Breaking Down This Month’s Wild Weather!

This January was a whirlwind of winter weather for much of the U.S., and we were no exception to that! Record-low temperatures, blistering wind chills, and a few blankets of snow marred much of the start of 2024, and what a sight it was to behold! But needless to say, those frigid conditions have high potential to go from awe-inspiring to life-threatening. So that begs the question: how did these conditions come about in the first place? Check out the National Weather Service’s breakdown on what the “Polar Vortex” is; that’s the area of frigid air that swirls around the Earth’s poles, ebbing and flowing as pressure fluctuates over time. These changes can push that cold arctic air away from the poles and into warmer, more densely populated regions, and before you know it, we’re hit with single-digit and sub-zero temperatures.

Credit to USGS, Joe Grim, & Fox21 News

What’s interesting about this particular flare-up is the rather glaring disparities across the Pikes Peak region, the state, and the country, with some areas being blasted with several inches of snow on top of the wind and ice, while others (like us) saw little more than a dusting. What gives? Well, the answer lies to our West…and a little to our North. Colorado Springs is nestled right into the “Palmer Divide”, an area of hills and valleys with varying degrees of elevation, giving room for air blowing into the region a chance to rise, fall, and act a little unpredictably sometimes. Add in America’s Mountain to our West, and you have a unique set of circumstances when exciting weather events roll in. Let’s say that a storm is approaching the mountains, and it’s looking to be a doozy. Chances are, the mountains are going to take the brunt of whatever that wind was carrying, leaving lower elevation areas and downslope regions pretty unscathed. On the other hand, if we had the less common scenario of a storm coming from the East or through the Palmer Divide, Colorado Springs would likely see more of precipitation as there’s less points of high elevation (i.e. mountains) for that storm to interact with. With all of that said, it’s no wonder that trying to make a winter weather judgement call in Colorado is no easy feat, so give our meteorologists a break!

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