Meteorologist Explains the Atmospheric River that Dumped 55″ in 48-Hours Near Steamboat, CO

WeatherBrains | | BrainsBrains
atmospheric river, colorado,
Credit: Chris Tomer

A super interesting Facebook post by meteorologist Chris Tomer explaining why Rabbit Ears pass (near Steamboat, CO) go SO MUCH snow last week, 55″ in 48 hours! Every day’s a school day, right?!

I’ve been asked why the Thursday-Friday event was so powerful. 55″ in 48 hours on Rabbit Ears and Buffalo Pass. Let’s talk meteorology. Take a look at the graphic below I put together. There are a few reasons.

First, the moisture flow was rich. We call it an atmospheric river pattern and you can trace it all the way back to Hawaii. It’s like a fire hose was pointed at Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

Second, a powerful jet stream to transport the moisture and then focus it.

Third, the jet was focused in a Northwest Flow pattern. This optimizes orographic lift in Colorado’s Central and Northern Mountains.

I was also asked why a small % of the snowfall was heavier/wetter at times. This is a hallmark of the atmospheric river. We saw this occur in March 2019 as well.

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