Warm and Windy Thursday Gives Way to Chilly and Wet Friday

For the third Friday in a row we're set to see chilly and wet weather move into eastern Colorado, bringing with it some much needed relief after a windy and warm week meant high fire danger across the state. A Red Flag Warning is once again in effect for much of Colorado ahead of this system, and is set to expire around 8pm this evening.

Little change to our update yesterday, the incoming system won't be anything epic by April standards, but a nice round of rain and snow for many areas that desperately need it. Please plan for winter travel conditions in the high country tonight through Saturday morning, with rain mixing with snow at a times (especially Friday night) across the plains.

Not overly impressed with the amount of cold air associated with this system, with the EURO model continuing to show the most support for snow at lower elevations vs the GFS and NAM that are warmer through the column. Will lean EURO a little in this case, as the GFS is great at under-doing cooling, but given the time of year and warm surfaces... expect the EURO is a bit overdone at lower elevations, especially when considering the melting that is likely to occur.

With that said, the greatest impacts from snow with this event should remain tucked up into the foothills and western Palmer Divide, with the snow that does fall at lower elevations mostly accumulating on grassy surfaces, trees, and cars.

The EURO mean precipitation forecast still looks quite nice, while other models (hello NAM) continue to try and dry slot many communities along the Front Range. We should be able to manage enough of an upslope flow for long enough to avoid a complete precipitation bust... but the random goose eggs being thrown around by some of the models is of course disconcerting.

Here's the mean EURO precipitation forecast, with 0.5 - 0.7" liquid across the Front Range:

Compared to the latest 3km NAM, which, well... is not all that great looking for the greater Denver area:

We think most areas see some moisture, and with that will try and ignore the QPF forecasts from some of the more dire models. Totals should range from 0.2" to 0.3" on the low end in most areas, with 0.8" to 1.0" where heavier showers set up. In either case I won't complain, unless my gauge ends up with something south of 0.2".

Part of me feels like our snowfall forecast (below) is perhaps a bit too bullish, but if we couch this with there will be a lot of melting, especially below 5,500 feet or so, I think we'll do okay. Low-end totals of 0 - Trace for the Denver metro area should cover a warmer-solution, with a colder solution resulting in some a couple inches of snow Friday night mainly on raised surfaces. For Denver we're doing 0 - 3" north, and Trace to 4" south, with Colorado Springs in the 0 - 3" range, with a Trace to 4" on the north/northwest side. Foothill communities and the western Palmer Divide should manage some heavier snowfall:

Timing and impacts
As for timing... should stay mostly dry tonight, but shower activity will increase through the day Friday, with Denver's best chance for rain and rain changing to snow coming Friday PM through Saturday morning.

Temperatures will be in the 50s Friday, and cool into the low to mid 30s Friday night. Changeover is not likely to occur in Denver until Friday evening, but higher elevations surrounding the city could see some snow earlier in the day Friday.

Saturday looks damp as well, especially in the morning, but conditions should gradually improve through the day. Lows Saturday night will drop into the 30s with just scattered showers remaining, before temperatures rebound into the 60s for Sunday.

Brendan Heberton

Brendan is founder of Weather5280. He is co-founder of FreshyMap, and develops software for geospatial data analysis and visualization.

Denver, Colorado
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