Session 16.4 A Mesoscale Heavy Snow Event Over the Grand Mesa of Western Colorado

Friday, 1 September 2006: 11:15 AM
Ballroom South (La Fonda on the Plaza)
Paul Frisbie, NOAA/NWSFO, Grand Junction, CO; and T. Lindquist and M. Meyers

Presentation PDF (585.5 kB)

On 16 January 2006, 2 to 3 feet of snow fell over the Grand Mesa (the world's largest flat top mountain) in western Colorado during a 24 hour period. What made this event unique was that it was the only mountain area in western Colorado that received heavy snow during this time period. What's even more remarkable, the highest part of the Grand Mesa sits at a relatively low elevation compared to other mountain ranges in western Colorado. Why did the Grand Mesa receive heavy snow while other higher mountain areas received less than 1 foot?

This presentation will examine the synoptic scale and mesoscale pattern that contributed to the mountain snowfall, or the lack thereof. From an operational point of view, none of the model data indicated any obvious threat of heavy snow for any area in western Colorado. The air mass was conditionally unstable but with limited moisture. In this study, we will investigate the role of the release of potential instability on the mesoscale snowfall variability in this storm. Other precursor environmental conditions which were critical to this event will be detailed. Finally, from an operational point of view, some lessons learned from this unique heavy snow event will be addressed.

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