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Moderate storm later Monday with some Thanksgiving snowflakes possible

Sunday, November 22, 2020

After a chilly start this Sunday morning, the Steamboat Springs area is seeing temperatures in the low forties under sunny skies. Clouds will be increasing later today ahead of a moderate storm that starts Monday afternoon, with the heaviest snowfall expected overnight. Skies will clear later Tuesday with Wednesday being an in-between day before some light snow is possible on Thanksgiving.

A storm currently crossing the West Coast will be over our area Monday night, with clouds increasing ahead of the storm later today. Some energy ejecting out of the storm may bring a shower or two overnight and tomorrow morning before a bit of accumulating snow is forecast by sunset as some cool air filters in. The main part of the storm is expected to pass through our area overnight, with the bulk of the snowfall occurring between midnight and early Tuesday morning before tapering off by around noon.

There is some splitting indicated in the weather forecast models as the storm crosses Colorado, but enough of the storm may pass overhead for 4-8” to accumulate above mid-mountain and about half that in town. Snowfall rates may exceed an inch per hour at times, though winds will pick up well behind the storm so travel may only be moderately difficult at times.

Precipitation should end after noon on Tuesday with some sun appearing for later Tuesday and Wednesday. But another storm, currently over the Bering Sea, is forecast to intensify and quickly move across the Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday and across our area on Thanksgiving Day. In my last Thursday weather narrative, I suggested that a dry forecast for Thanksgiving might change as our weather could eventually be some sort of wetter comprise between storms to our south and north. And indeed, it now it appears that some sort of stretched storm will pass overhead with some light snow possible from Thanksgiving afternoon through Friday morning. At this point, accumulations would be minor at best, but we’ll see where we stand when I publish my next weather narrative, which I may move up to Wednesday or leave to my usual time slot on Thursday afternoon.

A ridge of high pressure then tries to build over the West from later Friday into Saturday, though a dry storm flattening the ridge later Saturday may graze our area with some cooler air on Sunday. Another ridge of high pressure follows for Monday, and it is unclear what the weather will be for the new Opening Day of the Steamboat Ski Area on Tuesday, 1 December.

Meager snow for Saturday morning followed by much better storm on Monday

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Temperatures are running about ten degrees above our average of 39 F this Thursday afternoon under mostly cloudy skies, with peeks of sun. A couple of weak storms passing through today and Friday night into Saturday morning look to bring only slight chances for snow, with meager accumulations possible on Saturday. A more potent storm is becoming more likely for Monday into Tuesday morning followed by dry weather through Thanksgiving.

I guess under the current circumstances it is not surprising that both the storm and Opening Day that were expected for this Saturday have gone missing. That storm, as well as the current cloudiness over our area are the result of a couple of ripples in the fast westerly flow of the jet stream passing near our area. While I don’t expect any precipitation from today’s storm, there is a better chance of some meager accumulations from Friday night into Saturday morning of up to an inch or two.

A ridge of high pressure ahead of a potent storm currently in the Bering Sea is forecast to build over our area for a nice Sunday. The Bering Sea storm is forecast to cross the Gulf of Alaska and make landfall on the West Coast later that day before affecting our area with likely snowfall on Monday through Tuesday morning. The cold front associated with the storm is currently timed to be through our area by noon on Monday, with winds shifting to be from the west to the favorable northwest. Though the evolution of the storm is uncertain at this time, current weather forecast models have generally light to moderate snowfall over our area through the rest of the day and overnight before tapering off during Tuesday morning, leaving around 5-10” of accumulations.

A ridge of high pressure behind the storm should bring clearing skies later Tuesday and Wednesday before substantial weather forecast model disagreement appears for Thanksgiving. And while the European ECMWF has a much stronger storm crossing the West Coast on Wednesday as compared to the American GFS (which incidentally has trended strongly towards the ECMWF for the Monday storm), both keep our area dry, with the ECMWF splitting the storm around northern Colorado and the GFS quickly moving a shallow wave to our north.

We can only hope at this point that both are wrong, and it is possible that a compromise solution may bring some sort of storm overhead for Thanksgiving. With such a range of possibilities for Thursday, I’ll refrain from commenting on the weather forecast for the following weekend until my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

Sunny and warm weather midweek followed by possible weekend storm

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Similar to yesterday, temperatures in Steamboat Springs are hovering around freezing on this cloudy Sunday afternoon. Temperatures will warm and skies will clear for part of the work week, with Tuesday and Wednesday being the warmest and sunniest days of the upcoming week. Clouds then appear for the end of the work week ahead of a possible weekend storm.

Yesterday’s storm brought the forecast winds, with 3.5” on my deck by Saturday morning, but only 4” shown on the Steamboat Powdercam, which was less than I expected. The Tower Snotel at the top of Buffalo Pass showed about 8”, so it is possible that areas of the mountain below the summit were less wind-affected and had more snow than shown.

We’ll see some light snow showers through Monday morning which will be confined to the higher elevations and areas closer to the Wyoming border. But warmer and sunnier weather is on the way thanks to a ridge of high pressure forecast to build over the West ahead of a strong storm developing in the Gulf of Alaska. Temperatures will warm to just above our average of 41 F on Monday as any morning clouds give way to some sun in the afternoon.

The ridge of high pressure will amplify as it passes over the Rocky Mountains on Tuesday, bringing sunny skies and warmer temperatures ten to maybe fifteen degrees above average for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Enjoy the nice couple of days as energy ejecting out ahead of that Gulf of Alaska storm will bring cooler temperatures and clouds for Thursday and Friday. While I mentioned this storm a week ago in last Sunday’s weather narrative as a possibility for Opening Day at the Steamboat Ski Area, it turns out that the storm cooperated, but the response to COVID-19 did not, with a new Opening Day now scheduled for Tuesday, 1 December.

Let’s hope that can happen as the storm may be significant, though there is disagreement between and within the weather forecast models as to the speed and strength of the storm. Right now it appears the brunt of the storm will be on Saturday with it winding down by Sunday.

The active jet stream is forecast to bring more storms over our area during Thanksgiving week, though again there is disagreement with respect to timing and strength. In any event, there is hope that a series of storms will bring enough snow and cool weather to the Steamboat Ski Area to allow them to execute their mitigation plans and safely open. I’ll have more details on the upcoming storms in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Snowy Saturday followed by midweek warming

Thursday, November 12, 2020

I had 4” of snow on my deck this Thursday morning, with around 9” shown on the Steamboat Powdercam. The sun is out this afternoon on a crisp late-fall day with temperatures around freezing in the Steamboat Springs area. We should see continued beautiful weather for Friday before a quick-moving winter storm brings wind and snow to our area on Saturday before tapering off late in the day. After some more snow showers later Sunday, expect warming temperatures through the work week before some sort of storm is advertised for around Opening Day of the Steamboat Ski Area, which is on Saturday, 21 November.

Behold the magic of our favorable northwest flow! The storm last night had gone through a lot of forecast changes since its original mention in my weather narrative a week ago, going from a 2-5” event to a minimal event in my Sunday weather narrative to an eventual 5-10” event. Weather forecast models had a tough time with this wave embedded in the favorable, moist, cool and unstable northwest flow, not getting it right until the Wednesday morning iteration.

Our high temperatures on a mostly sunny Friday will warm towards average, which is now only 43 F and falling by around a half degree every day. A shallow wave currently in the Gulf of Alaska will approach our area later Friday, bringing increasing clouds and winds from the southwest. Light snow showers should begin around midnight on Friday night ahead of the cold front before intensifying early Saturday morning as the front moves through and swings our winds to once again be from the favorable northwest.

This quick-moving storm will bring periods of moderate to heavy snowfall from before sunrise on Saturday through the early afternoon, likely making travel difficult at pass level as the accompanying strong winds bring blowing snow and limited visibility. I would expect 6-12” on the mountain by sunset on Saturday with around half that in the Yampa Valley.

Snow showers will end for a time overnight before a much weaker wave, still in northwest flow, moves across later Sunday and generates some light snow showers, most intermittent at the lower elevations.

But this ripple in the jet stream, in still favorable northwest flow, does not look to be very productive as a ridge of high pressure begins building over the West Coast in advance of another storm developing in the Gulf of Alaska. So after a cool and showery Sunday, the snow showers will end early Monday and we should see periods of sun as temperatures moderate back towards average.

Further warming and drying is advertised for Tuesday and Wednesday with high temperatures up to ten degrees above average for a beautiful couple of days as the ridge of high pressure moves overhead. Warm temperatures will persist for the rest of the work week, though we will see some clouds as moisture is brought over our area in the southwest flow behind the ridge of high pressure and ahead of the Gulf of Alaska storm approaching the West Coast.

There is a fair bit of disagreement among the weather forecast models as to the evolution of this storm, though it appears we will see some snow for Opening Day weekend. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon for a recap of the Saturday storm and more details on the storm forecast for next weekend.

Cool and unsettled start and end to the week ahead

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Temperatures in the mid-thirties are currently over Steamboat Springs early this Sunday afternoon with periods of clouds and sun. I had about a half inch of snow on my deck this morning while the recently revived Steamboat Powdercam showed about 3” of accumulations at the top of Sunshine Peak from the the first part of the blustery storm that moved through last night. A second part of the storm passes through tomorrow afternoon and evening with a bit better accumulations before we see a break later Tuesday. Another storm that is currently trending weaker passes through on Wednesday and early Thursday before another break is advertised for the end of the work week ahead of a possible weekend storm.

The jet stream has flipped to an active pattern more appropriate for mid November as chunks of cold air break away from the main circulation around the North Pole. Our temperatures have coincidentally flipped from running about ten to fifteen degrees above our average of 46 F this past week to ten degrees below average today, accompanied with some snowfall.

The storm last night was the first of two to pass through that are associated with a large region of low pressure spinning over the Great Basin. We are currently between storms, with some light and intermittent snow showers mixed with clearing skies forecast through Monday morning. But the second storm will bring a good cold front through our region Monday afternoon, with snow showers increasing around noon ahead of the front.

Showers will become moderate to heavy along and behind the front from about 3 pm to 9 pm before tapering off overnight as winds switch to be first from the southwest, to the west when the front passes, and eventually the northwest behind the front. Expect snowfall rates of an inch per hour at times which may make travel difficult over Rabbit Ears Pass. Accumulations from Sunday night through Tuesday morning should be in the 2-5”, with the higher amounts at the higher elevations.

Snow showers should end early Tuesday on a cool day as another storm currently in the Gulf of Alaska crosses the Pacific Northwest Coast and moves across the northern Rockies, grazing our area around Wednesday night. This storm has trended weaker since my last Thursday weather narrative, and now looks to bring only light snow showers confined to the higher elevations along the Wyoming border.

The switch to a more active jet stream is causing increased uncertainty in the weather forecast models, but at this point it looks like a break in the active weather is timed for later Thursday and Friday before a Pacific wave embedded in increasing northwest flow passes over our area on Saturday. Due to the north-south orientation of the Park Range and lack of high mountains to our northwest, any storms embedded within flow from the northwest are particularly favorable for precipitation in the north-central Colorado mountains. So we may be in for a round of good snowfall from about Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon if current weather model forecasts hold.

A peek at the longer-range weather forecast models shows some warming and drying early in the following work week before the active jet stream reasserts itself over our area by midweek and again around Opening Day of the Steamboat Ski Area, which is Saturday, 21 November. Of course, this forecast is subject to change, so stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon for updates on our upcoming storms.

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