Modest storms for Friday and midweek

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A storm currently crossing the Great Basin will bring snows to the Steamboat Springs area starting around midnight tonight, along with some clouds ahead of the storm for the rest of today. The storm does have some cold air associated with it, though good moisture is lacking. I would expect 2-5” for the Friday morning report, with another 1-4” during the day as snow showers taper off by Friday night.

The wide range in the predicted amounts is because I am unsure of the density of the snowfall. Under warm conditions, a tenth of an inch or so could produce an inch of high-density snow that skis like cream cheese, or as we saw last Monday night into Tuesday morning when the temperature at mountain-top was around 5F, four of five inches of light and fluffy snow that feels like it is barely there.

Nonetheless, a building ridge of high pressure over the West Coast this weekend forces northwest flow over our area behind the storm, and combined with some embedded moisture, will produce clouds for Saturday and light snow showers for Saturday night and Sunday, with some light accumulations possible.

The West Coast ridge will translate over our area by later Monday which should bring clearing skies and warmer higher-elevation temperatures during the day. As is usual for this time of year, any clear nights will allow for cold morning lows in the Yampa Valley as temperature inversions form, with low-elevation temperatures slow to recover during the day.

Meanwhile, a chunk of cold air from western Canada squirts into the Gulf of Alaska behind the eastward moving ridge of high pressure, and becomes the basis of our next storm timed for around Wednesday.

At this point, this storm looks colder and broader than the Friday storm with mountain-top flow more out of the northwest, so we may receive more snow from the storm as compared to tomorrow’s storm. Furthermore, there is trailing energy and moisture that will restart snow showers by Thursday after they end for a time Wednesday night.

Behind the midweek storm, an epic atmospheric battle will then ensue over the northern Pacific as a sharp ridge of high pressure builds over the Bering Sea. This ridge will be under attack from the west by a strong Pacific jet stream and the east by very cold North Polar air moving over western Canada. The interaction of these three moving pieces will determine our weather for next weekend, and likely beyond.

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