Denver breaks its first daily November snow record since 1994 and why it’s rare

Colorado’s latest snow storm is wrapping up, leaving the Interstate 25 urban corridor with a winter wonderland, a mess on the roads and a new spot in the history books.

Denver International Airport tallied 5 inches of snow. This is a record daily snowfall for Nov. 24, breaking the old record of 4 inches set in 1946. Even more notably, it was the first daily November snow record to fall in the city since 1994. Snow totals across the rest of the metro area generally range from 3 to 6 inches, with heavier amounts up to 10 inches in the western suburbs.

Snow melted down to 0.44” liquid… also a daily record and Denver’s wettest day since Sep. 8#COwx pic.twitter.com/FeDTw2sxUu

— Ben Reppert (@WxReppert) November 24, 2020

This was a rare November snowstorm in the Denver area beyond the record-breaking amount. Another rarity lies within the heavy and wet nature of the snow.

The blanket of snow left behind is great for making snowmen and snowballs. This also means that it is considerably harder to shovel and get rid of. Colorado is very accustomed to light and fluffy snow, especially as winter grows closer. So why did this storm carry so much weight? While Monday’s mild weather in the middle 60s partly explains it, we need to look up in the air for the rest of the answer.

The overall air mass above the surface was rather mild for this time of year. At the beginning of the storm, a large layer of the atmosphere above our heads was flirting with the freezing mark. The air mass sitting over the state also had quite a bit of moisture in it. The total amount of water in the air was nearly double the normal amount for late November.

This combination of a mild and moist air mass in place led to snow reaching the ground with an extremely high water content. Heavy, wet snow is something that Denver would expect in early and late season storms, such as in September or April. Winter’s chill is typically well established by late November, promoting very powdery snow.

Extra water in this snow is certainly beneficial for Colorado’s ongoing drought. The snow melted down to just under a half of an inch of liquid at DIA. This makes it Denver’s wettest day since Sep. 8, and the fifth wettest day in all of 2020.

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