Cold Smoke

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, where you can sign up for his email alerts.

Boulder, CO – Stereotypes exist for all the states in the U.S., and I’m talking about snow in addition to culture. The West Coast states often have the reputation of receiving heavy, wet, dense snow while the Rocky Mountain states often receive drier, lighter snow.nThe storm days last week were an exception to this rule along the coast as a chunk of rather cold air broke off from the mother lode of cold air in Canada and headed southwest. The image below shows the colder air in blue and pink colors, and I highlighted the states of Washington, Oregon, and California to show how this cold air was perfectly positioned to deliver cold and fluffy snow to those states.

Click image to enlarge

While snow-to-water ratios along the West Coast can often run about 8:1 (eight inches of snow for every inch of water), for this storm they were closer to 15:1. For example, the Stevens Pass SNOTEL site in Washington recorded about 24 inches of new snow with 1.8 inches of liquid water, which gives a ratio of 13.3:1. This type of ratio indicates light, less dense snow.

Even though stereotypes are often based on some level of truth, they’re not hard and fast rules. This latest storm along the west coast proved it, and there were a bunch of smile due to the relatively light and fluffy snow.

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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