Monster Of A Snowstorm Coming This Christmas Weekend?


New Mexico This Coming Christmas Weekend?

Those of us who live in New Mexico have developed a unique sense of humor when it comes to our weather. I've often said that we live in a place where extremes more often than not are normal. Take for example the rest of this weeks forecast for Carlsbad depicted below.


My high temperature here at our home yesterday was 74°F. Contrast that to what's coming this weekend...depicted below. Its not unusual at all to have high temps in the 70's or even the 80's ahead of a strong winter storm locally. We saw this with the major snowstorms in December 1987, December 1997, and February 2011, and with other strong winter storms too.


This Mornings 12Z/5 AM MST European (ECMWF) 500 MB Forecast.
Valid @ 5 AM MST Sunday, Dec 27, 2015.

This Mornings 12Z/5 AM MST U.S. GFS 500 MB Forecast.
Valid @ 11AM MST Sunday, Dec 27, 2015.

This Mornings 12Z/5 AM MST Canadian (GEM) 500 MB Forecast.
Valid @ 5 AM MST Sunday, Dec 27, 2015.

All three of the long range models are pretty much in sync (for now) concerning our major winter storm forecast to impact the state and nearby areas this upcoming Christmas holiday weekend. They are forecasting a strong closed/cutoff mid-upper level low to drop south of the state line and end up south of  Carlsbad by Sunday. This simply is the perfect setup for a historical snowstorm for the local area. 

Now the million dollar question is will the models stick to their forecast track, speed, and strength of this storm? And will they continue to forecast historic snowfall totals for the local area? Best answer on this is time will be the judge. Its a rare occurrence to see the models get this excited about a storm of this strength and magnitude and stick to their guns/forecasts...especially a week in advance.  


This Mornings 12Z/5 AM MST GFS Surface Forecast.
Valid @ 5 PM MST Saturday, Dec 26, 2015.

This Mornings 12Z/5 AM MST GFS Surface Forecast.
Valid @ 5 PM MST Saturday, Dec 26, 2015.

This Mornings 12Z/5 AM MST GFS Surface Forecast.
Valid @ 11 PM MST Sunday, Dec 27, 2015.

This Mornings 12Z/5 AM MST GFS Surface Forecast.
Valid @ 11 PM MST Sunday, Dec 27, 2015.

A strong arctic cold front is currently forecast to plow southward down the eastern side of New Mexico and West Texas during the day Saturday. By sunset it will have entered the southeastern plains if the GFS model forecast run is correct. As a much colder airmass invades the area and temperature plunge, rain will quickly change to snow. Which may end up being very heavy!

Current forecasts indicate a possible mid-level subtropical connection from the southwest which would really energize the storm. Lots of low-level Gulf of Mexico moisture is forecast to feed the storm also from the southeast and east behind the arctic cold front.

And if all three of the models (GFS, GEM, ECMWF) are correct heavy to excessive snowfall totals will be possible. I hate to sound vague and noncommittal but its still early, and lots of variables are at play here, so there remains a lot of room for errors and changes concerning this storm.


This Mornings 12Z/5 AM MST Canadian (GEM) Accumulated Snowfall Forecast.
Valid @ 5 AM MST Monday, Dec 28, 2015.

This Mornings 12Z/5 AM MST U.S. GFS Accumulated Snowfall Forecast.
Valid @ 5 AM MST Monday, Dec 28, 2015.

This Mornings 12Z/5 AM MST U.S. GFS Accumulated Snowfall Forecast.
Valid @ 5 AM MST Monday, Dec 28, 2015.

Remember that these snowfall forecasts can and very likely will change between now and next weekend. As the potent mid-upper level storm enters the Pacific Northwest and starts its journey southeastward towards the Desert Southwest the models will have a better "sampling" of its strength and parameters. So in time they should begin to narrow their forecasts down on the specifics of this storm. Take these forecasts with a huge grain of salt but be prepared for the possibility of a Major Winter Storm with significant impacts on the area next weekend.

Interestingly enough this mornings 12Z run of the European model (ECMWF) continues its trend of absolutely burying the eastern and southeastern plains, the Sacramento, Capitan, and Guadalupe mountains, and parts of West Texas Saturday afternoon into Monday morning.

Using the 10-1 snowfall ratios it kicks out storm totals of (first #). Using snowfall ratios of 15-1 it kicks out totals of (second #).

Clovis 15"-22"
Corona 15"-23"
Ruidoso 23"-35"
Roswell 18"-27"
Artesia 18"-27"
Carlsbad 17"-26"
Hobbs 21"-31"
Tatum 19"-28"
Midland 11"-16"
Lubbock 20"-31"

I know these are insane snowfall totals. Typically and more often than not the ECMWF is the better forecast model when considering snowstorms affecting New Mexico. It nailed the February 2011 storm. Are these totals realistic. Honesty they are off the scale and should this model be correct this would be an epic/historic event. These totals would paralyze the area and simply shut us down. 


Farmington, NM.

Angel Fire, NM.

Santa Fe, NM.

Albuquerque, NM.

Clines Corners, NM.

Tucumcari, NM.

Cannon Air Force Base - Clovis, NM.

Corona, NM.

Sierra Blanca Regional Airport - Ruidoso, NM.

Roswell, NM.

Artesia, NM.

Carlsbad, NM.

Tatum, NM.

Hobbs, NM.

Guadalupe Pass, TX.

El Paso, TX.

Lubbock, TX.

Amarillo, TX.

(Roswell, NM).


Whew...that's a lot of graphics to post but there you go. Please keep in mind folks that these are "forecast snowfall totals and temperatures" that will change between now and next weekend. Any subtle change in the track of this winter storm very well and more than likely will have a huge bearing on your local forecasts. We saw this with the Christmas week snowstorms in 1997. Storm track differences as little as 50 to 100 miles can and often do make a huge difference in snowfall totals in New Mexico. Elevation also plays a very important and significant role. 

Cloudcroft  (elevation 8,751') located 90 miles west of Artesia (elevation 3,379') in the southern Sacramento mountains recorded 31.5" of snow. Hope (4,081') located 20 miles west of Artesia recorded 29.0" of snow. Artesia recorded 14.0". Roswell (elevation 3,589') located 40 miles north of Artesia recorded 21"-26". Carlsbad (elevation 3,130') located 40 miles south of Artesia recorded 15.5". Jal (elevation 3,022') located 75 miles southeast of Carlsbad recorded no snowfall and all rain as did the WIPP site southeast of Carlsbad. 

Before we just totally write off these snowfall totals lets remember that in December 1997 this happened. Widespread snowfall totals of 12"-30" were common in the area with drifts in some locations of 6'-30'. 3,000 people ended up stranded in Vaughn and had to be rescued. The National Guard was called out to feed thousands of starving cattle, sheep, deer, and antelope and thousands of them starved or froze to death. 

See these links for more details:


I'm also concerned that with such a tight surface pressure gradient draped across the local area Saturday and Sunday some locals could possibly experience blizzard conditions. This will have to be watched. Given that this storm will come during the holiday weekend and will have the potential to affect a large area its very important that everyone keep up with the latest on this situation. More later.

(Clickable Map Via The Link).


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