As January snowstorms go, the one this past Sunday ranked as one of the largest I have measured in the 8 Januarys that we have lived in Nederland, Colorado. My storm total was 8.4 inches with 0.52 inches of liquid equivalent (that is the amount of rainfall we would have received if this storm had produced rain instead of snow). That may seem hard to believe, but on average, January is one of our driest winter months here in the Colorado Front Range with an average snowfall of only 13.7 inches with a liquid equivalent of 0.64 inches. According to my records, only two January storms were bigger:
- January 4-5, 2017 when 18.1 inches of snow fell
- January 4-5, 2014 when 9.1 inches of snow fell
The January 2017 storm was exceptionally large. Otherwise, a large snowfall in January is generally 7-9 inches. For the season, we are now at 48 inches. By the end of January we are normally at 54 inches meaning that we are not that far behind where we are supposed to be for this time of year.
January is normally dry because, from a climatological point of view, the western United States is often under a ridge of high pressure while the East is under a colder trough of low pressure. This means that the storm track is often to the north of Colorado. On top of that, as cold air masses dive into the central and eastern portions of the country effectively eliminate the Gulf of Mexico as a source of moisture for Front Range storms, meaning that these storms are often moisture starved.
Looking at the latest Colorado snow pack report from the NRCS, you can see that the the South Platte River Basin, the one in which Nederland and the surrounding foothills communities are located is at 88 percent of normal snowpack. This is slightly below normal, but not nearly as bad as southwestern Colorado, and our wet and snowy time of year, the late winter and early spring months have still yet to come.