Mike's Blog Archive: January 2009

After the bitter cold of Tuesday morning, with an 11 below zero reading at DIA, the weather will warm today as temperatures rally back into the upper 30s to mid 40s over the metro area this afternoon. The warmer weather will be due to a strong Chinook wind that will continue to howl across the Continental Divide and roar down through the foothills. High Wind Warnings are in effect for the western suburbs, the foothills and eastern flanks of the Front Range for today. Gusts have been in the 60-75 mph range over these areas, causing blowing snow and difficult driving.

Highways 287 and 285 have been treacherous at times with the wind and snow and both I-80 and I-25 in Wyoming have been closed for portions of the morning due to the strong winds, icy conditions and aero visibility in ground blizzards. Conditions will stay pretty tough throughout the day.

A cold front is pushing into northwestern Colorado and has brought snow back into the northern and central mountains for today and tonight. A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for those areas, with 12-18 inches of snow expected. Check out our FutureCast graphics to get the best idea of where the snow will fall.

This type of cold front will bring strong winds and heavy snow to the mountains, but it will not bring snow to Denver and the surrounding areas. Lower elevations can expect windy weather and partly cloudy skies, with slightly cooler weather for Thursday. Unlike the Arctic cold front that hit Sunday and Monday, this upcoming cold front is of Pacific origin, so the air is not very chilly. In addition, the winds behind this front will blow out of the northwest, a downsloping wind for Denver - so little snow.

Friday and Saturday will turn milder again, followed by another Pacific cold front on Super Bowl Sunday. More snow for the mountains on Sunday, but just cooler weather on the plains, with a flurry at most.

The snowpack in Colorado is in pretty good shape right now, running at nearly 120% of average. Having experienced a wetter than average winter season thus far, ski resorts have welcomed each round of fresh powder. Now the question is: should we keep our snowboards, skis and shovels handy? Or will the available snow quickly diminish...

Klaus Wolter of the University of Colorado CIRES Climate Diagnostics Center remains optimistic for another month of this traditional winter weather. According to Wolter's latest Precipitation Forecast Guidance, La Nina conditions have been observed once again in December 2008 after having subsided earlier in the year. Cooler Pacific sea surface temperatures are an indication of La Nina events, and are forecasted to persist for at least the next couple of months.

The intensification of these conditions has helped to bring above-average moisture and precipitation to the Rockies, says Wolter. Warmer weather is expected to replace the cold temperatures we are currently experiencing in Colorado this Thursday. This trend is expected to continue throughout the next few weeks. Crediting this La Nina event, snow is anticipated to continue to accumulate in the mountains throughout this next month.

While increased snow fall can be considered beneficial by most, Klaus Wolter points out that "spring could turn 'ugly,' if La Nina were to stick around."

Hard to believe that we were enjoying record high temperatures just a few days ago. An Arctic airmass has descended upon the eastern plains of Colorado and will keep us in the deep freeze today. High temperatures will stay in the teens across the plains today, with 2 to 4 inches of dry, fluffy snow expected. Roads will be slick and both of the commutes will be slow due to the one-two punch of chilly air and snow.

In the mountains, the temperatures will be warmer, but the snow will be heavier. Over the weekend, one to two feet of snow accumulated in the high country, with more heavy snow likely today. A rich flow of Pacific moisture is swirling into the mountains and will continue to dump snow over the peaks until early tomorrow. Additional snowfall should be in the 6 to 10 inch range, with over a foot possible over the Rabbit Ears and Park Mountains of northwestern Colorado.

By tomorrow, the storm system will move to the east and the coldest air will also begin to ease its icy grip on the plains. Tuesday will start out very cold over the region, but should moderate throughout the day. On Wednesday, the temperatures will rally into the 40s under partly cloudy skies. Thursday will bring a weak cold front and a slight chance for snow, but Friday and next weekend will be mild, dry and pleasant.

Inauguration Day will be windy and cold in Washington D.C. A chilly north wind will swirl across the East Coast and some light snow or flurries can be expected. The high temperature will be around the freezing mark and the wind will make it feel like single digits at times.

There have been worse weather conditions for Inauguration Day, here are a few highlights. The coldest temperature for a Presidential Oath of Office was 7 degrees in 1985 for Ronald Reagan's second term. It is interesting that the warmest January Inauguration weather was just four years earlier, with 55 degrees for Ronald Reagan's first term!

The snowiest Inauguration Day was one hundred years ago. In 1909, William Howard Taft took the oath with 10 inches of wet, heavy snow snarling traffic - cars, trolleys and horses. Six thousand people and 500 wagons were needed to haul 58,000 tons of slush and snow from the parade route. Many ceremonies were either cancelled or forced indoors. The snow tapered off just as Taft was sworn in as President. The Inauguration ceremony was still performed in March at that time, the event was switched to January in 1937.

The weather was just about as nasty was in 1853, when Franklin Pierce was sworn into office. The day began cold and snowy with heavy snowfall until midday. The sky brightened at Noon, but shortly after Pierce took the oath of office and began his speech, the snow fell hard once again. Outgoing First Lady Abigail Fillmore was sitting out on the exposed platform and caught a cold. The cold eventually developed into pneumonia and she died with a month.

On a similarly raw day in 1841, William Henry Harrison was sworn into office. His acceptance speech lasted an hour and forty minutes and he then rode in the parade without a hat or heavy coat. He also developed pneumonia and died just one month after taking office.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy was sworn in on a snowy and cold day. Eight inches of snow fell during the preceeding night, causing traffic and flight delays. Former President Herbert Hoover had his flight cancelled due to weather and was forced to miss the ceremony. The skies were clearing by afternoon, but temperatures remained very cold - just 22 degrees, with a windchill of 7 degrees. Kennedy walked along the parade route in a heavy coat, but notably without a hat. His lack of the traditional hat, made a huge fashion statement to men all over the nation and marked a major change in for most American men. The wearing hats would not return to men's fashion for many years.

These statistics and trivial facts were put together by the National Weather Service in Washington D.C. If you would like to see more, visit the website at www.erh.noaa.gov/wx/Historic_Events/Inauguration/Inauguration.html

Chilly temperatures and some light fog and flurries covered the eastern half of Colorado this morning. An arctic cold front has poured down from southern Canada into the central and eastern United States. The Centennial State is just on the western shore of this ocean of Arctic air, with the bulk of the bitter air flowing just to our east.

Some early morning temperatures included: 40 below in Bismarck, ND, 28 below in Minneapolis, 15 below in Chicago, 8 below in Kansas City and 2 below in St Louis. Temperatures have tumbled to the freezing mark as far south as Atlanta early today.

In contrast, while the eastern half of the nation is in the grips of record cold, temperatures in Alaska are balmy! Fairbanks was at 29 degrees above zero and even Barrow, on the North Slope was a few degrees above zero. The Arctic airmass broke free from the frozen tundra and shifted east and south a few days ago. Alaskans are enjoying very mild weather at the expense of the now frozen folks in the Midwest and the South.

The cold air will slowly moderate and move farther to the east over the weekend. In its place, a very mild and pleasant weather pattern will develop over much of the nation. In Colorado, we will enjoy warmer weather beginning tomorrow and continuing into the middle of next week. Look for highs in the 50s to near 60 on the plains, with 30s to low 40s in the mountains.

The cold front that raced across the state early Monday brought a quick shot of snow and brought the early morning drive to a slow crawl. The storm intensifyed over the Front Range and dumped 4 to 8 inches of snow over much of the area in just 5-6 hours. The timing was perfect for the storm to create one of the slowest morning drives in a long time.

The weather will be warmer and drier today as the cold air eases off to the east of Colorado. Westerly winds will drop down from the mountains and warm up over the I-25 Corridor. High temperatures should jump back into the upper 40s to mid 50s over the area, making fast work of the remaining snow.

The snow may have been a nuisance Monday morning, but the silver lining in those snow clouds was the badly needed moisture that feel over the area. Even though the melted equivalent was in the .20 to .60 inch range and it marked the most moisture we have seen in many weeks. Given the dangerous wildfires of last week, that moisture is really important.

The next cold front will arrive Wednesday evening. This front should be weaker, but may bring some snow for Wednesday night and early Thursday. By Friday and the weekend, warm and dry weather will re-establish itself over most of the central Rockies.

A fast moving cold front raced into Colorado early today, bringing us back to snow and more typical temperatures for mid January. The timing of the storm caught many commuters off guard, hitting fast in the pre-dawn hours and slicking up the roads in a big hurry.

After a fairly mild weekend, with highs near 50 degrees, today will be be cold and snowy, with highs only in the 30s. The brunt of this front will be felt to our east, with heavy snow in the Upper Mississippi Valley and much colder weather into the Great Lakes. Colorado will be on the western edge of this cold outbreak, so we will get a brief blast of chilly weather, followed by a quick warm up tomorrow.

Snowfall from this front will end up in the two to four inch range on the plains, with the heaviest snows on the south side of Denver. In the mountains, four to eight inches of snow will fall today. As quickly as this storm moved in, it will move out with tomorrow expected to be warmer and drier across the state and Wednesday should be mild as well. Another cold front will arrive Thursday, with another chance for some snow and some slightly colder air.

The main storm track continues to be too far to the northeast of Colorado to put us in line for a lot of cold and snow. Most of the real winter weather has been shifted to the Great Lakes and New England. Many cities in the northeastern U.S. have had 2 to 3 feet of snow already this season, Denver has had only 12 inches to date.

The overall weather pattern is not expected to change much during the next 7 to 10 days. Our mountains will get a few small storms, but little moisture is likely on the plains. The moisture from today's storm is helpful but we could sure use a good, soggy snowstorm - just like with the early morning commute - we will have to be patient!

Warm downsloping winds pushed Denver's temperatures into the low 60s Thursday afternoon. This is the second time the Denver International Airport has topped the 60-degree mark since we started 2009. While it is warm on the plains, winter storms continue to hit the mountains with plenty of snow. Another cold front will arrive in the High Country early Friday morning. A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY will be in effect Friday for the Central and Northern Mountains. Snow totals will be 6 to 12 inches by Friday night with more gusty winds over the peaks.

Once this front reaches the Metro Area, it will bring in much cooler weather. Denver will be back down to the low 40s Friday afternoon. The chance for moisture looks very minimal for the plains. We're only expecting some light rain and a few flurries for eastern Colorado Friday. January has not been a big snow producer for the Front Range, but the winds have been more than enough for most residents in the Metro Area. Fortunately, this next storm won't produce any hurricane-force gusts, but it will still be breezy with winds near 35 miles per hour Friday along the Front Range Foothills.

Looking ahead to the weekend, the pattern will stay mild and dry for most of the state. Denver will be sunny with highs in the mid 40s Saturday and near 50 Sunday afternoon. It will be a great weekend to hit the slopes! The mountains will be partly cloudy Saturday with highs near 30. Sunday will be mostly cloudy with just a slight chance for snow.

The long range forecast still appears quiet for the Front Range into next week. We are keeping a close watch though on some very cold air over Alaska and northern Canada. Temperatures across the Arctic are staying around -45 to -50 degrees. The current storm track will keep that cold air moving toward the Great Lakes, but if the jetstream shifts to the south, we could be in for a bitter cold outbreak by the middle of the month.

Another strong surge of jetstream winds is heading for Colorado, with hurricane force gusts possible Tuesday night and Wednesday morning along the Front Range. A gathering storm will spread moderate to heavy snow over the northern and central mountains - up to 20 inches near Steamboat by Wednesday evening. Lower elevations will miss the snow, but not the wind as strong winds of 50-75 mph will be possible over portions of Larimer, Boulder, Clear Creek, Gilpin and Jefferson Counties.

The strong winds will also bring much warmer temperatures to eastern Colorado. Highs will be in the 40s Tuesday, 50s Wednesday and low 60s on Thursday. By Friday, a cold front will sweep across the area and bring colde weather and a touch of snow. The weekend will be mild and dry once again as the fast paced weather pattern continues over Colorado.

With the start to 2009, we thought it would be a good time to pass along some updated information regarding the long-range temperature and precipitation forecasts from expert Klaus Wolter at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

After a mostly dry fall, December has brought above-normal moisture to the mountains of the interior southwestern U.S., raising Colorado's statewide snowpack average to exactly 100% of normal as of December 19. This active storm-track is predicted to retreat towards the north and west for the first part of January. However, arctic air will remain entrenched over southern Canada, and may stage a comeback at a moment's notice. Most of the snow received on the Northeast Plains has been of the light and fluffy variety, with little moisture content. The majority of our snowfall has occurred with arctic air mass invasions, and very cold air. Cold air holds less moisture, therefore the snows in Denver have been mostly dry.

Wolter's experimental forecast for the late winter season, (January-March 2009), keeps Arizona and Northeastern Colorado dry, while leaving the door open for a 'normal' to wet winter from northern Utah through western Colorado into northeastern New Mexico. The bottom-line is that Wolter's dry fall forecast appears to have become a reality for much of the Interior Southwest. The overall conditions of the El Niño Southern Oscillation has drifted more towards La Niña, which is consistent with the generally dry conditions. The winter season forecast is not as uniformly dry, leaving the possibility of at least adequate moisture for the mountains of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. So what does this mean for Denver and Northeast Colorado? Following Wolter's predictions, the Climate Prediction Center says the period of January through March to have near-average temperatures and precipitation. The El Niño Southern Oscillation is constantly monitored by NOAA, so further updates will be coming in a few weeks. Here is the direct link to Klaus Wolter's page on the Climate Prediction Center Website:


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