Storm Will Impact Travel Over Passes Monday

Light snow will once again break out late today with heavier snow rates expected early Monday morning winding down by afternoon.  Snow Liquid Ratios (SLRs) will vary by elevation ranging from 20 to 1 above 9,000′ to 15-1 in downtown Durango. As has been the story, those ratios can pile up snow pretty quickly.

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A couple of Bullseyes again, the most obvious is Wolf Creek where 8-16″ could accumulate by late Monday.  All of the passes on 550 could get  6-12″+.  North La Plata Canyon (Mayday) area will do well with 6-12″.  4-8″ for Purgatory, 3-6″ for mid-elevation areas and Telluride. 2-5″ for Mancos and Dolores, 1-3″ for Durango, Bayfield a trace to 2 inches for other low elevation areas.

The rest of the week will be quiet until a large storm hits the west coast on Thursday. Models have not come into complete agreement yet, but the GFS, the German Icon model and the Canadian model are showing a very big storm and a heavy snow event Thursday night until Saturday morning.

The Euro is just starting to see the potential for this storm.

Here are the Euro’s totals for Thursday-Saturday. This is the most recent run from this morning and it is showing double what it was on last night’s run.


Of the three other models I mentioned earlier (Icon, Canadian and GFS) the GFS shows the lowest totals. Here it is.


I am not going to show the other two because they are likely overdone, in fact, the Canadian shows 2 to 5 FEET in some areas. That would great, however, The Canadian has a long history of overdoing snow totals. Next Update Monday.

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Another Light Snow Event

Light snow will fall tonight, chances are if you got snow the other night you will get snow again. Purgatory and Telluride should see 2-4″, Wolf Creek as well. Low elevations will see a dusting at best with 0-2″ for mid-elevations. There is a bullseye in there approximately near Red Mountain pass, if that verifies they could 8-12″ could fall there. We’ll see.

Here are the liquid accumulations between tonight and late morning Sunday, the snow equivalent should 16-18 to 1 so it will be able to make the most out of every drop.

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I am giving the models another 24 hours on the Sunday night-Monday morning storm, it looks a little better than what we have seen lately. I will discuss that and the rest of next week in more detail Sunday morning. If you have travel plans around the 16th & 17th next week (Thursday-Friday) you will want to read my updates this week!

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More Of The Same

Yesterday’s NAM model was a little too generous with the snow in some locations and pretty good in other locations with Purg getting 4″ and T’ride getting 6″-Wolf Creek got jipped with an angry inch.

As the headline reads, more of the same is on the way. Light snow will start again late on Saturday and end Sunday, then another wave looks like it is coming in very very early Monday morning which will probably actually arrive a little later, and could bring a little more snow than we have seen lately.

Looking at the MJO you can see there are significant differences in the long term.

Here is what the GFS has gone to, the US CFS model agrees.


While the Euro has not changed, it is still tanking from 6 to the null phase, the Canadian agrees.


In short, this means we have slight agreement through the 15th and major disagreements after the 15th. The implications of either direction will not have huge negative or positive effects on our area, but it sure does affect long term forecasting.

So to recap, more very light snow late Saturday/early Sunday, then a better chance for slightly heavier snow early Monday and another similar wave late Tuesday early Wednesday. The models diverge after that with some models trying to sniff out a significant storm for next weekend. A big storm would be nice, but sometimes it is also nice to get more frequent storms producing sub-advisory totals, either way, we’ll take it!

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Snow Today and Tomorrow

Light snow should break out this afternoon and become more widespread by tonight.  Totals by Friday afternoon should range from a trace to as much as 5 inches. There is a chance depending on how this storm departs that Ouray to Red Mountain could get a bit more before it finally leaves the area late Friday.

The heaviest snow should fall in La Plata Canyon near Mayday and Wolf Creek. Purgatory Telluride and local mid-elevation areas should see 1-4 inches, lower elevations could get a trace to 2 inches. Better than nothing right?

Here are the totals from the most recent Hi-Res North American Model

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This map is based on a 10-1 ratio, actual totals should be a little higher with snow liquid ratios (SLRs) jumping to between 13-17 to 1, so a few higher totals would not surprise me anywhere they fell.

This is the first in a series of waves that will be coming through. Light snow should break out again late Saturday night and Sunday morning, then a stronger wave should come through Monday morning, I have my eye on it for possibly higher totals. Next update Friday.

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One Storm At A Time

The models have agreed more on the fact that the small storm will mostly miss us, a piece to the north a piece to the south. Very light snow will be possible Thursday afternoon and evening and move out on Friday. The most snow will fall in and around Telluride but it should only accumulate 3-6 inches with a chance of slightly higher totals around Red Mountain. 0-3  inches will fall in other areas. Not very exciting, I know, but another system that has the potential to have a better storm track may track through Sunday night and Monday but at the moment there is still no consensus among the models.

The ridge in the west is and has been routing storms to our north over the ridge then into the plains states. That is still the case but from time to time a piece can slip under the ridge. The GFS and Euro have been arguing about how long it will take to break down that ridge and direct storms into a more favorable track for SW Colorado. To me, it appears that it will happen between January 13th-20th which is a few days to a week longer than what I expected last week. Ridges don’t last forever so be patient it will happen.

I could list all of the potential storms and when they will hit, but the models are changing frequently and it is best if we just concentrate on one at a time. The GFS, in fact, has been going crazy with snow between the 15th and 23rd. The Euro operational run only goes to the 18th but shows a noticeable uptick in snow between the 14th and 18th so we will see.

Next Update Thursday around noon.

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Better Model Agreement Short Term Then Model Mayhem Long Term

The models are in a little better agreement for what to expect over the next 90 hours, they are beginning to converge on another light snow solution for Saturday and Sunday. Coincidentally, the MJO forecast is similar (in phase 5) until the 13th which is Monday. After that, the models diverge with the Canadian and GFS going into a moderate phase 6 for 4-5 days then slowly drift down to a low amplitude phase 6 by the 20th. The Euro and the NOAA CFS model agree that that the MJO will go into a very low amplitude phase 6, then into a null phase by the 20th. A null phase means the weather is less likely to be affected by the MJO.

Since I talked about the MJO again here are the current forecasts. I have indicated the amplitude with a red line on the left sides and bottom of the phase diagrams.

GFS                                                                              Euro


The GFS is going into a moderate to high phase 5, the Euro is going into a moderate phase 5.

Here is what climatology look like for phase 5 and 6.

Temp anomaly                                                      Precip anomaly


You know the drill on these–yellow and orange are above normal temps, blues are below normal temps. The darker the shade the higher the anomaly. Greens are above-normal precip browns are below normal precip. The higher the amplitude the phase is in, the more pronounced the effect of the anomaly.

Back to Thursday and Friday, as I cautioned yesterday, even if everything came together perfectly it would not generate a lot of snow. Right now the Euro is still favoring a deeper track and the GFS is favoring a faster more northerly track.

Here are the projected totals through Friday.





That is the best info we have to work with at this time, we have another 48 hours+ to track this. Next update Wednesday morning.

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The Models Agree To Disagree

The Euro is trying to bring a couple of light snow events late Thursday and Friday as well as late Saturday and Sunday to our area. The GFS is keeping the activity to our north and moving energy quickly to the plains.

As I have said many times before, the Euro and GFS both have a bias that is nearly the opposite of each other. The Euro tends to dig storms deeper into the west and the GFS tries to hurry storms across the US without giving them a chance to deepen in the west.

In the morning operational runs of the GFS and Euro that is clearly happening. This is not unusual but what is unusual is they are in near-complete agreement with the trough position as shown in the upper air heights parameters of both models. That usually means model error.

Here is where the GFS sticks the western trough for Thursday night at 11 pm.


Here is the trough position with the Euro


The trough position is very similar, the difference is about 100 miles further east with the GFS.

Given the similarity, the storm track should be close.

Here are the forecasted conditions by the Euro for Thursday night at 11 pm.


You can see above that the Euro has the heart of the storm from Central Arizona to NW New Mexico.

Here is the GFS storm track for the same time.


What happened here? The GFS never digs the trough in deep enough into the west to tap into some pacific moisture.

Hopefully, over the next 48 hours, the models will come together. The Euro makes more sense given the trough position shown on both the GFS and Euro. If the Euro is showing its bias of being too deep with the storm track, even better because that would move the track further north out of New Mexico and across SW Colorado.

Even if we end up with a perfect storm track, there is not a lot of moisture and there is fairly limited upside with the totals being between 3-8 inches, again, that is not what the models show yet, but if things shift a little north and everything is perfect, that is probably the maximum upside unless a few other things change.

Looking out at next week here are the average temperature anomalies for days 5-10 Saturday 1/11- Wednesday 1/15.


This is showing daily temps between 7-13 degrees below average, this was the Euro, the GFS is similar but not quite as cold.

With the models disagreeing among themselves,  and the GFS out of phase with itself, it is not a great idea to look too much further into the future. I like what the Euro is doing, let’s hope it starts moving the track north for Thursday/Friday. Next update Tuesday.

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Boring Weather Continues Before The Pattern Change

I had something come up yesterday which kept me away from the computer right when I was supposed to be writing an update, it was pretty late and I figured I’d wait through the model cycle to get some fresh info.

The storm track is clearly north of us, a disturbance to our north will brush by the northern 1/3 of the state Sunday-Tuesday and will spread light snow across those areas. On Wednesday or Thursday, it looks like a system or two are going to either pull down the western ridge or sneak in underneath it, this could lead to one or two chances of snow next weekend, the way the models have been behaving lately it may take longer.

You may have noticed that I have not talked a lot about the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) this year. If you want a nerdy explanation of the MJO click there.

If not, here is a good definition of the MJO, “The Madden-Julian Oscillation is a tropical disturbance that moves clouds, winds, precipitation, and pressure changes eastward around the global tropics about every 30-60 days.  Typically,  in the Northern Hemisphere the late fall, winter, and early spring have the greatest level of MJO activity.”

The MJO has been affected by the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) this Fall and Winter because the IOD has been in a positive phase. Much of the weather around our planet is affected by the Oceans and tropical activity. This positive IOD is responsible for the Australian drought and fires. The IOD is an area extending north of Australia (the Maritime Continent) over to Africa. Some of the warmest waters in the world are found here. The wind here typically blows from west to east in this region, when the wind changes direction and blows from east to west the IOD is said to be in a positive phase. The warmer waters have been blown into the Arabian Sea leaving colder waters and suppressing convection (storms) over the area. This has led to drought conditions in the area.

The good news is there are signs that the IOD is weakening which could bring relief to those areas before the end of January. What does this have to do with us?  Sea Surface Temperatures in the tropics have a huge impact on our weather patterns, weather models take into consideration factors such as the MJO phases and IOD phases when they deliver forecast probabilities. With the positive IOD suppressing MJO impacts the models have struggled this year. When the positive IOD fades the MJO becomes more relevant and helps forecasters with longer range forecasts.

I seem to have gone off on a tangent there, but it is important to know that with weather nearly everything that happens somewhere else has some type of impact on our weather.

So the next five days should be quiet for most of us, then we look to the next week to ten days to start seeing some snow again which is being picked up in the long-range ensemble models.

Here is the Euro showing most of the snow in Colorado falling after the 11th.


Here is the GFS ensemble run (GEFS)


Here is the Canadian ensemble run


Even though a 15-day model forecast can be sometimes unreliable, you look for similarities in the models, these 3 model runs are pretty similar.

Speaking of similar runs check out the MJO forecasts for the same 3 models.

Phase 5 is not a bad place to be this time of year,  interesting that the Euro shows us entering phase 5 in 6 days


The GFS shows us entering phase 5 in 6 days.gefsmjo.JPG

And the Canadian shows us entering phase 5 in 6 days even though this was an older forecast, it is the most recent I could find and it correlates well.


So while this boring weather continues I will continue to look ahead and see what awaits us. To recap, light snow in the Northern and parts of the Central Mountains late Sunday-Tuesday. Nothing in our area (at the moment) for at least five days, then snow should return to the area.

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January First Look

Last year we had very little snow in December until New Year’s Eve then we had a big storm which wrapped up on January 2nd. Things were quiet until January 7-8th when we had a decent storm. Then things were quiet again until January 13th when we had another storm and the storm train rolled through on January 14th, 16th, 18th, and 19th then no snow until February 6th.

I point this out because I already have people giving up on this Winter, and last year there were people concerned that we were done after the New Year’s storm.

Here we are on January 2nd again, and it looks mostly dry for 7-9 days (again) before the pattern flips back to one that favors storm development in the West.

Here is what the pattern looks like overall between now and next Thursday.


The blue areas are the best areas for troughs to develop, the yellow areas are where zonal flow and ridging will take place with a low chance of storm development. This is the Euro Ensemble of 51 model members but the Canadian and GFS ensembles look the same.

Here are what the next 8-9 days after the 7th/8th look like.

Euro Ensembles


GFS Ensembles


Interesting that this falls during the same 10 day period as last year January 8th-18th. Now I can’t tell you this far out how much snow or how many storms will track through our area, but I can say that all of the Ensemble models are agreeing on a good chance for a flip to a stormy pattern beginning in 7 to 10 days. So as you get through the weekend and next week don’t worry, enjoy the slightly warmer temperatures, Winter is far from over.

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