The Pineapple Express

Editor’s Note: This is a weekly column written by Meteorologist Joel Gratz that will take you “behind the scenes” of the typical weather forecast. Joel is the founder of ColoradoPowderForecast.com, where you can sign up for his email alerts.

Boulder, CO - The two main ingredients for snow are moisture and a mechanism to lift the air, where the latter effectively “wrings out” the moisture in the form of snow. While mountains that are near an ocean rarely have a problem finding adequate moisture, the same can’t be said for those land-locked areas of the Intermountain West including Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. Individual storms can often bring enough moisture with them as they come off the Pacific Ocean to create plenty of snow for these inland areas, but moisture is still often a limiting factor.

I am happy to report that come this weekend and early next week, moisture will no longer be a limiting factor. With a large and somewhat stationary storm spinning off the coast of Oregon and Washington, a pipeline of moisture originating from Hawaii will be spun right into the central and northern areas of the western U.S. This pipeline of moisture is often called the “Pineapple Express” when it starts around Hawaii.

Like Mel Brooks said in the movie “Spaceballs”, “There are two sides to every Schwartz.” The upside in this case is the amount of moisture hitting the mountains will create huge amounts of snow for high-elevation locations that are directly in the path of the Pineapple Express. The downside is that this feed of moisture also brings in air that is quite warm, so some lower-elevation areas may see liquid precipitation instead of snow, and high-elevation areas that see snow will experience the heavier, denser variety.

But I’m not going to waste time complaining about a few degrees of temperature this way or that way. The point is that a ton of moisture will hit the western states from Friday through at least Monday, and some snowfall totals will be truly massive. Enjoy!


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Joel first fell in love with weather and skiing at age four, and this passion for snow has not faded with age. After earning his Meteorology degree from Penn State in 2003 and a Masters from the University of Colorado in 2006, Joel started Colorado Powder Forecast out of Boulder, Colo., to help fellow snow lovers with accurate and entertaining weather forecasts. 

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