Forecasting the weather in Colorado is hard work, and forecasting winter weather in Colorado is even harder work. But it's work that must be done, because Coloradans are outdoorsy people who need to know where to go backcountry skiing, when to head up Interstate 70 to a mountain resort, and even whether there will be enough snow to build a snowman in the backyard.
You don't need a weatherman — at least, not one on mainstream media — to tell you which way the wind is blowing, either. Weather watching has become so advanced in the digital and satellite age that you can find forecasts all over the web that rely on information from trained meteorologists and others.
Whether you’re a weather weenie or an expert who likes to have the most up-to-date information, these ten forecast tools will help make you a snow-it-all this winter:
Start with the basics: Weather.gov is where to go when you’re looking for a winter (or any season, really) forecast. This easy-to-use website is updated multiple times a day by forecasters in your area. There are 122 National Weather Service offices around the country (including Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands); simply plug in your zip code, and your forecast will be displayed right in front of you.
1-3 Day Snowfall Probability Forecast
This National Weather Service tool is great if you like probabilities. Broken down into six-hour spans, it lets you know the chance of seeing snow accumulate at increments of 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 inches or more, which is handy when you’re planning a quick ski trip and want to determine which mountain will have the best snow.
Winter Weather Severity Index
If there's a question about how a storm will impact your area, this new tool from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has the answer. The Winter Weather Severity Index ranks a winter storm on its severity and potential impacts on a scale ranging from limited to extreme. It's used by local emergency officials to make informed decisions on travel impacts and outdoor activities, and gives amateurs an idea of how heavy the snow will be, as well as whether there will be winds further affecting the area.
Snow Accumulation Potential
As winter weather bears down on your location, this NOAA tool helps you estimate the amount of snow you might see, breaking down the chances of 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 inches or more of snow, and giving you an idea of the potential for boom (more snowfall than forecast) and bust (less snowfall than forecast). It's a great tool to use within 12 to 36 hours of snow starting.
Hourly Weather Graphs
When the storm is coming and you need to know when snow is going to start, another NOAA tool is your go-to. It's updated several times a day by forecasters local to your area, and gives hourly forecasts on not just snow, but rain, wind, temperatures and dewpoints (plus a lot more).
Snow Squall Warnings
This brand-new alert program from NOAA can come in very handy. If your phone just buzzed with a “SNOW SQUALL WARNING” message, that means that a very intense line of snow (much like a strong line of summer thunderstorms) is in your area, and conditions are about to deteriorate rapidly.
Calling all ski bums! This National Weather Service tool helps you find where snow just fell. Snowfall analysis is done in 24-, 48- and 72-hour increments, and there's also a super-handy seasonal snowfall product that shows how much snow has fallen through the season.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center
Colorado Avalanche Information Center tools should be used daily during the winter months — and this particular forecast lets you know where avalanches will occur. CAIC forecasters use all of the aforementioned tools (and then some) to track and measure snowpack conditions in your favorite backcountry areas.
Now get out there — it's snowing in Colorado!
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