is no cheese there at all, I was informed that there was “some” cheese in a cooler near the roses… I went to Speedway on 160 to fulfill my promise of washing my car. I didn’t just get the cheap one either. While there, I witnessed a woman driving away from the pump with the gas nozzle still attached-she ripped it right off the pump, hose included. To her credit, she did go in and tell the attendant. If you have to go out tomorrow, good luck!

Right on cue, the snow levels started lowering earlier this afternoon. Snow is currently accumulating on the 550 passes. It is starting to mist at my house at 7,450 feet. The atmosphere is moistening up nicely.

As far as the models go, the high-resolution models are still showing the potential for some upside surprises. The models are suggesting that the SW low will merge with the NW trough and cold front, how and when that happens could lead to a variety of results.

I think a safe forecast is 2 to 5 inches of snow between 7,400 feet and 8,200 feet. 3 to 6 inches of snow above 8,500 feet. 0 to 2 inches of snow between 6,500 and 7,200 feet. I won’t rule out some upside surprises for the resorts, Mayday, and CR 240 areas above 8,000 feet.

My next update will be Wednesday morning. Thanks for following and supporting the site!

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Tuesday Morning Update

11/23/21 Tuesday 9 am

Moisture is streaming into the upper levels of the atmosphere ahead of the main weather maker for our forecast area that is currently in Western Arizona.

The NWS did not feel that advisories would be needed for this system so they issued a SWS (Special Weather Statement) due to increased travel for the holiday.

SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND JUNCTION CO
150 AM MST TUE NOV 23 2021

COZ010-018-019-240000-
GORE AND ELK MOUNTAINS/CENTRAL MOUNTAIN VALLEYS-
NORTHWEST SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS-SOUTHWEST SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF ASPEN, VAIL, SNOWMASS, TELLURIDE, OURAY,
LAKE CITY, SILVERTON, RICO, AND HESPERUS
150 AM MST TUE NOV 23 2021

…SOME SLICK ROADS POSSIBLE OVER THE SAN JUANS AND VAIL PASS
TUESDAY NIGHT THROUGH WEDNESDAY MORNING…

A WEAK SYSTEM WILL MOVE ACROSS WESTERN COLORADO TUESDAY EVENING THROUGH WEDNESDAY BRINGING SNOWFALL TO HIGHER ELEVATIONS. WHILE AMOUNTS ARE SUB-ADVISORY, 2 TO 4 INCHES LOOKS POSSIBLE ALONG THE 550 CORRIDOR THROUGH THE SAN JUANS WHILE 1 TO MAYBE 2 INCHES IS EXPECTED ON I-70 HEADING EAST FROM VAIL UP TO VAIL PASS.

IF YOU’RE PLANNING ON TRAVELLING THROUGH THESE AREAS TUESDAY NIGHT INTO WEDNESDAY MORNING, PLEASE BE AWARE OF THE INCREASED CHANCES FOR SNOWY AND SLUSHY ROADS. GIVE YOURSELF SOME EXTRA TIME TO REACH YOUR DESTINATION AND REMEMBER TO SLOW DOWN.

All of the models have sped up the onset of precipitation. They are suggesting that the higher elevation areas could see snow showers starting around 2 pm, we’ll see. The models are also showing light showers developing across mid and lower elevation areas late this afternoon or early evening.  Light rain should change over to snow later tonight.

The lower and medium-resolution models are suggesting snowfall totals that would resemble the amounts in the SWS (2 to 4 inches).

Here are the last two latest runs from the European model.

Latest liquid equivalent

Latest snow

6 hours earlier liquid equivalent

6 hours earlier snow

The latest high-resolution NAM 3 km model is showing some higher totals in certain orographically favored areas.

Liquid equivalent

Snow

The high-resolution model run looks a lot more interesting!

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Monday Afternoon Update

11/22/21 Monday 12:30 pm

In the latest model run off the Euro, the model continued to back off the higher totals. Hopefully, it will reverse that trend over the next 3 model runs. It has sped the disturbance up a bit with snow showers breaking out over the higher elevations by late afternoon. The precipitation accumulation pattern also looks less believable than this morning’s run, so this may be an anomalous run–we will know soon enough.

Here is the latest Euro model run.

Liquid equivalent

Snow

 

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Monday Morning Update

11/22/21 Monday 8:45 am

Yesterday after my last update there was one more favorable run of the Euro. The last three have shown just slightly lower precipitation amounts. The other models are still struggling with storm track and are inconsistent from run to run.

The models still have 18-24 hours to figure things out before the first flakes/drops start to fall. The Euro has been consistent in moistening up the atmosphere throughout the day tomorrow. Then, by the early evening, light snow should start to fall in the higher elevations with snow above 7,000 in the late evening, possibly dropping to 6,500 feet in the middle of the night.

According to the latest Euro run, snow totals should range from a trace to 5 to 7 inches. If the storm track is accurately depicted in the latest Euro run, Wolf Creek will see the highest totals. This is preliminary information. Tuesday afternoon I will hone in on the details.

Here is the latest run from Euro model.

Liquid equivalent precipitation

Snow

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Two Models Are Making The Most Of The Storm

11/21/21 Sunday 6 am

Yesterday, the wave passing to our north brought some flurries much further south than any of the models indicated, which was a nice surprise.

According to the German and European weather models, we are going to see some precipitation from the SW storm arriving late Tuesday. These two models have been the most consistent lately. The last three runs of the Euro model and the last four runs of the German model have shown a favorable storm track for our forecast area.

Here are the last four runs from the German model.

German liquid latest run

6 hours earlier

12 hours earlier

18 hours earlier

Here are the last two runs of the Euro, cropped for our forecast area.

Latest-liquid precipitation

 

Latest-snow

6 hours earlier-liquid

6 hours earlier-snow

I did say the last three runs of the Euro model were consistent in tracking the storm over our area. The Euro runs four times per day, just like the GFS and German models. However, all models have different run-length times. For example, the GFS runs four times per day 384 hours into the future. The Euro runs four times per day, but it alternates run-length times. The first run is 240 hours, the second is 90 hours, the third is 240 hours and the fourth is 90 hours. The German model alternates between 180 hours and 120 hours.

So the third Euro run was right in the middle of the storm at 5 am Wednesday morning when the model ended at 90 hours. Here is what the model was showing at that time.

I am getting my car washed on Tuesday so we should be in good shape…

I will be updating twice per day through Wednesday, around 9 am and 1 pm. Thanks for following and supporting the site!

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Wednesday’s Storm

11/20/21 Saturday 4:45 am

For today, light snow showers will develop over mostly Ouray county late this afternoon. The showers will spill into portions of San Juan and San Miguel counties. The snow showers will fall throughout the night. Accumulations from dusting to 2 inches may occur at the highest elevations.

The last couple of cycles of model runs are in slightly better agreement regarding timing (only). There are still a variety of solutions on storm track and precipitation amounts.

As is often the case the models are slowing down the onset of precipitation until late Tuesday night or very early Wednesday morning.  The models keep the snow falling on Wednesday and it moves out by Thursday in most areas.

Here is the latest run of the European model. I picked the European model because this latest run is showing a more direct storm track. I am getting more emails from people who are traveling Wednesday or have family traveling to see them on Wednesday. All of the emails have asked about conditions over the 160 passes.  They are most interested in what the worst-case scenario for travel would be i.e. the most snow. The map starts at 8 pm on Tuesday and concludes Thursday at 2 pm.

In this scenario, the snow level quickly drops to around 6,500 feet after midnight.

Here are the snow totals for the forecast area.

Here are the state totals for those concerned with travel.

I mentioned this as a worst-case scenario for those who are worried about the storm affecting travel.  Does that mean that this is the best-case scenario for those of us who want snow? Not so much, this is simply the operational model which is showing the most snow for the 160 passes. Everything could come together at the last minute and we could double these amounts, or we could end up with much less.  Hopefully, we will get a better model consensus over the next couple of days

After Thursday we will likely go into another boring weather pattern until the first (or second) week in December.

My next update will be Sunday morning. Thanks for following and supporting the site!

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Third Look–Thanksgiving Week

11/19/21 Friday 9:30 am

For this weekend, there is a slight chance of light snow or flurries from Silverton to Ouray on Saturday afternoon into the evening. Most of the activity will occur further north out of the forecast area, along and north of I-70.

The models are still trying to decide what to do with disturbances coming in from the Pacific Northwest and the track of a potential cut-off low-pressure system coming in from the southwest. As I have mentioned, these are basically hit or miss. At the moment, the GFS is calling it a miss. But the Euro, Canadian and German models are all calling for a more favorable track.

They are saying that snow and rain will move in front of the low from the southwest on Tuesday afternoon, with snow falling on and off over the next few days. Not much snow but a welcome change before winter sets in.

The GFS tends to move systems too quickly. Lately, the operational model of the GFS has been horrible in all respects. This time of year it can be very destructive and perilous to commodity markets with runs that vary in temperature forecasts by double digits from run to run (every 6 hours). In my last post, I showed how much the precipitation forecast for next week changed over a 12 hour period. For now, I am not going to be relying on the GFS as much until it proves itself.

Here are the precipitation forecasts from the operational models of the Euro, Canadian, and German models. The Euro and Canadian are through Sunday afternoon, the German model’s run ends Friday afternoon (180 hours is its limit).

Euro liquid

 

Euro snow

Canadian liquid

Canadian snow

German liquid (through Friday)

 

My next update will be Saturday morning. Thanks for following and supporting the site!

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