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April-like weather persists for the work week

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The weather in Steamboat Springs has felt more like April than May since Friday when the first storm in a complicated weather pattern brought 8” of snow to the top of Mt. Werner by Saturday morning, about 4” to Rabbit Ears Pass and about 0.4” of rain to the Yampa Valley. More high elevation snow and low elevation rain is forecast for much of the upcoming work week before quieter weather appears for at least part of the long Memorial Day weekend.

The current cold and wet weather pattern is courtesy of a series of storms in a very active Pacific jet stream. After a brief break between storms late yesterday, the mostly cloudy conditions early this Sunday afternoon may give way to showers later in the day ahead of the next storm currently crossing the California coast.

Showers look to be on and off through the first half of Monday with continued unseasonably cool temperatures before another incoming Pacific storm forces the first California storm across the Desert Southwest during the day and very near our area by Monday night. This storm has a lot of moisture and enough cold air to once again bring snowflakes down to the Yampa Valley floor.

Moderate to heavy precipitation is expected from Monday afternoon through Tuesday night, with precipitation becoming lighter and eventually more showery on Wednesday. We’ll likely see well over an inch of liquid water or liquid water equivalent from this storm and snow totals of 8-16” above 10,000′, with half that at 9,000′. Travel should be difficult at pass levels during this period.

By Wednesday, precipitation should become more showery as the storm is forced first north and then anomalously west by the combination of the strong storm sliding down the California coast and a building ridge of high pressure over the southeastern U.S.

Any breaks in precipitation are likely to be brief as part of the Tuesday storm moves across the northern U.S. border and part eventually merges with the California storm to our west. The evolution of this combined storm will likely change before it affects our area, but right it looks to split, with a large piece moving near our area later Thursday and a smaller piece staying behind in California and merging with yet another incoming Pacific storm.

So another round of moderate to heavy precipitation is advertised for later Thursday, with snowflakes once again possible to the Yampa Valley floor and accumulating snows above 8,000′ or so.

If the atmosphere behaves as predicted, the southeastern U.S. ridge of high pressure briefly bulges into Colorado on Friday, interrupting the procession of storms over our area. Though Friday will be noticeably drier than the previous week, seasonably cool temperatures with a chance of afternoon showers can be expected.

For the long Memorial Day weekend, there is a fair bit of uncertainty as our region will be caught in a battle between three air masses; namely the warmer and drier one associated with the southeastern U.S. ridge of high pressure, the stormier one from southern California and now a cold and moist one from the northern latitudes. Though the timing is uncertain, it appears we will have at least one push of cool and moist air from the north around mid-weekend that would bookend drier but still seasonably cool weather.

Cool and wet weather to dominate the upcoming week

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Despite mostly cloudy skies, the Steamboat Springs area is currently seeing temperatures five to ten degrees above our average of 63 F this Thursday afternoon. But that changes tonight as the first in a series of Pacific storms brings cold air and showery precipitation back to the region that will last through Saturday. After a brief respite from the precipitation during the first half of Sunday, the unsettled weather could turn stormier with wet weather possible for almost every day in the following work week.

A broad area of low pressure over much of the northern Pacific will spawn a series of storms that will continue our active, wet and cool spring. Today will be the last day for a while with temperatures around 70 F as a storm currently crossing the West Coast heads inland. Breezy southwesterly winds ahead of the storm will turn westerly as the initial cold and showery front passes through the area tonight, followed by more cold air and eventual northwest flow through Saturday. Though accumulating snows will occur above 9000′ or so, snowflakes will be possible down to the Yampa Valley floor by later Friday into Saturday morning.

The cold and unsettled weather will persist through Saturday night as the storm passes near our area, though we will see some warming during the day. The resultant lifting snow levels during the daylight hours will quickly fall by nighttime, once again bringing the chance of snowflakes to the valley bottom.

By Sunday morning, a shallow and transitory ridge of high pressure builds behind the departing storm and in advance of our next more potent weather-maker. This storm is forecast to cross the West Coast mid-weekend and affect our area with more breezy showers ahead of the storm by later in the day Sunday.

This storm looks to be not quite as cold, but wetter than the preceding storm. The storm track is uncertain as another incoming storm crosses the West Coast early in the work week and moves southward across California. These two storms will behave like a see-saw as the leading storm near our area is forced northward by the southward-moving storm over California. And because the Pacific ocean has a paucity of meteorological observations, weather forecast models disagree on the southern extent of the California storm and the resultant northern extent of the storm moving over our area.

Generally, seasonably cool weather can be expected through most of the work week, with at least showers and possibly heavier, more persistent precipitation, depending on the evolution of the West Coast storm.

There is lots of forecast uncertainty heading into and for the Memorial Day weekend as it is not clear how far inland the next salvo of Pacific storms will reach.

Warm work week turns unsettled for the weekend

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The weather is beautiful this Mother’s Day in Steamboat Springs with high temperatures expected to rise just above our average of 63 F, along with a few passing clouds and breezy westerly afternoon winds. Even warmer temperatures are expected through most of the coming work week, along with the typical chance of an afternoon shower. But the weather turns unsettled heading into the weekend thanks to an energetic Pacific jet stream that is forecast to brings several waves of moisture and energy across our region.

As a storm spins along the southwestern U.S. border with Mexico, a ridge of high pressure is forecast to build over the west through most of the work week. Temperatures will warm into the upper sixties and seventies along with the chance of some afternoon showers as any residual moisture trapped underneath the ridge is lifted by the strong May sun. We should also see an increase in the river flows as low temperatures at the higher elevations stay above freezing and the high elevation snowpack begins to melt.

Pieces of a strong storm in the Bering Sea are forecast to begin crossing the West Coast around midweek or soon after and move the ridge of high pressure eastward. Moisture and southwest winds will increase ahead of these waves by later Thursday, with some stronger storms possible by the evening.

The leading wave will carry a storm with a strong cold front through our area around Friday, though the exact timing is currently uncertain, along with precipitation that will be rain at all but the highest elevations. This will start a period of unsettled weather that looks to last through next weekend and into the beginning of the following work week.

Warmer weather returns this weekend as storm system departs

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Steamboat Springs area is currently experiencing temperatures over twenty degrees below our average of 62 F this Thursday afternoon as several storms passing near our area have brought cold air, but very little precipitation. We’ll see the sun on Friday along with warmer temperatures, though they won’t warm to near average until the weekend, at which point lawnmowers around town may be broken out after a long winter to trim the fast-growing grasses. Then, the previous active weather pattern takes a break as warm and mostly sunny weather sticks around for the following work week, along with a chance of typical afternoon showers.

The easterly wind yesterday that was associated with one of the several pieces of this storm system put the kibosh on our precipitation chances as downsloping winds off the Park Range to our east dried the airmass. Another piece of the storm system approaching from the north is currently splitting around our area, and with energy moving to our southwest toward southern California and northeast, we are now left only with clouds, cold air and some light and intermittent showers.

Temperatures will moderate to seasonably cool on Friday, along with the appearance of the sun. The southern California storm is forecast to move across the southern U.S. border by late in the weekend and early next week, too far south of our area to bring any weather to northern Colorado. But we are grazed by a cold and dry system from the north on Saturday, and we may see a shower ahead of that later Friday, with temperatures warming to near average during the day Saturday.

Mother’s Day looks to be a nice one, with plenty of sun and temperatures above average.

And the warm temperatures look to stick around for the rest of the work week as a ridge of high pressure builds over the west. While Sunday and Monday will likely be dry, there will be a chance of some afternoon showers for the rest of the week as any moisture remaining over our area is recirculated underneath the ridge and cooked by the strong-and-getting-stronger May sun.

Longer-term forecasts have pieces of a potent storm over the Bering Sea moving inland around next weekend, and that may restart a period of unsettled weather.

Wet and cool weather returns for Wednesday and Thursday

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Steamboat Springs area is experiencing a mostly sunny and beautiful Cinco de Mayo this Sunday afternoon as temperatures have already reached 64 F, four degrees higher than average. Save for a chance of some afternoon showers along with gusty winds today and Monday, the warm and mostly dry weather will stick around through Tuesday before a series of Pacific storms bring inclement weather back to our area starting Wednesday. Cool and wet weather will persist through Thursday, with accumulating snows at higher elevations again likely, before we see drying during Friday and next weekend.

The quiet stretch of weather for today and tomorrow belies the complicated weather pattern that will evolve over the west this week. The key features are two warm storms caught underneath a ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska, an active Pacific jet stream and some still-cold air over the Canadian Plains.

Several waves of Pacific energy and moisture will travel over the Gulf of Alaska ridge and briefly mix with some of the cold air in Canada. They will then travel southward, with the first wave dislodging the first warm storm, currently crossing the southern California coast, across the Great Basin on Tuesday. Winds will become breezy out of the southwest as dry air from the Desert Southwest is carried over our area.

By Tuesday night or early Wednesday, a second wave rounding the Gulf of Alaska ridge moves the first initially warm Pacific storm over Colorado. Showers are forecast to become widespread by early Wednesday before a cold front passes during the day, allowing for accumulating snow at the higher elevations and possibly a mix of rain and snow at the Yampa Valley floor by the evening and overnight.

Meanwhile, a third Pacific wave rounding the Gulf of Alaska ridge splits as it head southward, with some of the wave keeping cold air and showers over our area through Thursday and some of the wave heading to our southwest and merging with the second warm Pacific storm approaching the southern California coast. If current forecasts verify, this complex weather system could leave 6-12” of snow at the higher elevations by Friday, along with 1-2” of liquid or liquid equivalent for all elevations.

Weather forecast models currently agree that our area will dry out Friday under seasonably cool temperatures as we are caught between the warm storm to our southwest and cold air to our north. Furthermore, the Gulf of Alaska ridge is forecast to move inland behind a fourth Pacific wave that may drag a dry and weak cool front through our area on Saturday, keeping the cool temperatures around for the first half of the weekend. Temperatures then warm to finish out the weekend for what is now advertised as a beautiful Mother’s Day.

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