Very Cold

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 – If you’ve been following the weather this week you know one of the big stories was the very cold air centered over the Rockies and Upper Midwest.nThis air had its origins near the Arctic Circle and in a sense broke off from the main area of coldest air that resides to our north. The image below shows the temperatures at about 10,000 feet on Wednesday morning, Feb. 2. The main area of coldest air is well up north around Hudson Bay, Canada, but the piece that broke off is centered right over Colorado.

Click image to enlarge

The map shows air that is -25ºC to -30ºC over Colorado, which equates to about -15ºF to -20ºF. However, actual temperatures on the ground Wednesday morning were even colder, with readings around -35ºF observed at many mountain sites around 11,000 to 12,000 feet in elevation and a reading of -42ºF was even observed in a valley in northern Colorado at a town called Walden.

Another shot of very air will drop down from the Arctic during the middle of next week, but it looks like the brunt of that airmass will focus on the Great Lakes region, largely sparing the Mountain West its coldest temperatures.

It is winter, after all, and there are simple weather explanations for this type of cold air. Despite some reports in the popular press, it is irresponsible (and perhaps just plain wrong) to say that global warming or climate change is directly responsible for this type of cold air outbreak. A changing climate can perhaps influence weather patterns like this, but the science if far from being able to make a direct link.

So bundle up and enjoy the snow. Colder temperatures mean less people on the hill competing for powder!

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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