First Significant Winter Storm of the Season

Portions of New Mexico finally received much needed moisture on December 9, 2012, courtesy of a fast-moving winter storm.  While snow favored the eastern half of New Mexico, much colder air affected all of Northern and Central New Mexico.

The animation below depicts the 500 mb pressure pattern (mid-way through the troposphere) and IR satellite imagery over a 12-hour period. A shortwave embedded in a broad upper level trough reached northern New Mexico mid-day and moved east of the state after midnight. 

 animation of upper level pattern
 At the surface, a potent back door front raced through the eastern plains with gusty north to northeast winds ushering in cold air and snow.  Meanwhile, more cold air surged into New Mexico from the west behind gusty northwest winds. The convergence zone between these two fronts resulted in some interesting patterns in the snow accumulations.  In the image below surface observations plotted on visible imagery depict the variations.  In the blue oval, note gusty north northwest winds at Los Alamos with relatively dry air while at Santa Fe, moist southeast flow is accompanied by snow and fog.  Similarly, northwest flow at Albuquerque was never displaced by the strong easterly flow noted at Clines Corners.  The convergence zone remained east of the Sandia/Manzano Mountains, and snow was not reported in Albuquerque.
A close up of central New Mexico illustrates the effect of the convergence zone.  Los Alamos reported half an inch of snow while 5 inches were reported in Santa Fe.  In the east mountain area of Albuquerque, snow accumulations typically increase as elevation increases, but note the sharp edge in snow cover well east of the crests of the Sandia and Manzano mountains, with just a trace of snow reported near Edgewood with 3 inches in McIntosh and 4 in Clines Corners.

 visible imagery of snow with amounts

Visible satelitte imagery from the morning of December 10 and selected storm snow totals.


The extent of snow cover associated with this winter storm is evident in the visible satellite image below. Over a foot of snow was reported in portions of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with accumulations as far south as Roswell. Though the snow cover was more significant east of the central mountains, limited areas in western New Mexico received snow, including around half an inch in Gallup and 3 inches in areas of Sandoval County.

 vis imagery of snow

Visible satellite imagery from the morning of December 10 illustrates the extent of snow across northern and central New Mexico.

 A detailed listing of snow amounts associated with this winter storm is available in a Public Information Statement issued on the afternoon of December 10. is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.