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How the Albuquerque Low works

Winter officially begins on December 21, but we all know it’s entirely possible to see the first flakes much earlier than that! Your Stormtracker 13 weather team is keeping you ahead of the storms with your winter survival guide. We explain how the Albuquerque Low works.

Some of the heaviest snows result from low pressure systems tracking through New Mexico…drawing up moisture and pummeling southern Colorado with snow.

As counter-clockwise winds develop around the low, southeasterly winds create an “upslope” flow in southern Colorado. This banks up cold air along the Front Range, and helps encourage snow to form.

It’s not just about the position of the low over New Mexico; it’s about the duration of the event. The strong storms associated with the Albuquerque Low typically last for days.

“You can have slow-moving upper-level systems that track out of Arizona and into New Mexico. And that provides kind of a ramp to lift the atmosphere, and where you lift the atmosphere you generate snow or rain depending on the temperature. But it’s what we call overrunning,” said meteorologist Marty Vinticinque.

Stormtracker 13 meteorologist Marty Venticinque has acted as a forecaster in southern Colorado for 20 years. He knows better than anyone that here in Colorado, no two winter storms are the same.

These systems and set-ups are complex. Not all lows that hover over New Mexico are identified as the classic Albuquerque Low. There are several factors that play a role. Venticinque says the Albuquerque Low is not just commonly misunderstood among residents, but with meteorologists, too.

“We can get storms for example that track through New Mexico and do very little for any of us. Because the way the lift isn’t lined up right, the timing isn’t right or it loses it core of cold air. There’s a lot that can go wrong,” said Venticinque.

Albuquerque Lows can result in large areas of moderate to heavy snow over a large part of the plains of southeastern Colorado. Under these circumstances, Colorado Springs usually piles up more snow than Denver.

Regardless of whether the storm is labeled as an Albuquerque Low, it’s always a good idea to stay weather aware during the winter season. Stay ahead of the winter storms with our Stormtracker 13 weather app. Through it, you can view Live HD Doppler, along with current temperatures and wind speeds.

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