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John Wheeler, Published December 02 2012

Weather Talk: Elevation affects forecast in mountainous regions

Here in the Great Plains, winter storms usually bring snow but can bring rain or a mixture of the two. However, in the mountainous regions of the western United States, it is common for winter storms to bring rain to lower elevations and snow to the tops of the mountains. In between, winter precipitation often goes back and forth, even during the course of a storm.

From California to British Columbia, winter forecasts include a forecast of the rain-snow transition line. It is given as an elevation. A typical winter storm forecast might read like this: Rain, heavy at times tonight. Snow above 4,000 feet, with 10 to 18 inches expected. Heavy rain tomorrow with the snow line increasing to 7,000 feet. Twelve to 20 inches of snow in higher elevations.

People who live in mountainous regions, of course, are used to such forecasts and are well aware of their elevation.


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