The fire hose is about to be turned on!

The atmospheric river is flowing our way

The atmospheric river is flowing our way

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Friday – 10 Mar 2023 – 2:45pm

The past…

At Stevens Field so far this afternoon has been 42. The low this morning was 20. Winds so far today at the airfield have peaked at 8mph.

Average HighRecord High / YearAverage LowRecord Low / Year
4869 / 198914-2 / 1958

Precipitation summary… Light snow started falling this morning in the mountains.  As I type at 2pm, snow is picking up quickly in the Turkey Springs area. Precip will increase through the afternoon.

Forecast discussion…

Water vapor satellite this afternoon – Moisture is increasing quickly across the region. The “fire hose” has already been turned on for the central Colorado mountains and is about to open up for us.
Water vapor satellite this afternoon – Moisture is increasing quickly across the region. The “fire hose” has already been turned on for the central Colorado mountains and is about to open up for us.
Radar this afternoon – Cortez and Farmington are reporting rain and snow is picking up north of Pagosa – it’s not on the radar, but it’s moving this way.
Radar this afternoon – Cortez and Farmington are reporting rain and snow is picking up north of Pagosa – it’s not on the radar, but it’s moving this way.

Rest of today through Sunday… We are going to catch a piece of an “atmospheric river” event. A deep subtropical moisture plume will move west to east across the region.

When a system is moving our way, one of the first questions we ask is “what’s the source region?”. In this case the source region is the central Pacific which is relatively warm and very moist.

Forecasting the amount of warm air and the snow levels is very challenging with this system.

Light snow started falling Friday morning in the mountains. Precip is ramping up across the region this afternoon. It will start as snow for much of the valley and then gradually transition to rain during the late afternoon and early evening. The best chance for precip is late Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon. A stray thunderstorm or two is also possible Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  Showers will be more hit and miss Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon.

Temps… High temps the rest of today will be mid-30s to low 40s. Saturday and Sunday highs will be in the low to high 40s. Friday and Saturday lows will be in the high 20s to mid-30s. Lows Sunday will be in the low 20s to low 30s.

Winds… Winds Friday and Sunday afternoons will peak in the 15-20mph range. Winds Saturday will peak in the 20-30mph range.

Snow levels…

Snow levels will rise to 8,000ft by Friday evening and will then bounce around between 8,000ft and 8,600ft Friday evening to Saturday evening. Then they’ll gradually lower to around 7,000ft by Sunday morning. As snow levels lower Saturday night, moisture will decrease, and showers will be more hit and miss.

Precip amounts…

Valley below 8,000ft: 0.40” to 0.70” rain with up to 1” of slushy snow

Valley above 8,000ft: 0.60” to 1.00” rain and 2-4” of slushy snow

Note: Folks around 8,500ft and higher are right on the cusp of this being mostly a snow event. If the warm air does not move in as I expect, you’ll get 4-8” of snow.

Mountains above 9,000ft: 18-28”

*** A half inch of rain and temps above freezing will melt snow in the valley and could lead to minor flooding in low-lying areas. It’s going to be a sloppy mess! ***

*** The Grand Junction NWS has issued a WINTER STORM WARNING for the southwest San Juan Mountains for elevations above 8,000ft. 10-20” of snow with up to 30” is possible along with winds to 60mph valid until 6am Sunday. *** I expect less snow here in the valley above 8,000ft.

*** The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an AVALANCHE WARNING valid Friday at 4:30pm to 7am on Sunday. Large and dangerous avalanches will occur naturally and will also be very easy to trigger. ***

The NWS snowfall forecast to 6am Monday indicates a trace to 2” for Pagosa Springs and up to 36” for the high peaks of the south San Juans.
The NWS snowfall forecast to 6am Monday indicates a trace to 2” for Pagosa Springs and up to 36” for the high peaks of the south San Juans.
NWS 72-hour precip shows 0.70” in town, 1” closer to the mountains, and up to 2.3” for Wolf Creek, and a 3.3” bullseye over the high peaks of the south San Juans.
NWS 72-hour precip shows 0.70” in town, 1” closer to the mountains, and up to 2.3” for Wolf Creek, and a 3.3” bullseye over the high peaks of the south San Juans.
NWS 72-hour snowfall shows less than 1” in town, 2-3” closer to the mountains above 8,000ft, and up to 25” for Wolf Creek, and a 42” bullseye over the high peaks of the south San Juans!
NWS 72-hour snowfall shows less than 1” in town, 2-3” closer to the mountains above 8,000ft, and up to 25” for Wolf Creek, and a 42” bullseye over the high peaks of the south San Juans!

Monday through Tuesday evening… Transient ridging will dry us out a bit but spotty showers are possible, mostly over the mountains. The lucky spots in the mountains could see another 2-4” of snow and lucky spots in the valley could get up to an inch.

Temps… Highs will be in the mid-40s to low 50s. Lows Monday will be in the high teens to high 20s and on Tuesday they’ll be in the mid-20s to mid-30s.

Winds… Afternoon winds will peak around 15mph.

Wednesday through Thursday night… Another system is taking shape. The forecast models are fluctuating on timing, precip amounts, and snow levels so forecast confidence in the details is low at this time.  I’ll do a “first guess” on the details in tomorrow’s post.

Euro forecast model 500mb vorticity on the left and 48-hour precip on the right for next Thursday morning – 500mb is roughly 18,000ft and a is good level to track the overall pattern.  Vorticity is the spinning of air and can indicate clouds and precip. A low pressure system is expected to track nearly over our heads next Thursday and should have decent moisture and storm energy. Just like the current system, the big question is the amount of warm air. Right now it looks promising for another good round of mountain snow and another round of sloppy mess in the valley.
Euro forecast model 500mb vorticity on the left and 48-hour precip on the right for next Thursday morning – 500mb is roughly 18,000ft and a is good level to track the overall pattern.  Vorticity is the spinning of air and can indicate clouds and precip. A low pressure system is expected to track nearly over our heads next Thursday and should have decent moisture and storm energy. Just like the current system, the big question is the amount of warm air. Right now it looks promising for another good round of mountain snow and another round of sloppy mess in the valley.

My next post will be tomorrow.

– Shawn

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I’ve been a “weather geek” since I was young child. I joined the military out of high school and was lucky to get my dream job in weather. I have 20 years of military weather experience which includes forecasting the weather all over the world. Highlights were six years in Alaska and making life and death weather decisions during deployments. I love mountains, I love snow, and I love summertime thunderstorms. I spend a bunch of time playing outdoors and found my paradise in Pagosa Springs. I do Pagosa Weather as a community service. Hopefully you find us helpful!
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