Snowy weather to start the weekend

Thursday, January 21, 2021

A mix of sun and clouds are over the Steamboat Springs area this Thursday noon with temperatures several degrees above our average of 27 F and rising. Several storms are forecast for our area over the upcoming week, with the best-looking storm on tap for Saturday.

As discussed in the previous couple of weather narratives, the northern hemisphere atmosphere is transitioning to a more active pattern for the West as a ridge of high pressure once over the inter-mountain region is now over the Gulf of Alaska. Pacific storms will now move over the ridge of high pressure and move southward along the West Coast, with some mixing with the cold air present over Canada.

Our next weather-maker is currently moving southward off the Pacific Northwest coast as a chunk of cold air over the Canadian Plains moves southward into the Northern Rockies and Midwest. The Pacific Northwest storm is forecast to move southward along the West Coast on Friday and Saturday before being forced eastward on Sunday by another Pacific storm moving down the ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska.

If this sounds complicated, it is, and leads to weather forecast uncertainty as there are a lot of moving pieces that will influence our weather. Generally, a stationary front separating the colder air to our north from the warmer air brought northward in the southwest flow ahead of the West Coast storm will waver near or over our area on Friday and Saturday.

While the mix of sun, clouds and even snow showers over us today are effects from the Baja eddy to our south that was discussed in the last weather narrative, the snows that are expected to start as early as tonight are the result of pieces of energy ejecting out of the West Coast storm and traveling over the stationary front.

Several waves of energy are forecast to be ejected from tonight through Saturday night, with the strongest timed for the first half of Saturday. Additionally, it appears we will be mostly on the warm side of the stationary front until another Pacific storm forces the West Coast storm inland and allows the cooler air to the north of the front to infiltrate our area around Saturday night. By then, the storm will be mostly over, so it looks like we will see relatively wet and dense snowfall for most of the event.

Snow showers may begin as early as tonight and continue through Friday before the snows become more persistent and heavier overnight Friday and Saturday. We could see an inch by the Friday morning report and another inch or two during the day in advance of the strongest wave, with the 3-6” overnight Friday yielding 4-8” for the Saturday morning report. And the snowfall will continue on Saturday, likely heaviest in the morning and making travel difficult over Rabbit Ears Pass, with another 3-6” expected before the lifts stop turning.

High Resolution Rapid Refresh (hrrr) simulated radar forecast at 48 hoursThough snowfall will decrease overnight as cooler air filters in behind the storm, there may be another inch or two of drier snowfall overnight that would yield 4-8” for the cooler Sunday morning report. I’ve recently added simulated radar maps, similar to the one shown to the right, from the shortest-range weather forecast model here so that folks can easily visualize the forecast. While the model is normally run for only 18 hours, there are four times per day that the model is run for 48 hours, and you can see the evolution of the forecast by first clicking the View All button next to the Rapid Refresh radar maps and then clicking the Animate box in the upper left hand corner of the page.

Meanwhile, that next Pacific storm is forecast to be quite a bit colder as it mixes with cold western Canadian air early in the weekend before dropping down the West Coast late in the weekend and ejecting the preceding storm across the Desert Southwest early in the work week. The ejecting storm may be close enough to bring some snow showers to our area on Sunday, though the eventual track will determine how showery it is and whether we see any sun.

A third stronger storm slides down the Gulf of Alaska ridge on Tuesday and forces that second West Coast storm eastward along a similar, but perhaps further north track as compared to the previous storm. There will again be a chance of snow showers on both Monday and a cooler Tuesday, depending upon the eventual track and proximity of the storm, before drier air behind the storm overspreads our area on Wednesday.

That third stronger storm is currently forecast to take a further westward track before eventually turning inland around the end of the work week thanks to yet another Pacific storm rounding that ridge of high pressure over the eastern Pacific. There looks to be a break in this active pattern as a transient ridge of high pressure builds over the Rockies on Thursday and Friday as the southwest flow ahead of the storm brings dry air and warming temperatures northward. But that currently looks to be short-lived as that third storm is forecast to move near our area during the following weekend.

Tune in for my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon as I’ll review the hopefully productive Saturday storm and have a better idea of how much snow looks likely from our early work week storms.

Small storm for Monday with larger storm possible next weekend

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Cloudy skies are over the Steamboat Springs area this Sunday noon with a temperature of 28 F, which is one degree above our average. Clouds will stick around today ahead of our next small storm tonight before dry weather with a mix of some sun and clouds is forecast for the work week. However, an extended unsettled pattern with several possibly significant storms is advertised to start around next weekend.

The northern hemisphere atmosphere is in transition as pieces of very cold air from the North Pole and Siberia move southward. Weather forecast models often struggle with major pattern changes like this, and while the storms usually come, strength and timing are big uncertainties. Generally though, the ridge of high pressure that has been over the West is forecast to move westward and take up residence closer to the Aleutian Islands, allowing low pressure and storminess to take its place as Pacific energy and moisture ride over the top of the ridge and affect the West Coast.

Currently, a storm that crossed the Pacific Northwest coast last night has split, with the southern portion of the storm forecast to form an eddy off the northern Baja coast by Tuesday. The northern part of the split storm will itself split as it moves over our area tonight, with the southern piece moving southwestward across the Great Basin and joining the Baja eddy by midweek.

Despite the complicated weather pattern, it does appear we will see enough moisture and energy tonight for 3-6” to be reported on the Monday morning report, with snowfall starting by early this evening and continuing overnight. Clouds will hang around on Monday with possible afternoon snow showers leaving as much as another inch or two.

Dry weather with a mix of sun and clouds will be with us from Tuesday through Thursday before another storm moves southward along the West Coast and dislodges the Baja eddy. While the majority of that storm will stay south of our area, it looks like a somewhat stationary front will set up over the Great Basin and extend into our area on Friday and Saturday.

There are a lot of moving pieces that make timing and strength uncertain, but right it looks like we could see light snow around Friday with more persistent and heavier snowfall rates on Saturday. Several more Pacific storms are lined up behind it, with weather forecast models generally agreeing that we will see one or two more significant storms for the last week of January.

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My next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon should not be missed as I’ll have snowfall guesses for the weekend as our weather pattern finally turns more active.

Weather pattern is turning more active

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Though we received very little snowfall from the storm last night over the Steamboat Springs area, we did get the wind, with speeds of 50 mph and gusts above 80 mph observed at the top of Mt. Werner around midnight. Sunny skies and brisk winds from the west and northwest have followed this Thursday afternoon, with warming temperatures and decreasing winds forecast for Friday followed by a weak splitting storm for Saturday. After a dry Sunday, a stronger but still splitting storm is forecast for Monday, with a midweek break followed by a series of promising storms starting around Thursday.

As last night’s storm moves eastward, it mixes with some very cold air from the Canadian Plains and brings a cold and snowy air mass first to the Midwest on Friday and then the East by Saturday. Coincidentally, a quick-moving ridge of high pressure moves over our area on Friday for a sunny and warmer day with decreasing winds ahead of weak and splitting storm for Saturday.

Light snow is on tap for Saturday as the splitting storm crosses the Pacific Northwest coast on Friday and moves through Colorado before another quick-moving ridge of high pressure returns sunny skies and warmer temperatures for Sunday. Our accumulations will depend upon how much moisture and energy from the northern part of the split ends up over our area, but 2-5” is a reasonable guess at this time, with some of that reported Saturday morning and the rest occurring during the day and evening.

A stronger storm crosses the Pacific Northwest on Sunday, but also more strongly splits as it moves through the Great Basin through the day as the ridge of high pressure builds off the West Coast. Again, snowfall amounts on Monday will depend upon exactly how the storm splits and how much cold air from Canada mixes with the storm, but we could see as much as 3-6” of snow on Monday as the northern part of the split moves nearby and the southern part of the split forms and eddy over the southwest corner of the country.

Colder air will follow behind the storm for Tuesday, and if skies clear Tuesday night we could see more temperatures below zero for the Yampa Valley Wednesday morning.

And as uncertain as the forecast already is at this close range due to the splitting nature of the storms for Saturday and Monday, even more uncertainty appears after a dry Wednesday with moderating temperatures. That ridge of high pressure off the West Coast continues to build into the Gulf of Alaska as a strong storm vacates that area by midweek, with the storm forecast to mix with some even colder Canadian air sourced from close to the North Pole as it slides down the eastern side of that ridge of high pressure.

The storm is then forecast to travel down the West Coast Wednesday night and first dislodge the eddy that was spinning over the Desert Southwest before moving near our area. It is not clear at this point how far south that Gulf of Alaska storm travels before turning east, and that also affects when and how close that eddy gets to our area.

There is considerable weather forecast model disagreement on how all this plays out, both within and among themselves. The good news is they agree on a much more active weather pattern that could start as early as Thursday and last through at least part of the following weekend. Keep doing your snow dances and rituals as it looks like they are starting to work, and I’ll have more details on this promising snowier pattern in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

Snow chances on the horizon after a dry start to the week

Sunday, January 10, 2021

A sunny but cool afternoon is over the Steamboat Springs area this Sunday behind a dusting of snow that fell early this morning. The work week will start with cool mornings and sunny days before clouds increase by midweek ahead of a grazing storm on Thursday. Another storm of uncertain strength follows for the weekend.

The storm that crossed the Great Basin on Saturday moved so far to our south that we were not able to muster even clouds on Saturday, despite having the cooler air associated with the storm overhead. So I was surprised early this morning to see some brief and light snowfall, evidently caused by the tail end of a dry wave currently over the Great Lakes brushing our area.

But that is the last precipitation we will see until Thursday as a flat ridge of high pressure moves over the Rockies on Monday and Tuesday. Expect cold morning temperatures thanks to temperature inversions with sunny days and modestly warming temperatures as the ridge moves overhead.

Most of a storm currently off the Aleutian Islands is forecast to move eastward as a sharp ridge of high pressure builds behind it from the Gulf of Alaska to the West Coast. The Aleutian storm will slide down the east side of the ridge of high pressure and graze our area on Thursday, and as noted in the last weather narrative, the storm is now trending more promising for our area. Based on the latest iteration of the weather forecast models, we could see increasing clouds on Wednesday and 1-4” of snow during the day Thursday before the quick-moving storm moves east of our area during the evening.

Another Pacific storm mixes with what is left of the Aleutian storm and attacks the building ridge of high pressure, with weather forecast models disagreeing on how much of the storm passes over the ridge and how much passes through it. The European ECMWF advertises much less snow for our area as the storm is split by the ridge, while the American GFS has a snowier solution with a more coherent storm.

Though weather models disagree on the weekend storm, they do agree that more storminess is likely after the weekend. The key for our weather will be the evolution of that ridge of high pressure around the West Coast, with its modification perhaps allowing an active storm track to penetrate inland and move over our area.

Be sure to catch my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon for a discussion of the storms for that day and the weekend, and a peek at the longer term weather pattern setting up for the second half of January.

Storms to our north and south

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Mostly sunny skies are over the Steamboat Springs area this Thursday noon, with a current temperature of 18 F at the Bob Adams airport on its way to just above our average of 27 F under continued sunny skies. A storm to our north will increase clouds tonight into Friday morning, though any light snow will be confined to the Continental Divide closer to the Wyoming border. Another storm will pass to our south on Saturday, though this one looks close enough for some light snow during the day. But our area looks to remain dry after that with some grazing storms possible by around the following weekend.

The storm yesterday was more productive than I thought on the Sunday weather forecast, specifically on the backside of the storm where we received an additional 4” at mid-mountain and 6” up top, bringing our storm totals to 9” at mid-mountain and 13” up top. In hindsight, we should not be surprised as we are favored for precipitation in the moist, cool and unstable northwest flow behind storms.

A relatively dry storm currently centered in Idaho will graze our area to the north tonight and tomorrow morning, likely bringing only clouds and keeping any light snowfall confined to the higher elevations nearer the Wyoming border.

A transient ridge of high pressure quickly moves overhead later Friday for clearing skies ahead of a quick moving storm forecast to cross the Great Basin Friday night. Weather forecast models have trended towards a storm moving to our south, though it looks like we will be close enough for some light snow showers on Saturday leaving as much as an inch or two of snow.

Another more substantial and longer-lasting ridge of high pressure is forecast to build over the West for the work week and keep our weather quiet. Waves of energy and moisture traveling over the ridge of high pressure are forecast to mix with some very cold air over central and eastern Canada, with weather forecast models wavering on the strength of the ridge and the western extent of the storminess.

Models have recently trended toward less weather for our area, but there is time for a stormier solution to emerge. Right now, a wave may graze our area with some cool air near the end of the work week, though precipitation looks to remain to our north. Additional waves look to affect our area for the following weekend and into the next work week, with increasing chances for light snow.

A stronger ridge of high pressure will divert the storm track further away from our area, while a weaker ridge of high pressure, perhaps as a result of stronger incoming Pacific energy, will allow for a storm track nearer to our area. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon when I should have a better idea of how this ridge of high pressure evolves.

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