DENVER — Thursday, the sun popped out over Denver the day after a snowstorm. That's something we have not seen happen much this year.
Even with the temperature in the low 30s and upper 20s, the direct sunlight was able to kickstart the melting of roughly 3 to 7 inches of snow that fell Tuesday night through the day on Wednesday.
And there are four more days of sun ahead. A mountain wave cloud could develop on Saturday, keeping the sunshine down a bit, but the temperatures will still climb into the 50s.
That means this new Denver snow will melt rapidly compared to previous snows this winter, which were followed by cold and clouds.
At Denver’s official weather station, it took 17 days for the snow to melt after the storm on Dec. 28. And it took 18 days to melt after the Jan. 17 storm. It’s the first time in 31 years there’s been two streaks with snow on the ground for that long in the same winter.
Of course, the monster 2006-07 streak went on for 100 days, so there wasn't really enough time to start a second streak.
There was a little less snow with this February storm, so that will also mean a faster melt, but the type of snow that fell will also play a big role.
It was a very dry snow, and with less water to melt or evaporate, there will be less heat energy required to get the job done.
Dry snow also stacks up on the ground differently because it usually has well-shaped dendrites, which are the six branches that stick out of the center of the snowflake.
That creates lots of airspace between the flakes, which leads to good ventilation. Some of the cold air can get pushed out, while warmer air is allowed to penetrate the snowpack.
A wet snow might not have the big dendrites, and it’s also heavier and compresses into a denser snowpack, which takes much longer to melt.
Most of this new snow in Denver will be gone by the end of the day on Sunday, but Monday and possibly most of the day on Tuesday could also have a lot of direct sunlight.
As for that stingy snow that’s been lurking in the shadows since December – that dense snowpack could still be here when spring rolls around in mid-March.
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