Snow has fallen in parts of Colorado’s mountains for at least the last four weekends in a row.
Some storms have been bigger than others, and many people have noticed the pattern. While it’s not something that will continue long term, there is a reason behind these frequent snow storms.
Around the globe, 24 hours a day, the sun heats the mountains, valleys and oceans of the Earth unevenly. In turn, the Earth’s atmosphere will try to balance itself out. It does this through the weather systems we see moving across the globe.
For example, warm and cool air, along with storm systems, are transported by the jet stream - that is, strong winds that live about 30,000 feet above the Earth’s surface - across the continents. If you were to look at this from the North Pole, those jet stream winds resemble waves. The waves move slowly and help dictate where we could see weather like rain, snow and thunderstorms across the United States.
The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration illustrates this well. These waves are called Rossby Waves. According to their website, “atmospheric Rossby waves form primarily as a result of the Earth's geography. Rossby waves help transfer heat from the tropics toward the poles and cold air toward the tropics in an attempt to return atmosphere to balance. They also help locate the jet stream and mark out the track of surface low-pressure systems. The slow motion of these waves often results in fairly long, persistent weather patterns.”
The current jet stream is carrying storm systems across an active Pacific Ocean into southern California then on to Colorado where we have seen consistent weekend snow in the mountains.
Storm systems will continue to push into our state as long as the jet stream stays this way. But eventually, this will come to an end.
The jet stream will become less intense and it will change position as the earth’s atmosphere continues to find balance. And eventually, we’ll see some storms on a few days other than the weekends.