Thursday, February 25, 2021
Skies are clearing in Steamboat Springs this Thursday noon after 2” was reported at mid-mountain by the Steamboat Ski Area this morning and 3” up top. After a mostly sunny afternoon, clouds increase overnight and snow showers begin on a windy Friday and become heaviest overnight before tapering off late Saturday. A cold and dry Sunday and Monday morning will yield to warming temperatures into Tuesday. Another storm is forecast sometime after that, though it is unclear if it will be earlier or later in the work week.
A storm currently moving through the Gulf of Alaska is mixing with a reservoir of cold air stretched between Greenland and Alaska and is bringing precipitation to the Pacific Northwest. The storm is comprised of a windy and dry leading wave that will pass through our area Friday morning, followed by snow showers developing during the windy day ahead of the main storm which is forecast to split as it moves through the Great Basin later Saturday.
Before this split, however, enough of the storm will move through our area to produce moderate to even briefly heavy snowfall after midnight on Friday in the favorable and less windy flow from the northwest. Between some of the snow that will fall during the day Friday and most of the snow that will fall Friday night, we could see 4-8” of snowfall at mid-mountain by Saturday morning, followed by an additional 1-4” during the day Saturday.
Weather forecast models disagree on exactly how the storm will split and whether the snow showers will hang on Saturday night or not, but there could be additional dry and fluffy accumulations Saturday night in the cold, unstable but drying air mass.
Sunday should be cold and dry, with another cold morning forecast for Monday. Ahead of the next storm crossing the Gulf of Alaska on Monday, a ridge of high pressure moves overhead for sunny weather and temperatures warming toward our average of 35 F on Monday, with even more warming forecast for Tuesday. It’s probably too early to call it springlike, but after such a cold and snowy February, March will be arriving like a lamb.
Weather model forecasts differ substantially by Tuesday afternoon as the American GFS splits the incoming storm along the West Coast while the European ECMWF keeps the storm in one piece. While I would guess some sort of compromise solution will eventually verify, we could see a modest storm begin as early as Tuesday night, or the nice weather might persist through midweek before the storm passes through around Thursday.
An even more pronounced ridge of high pressure is advertised to move overhead after the storm, and if the early week’s weather did not feel springlike, then the late-week weather certainly should. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll have the snow totals from this weekend as well as a better idea of the timing of the next storm.
Sunday, February 21, 2021
The Steamboat Ski Area reported 7.5” of low-density and fluffy snowfall at mid-mountain and 10” up top this Sunday morning, with an additional 3” recorded by mid-morning at mid-mountain and 4” up top. Additional light snowfall will hang around tonight and most of tomorrow, especially at the higher elevations, with the sun appearing at lower elevations by Monday afternoon and all elevations for the first part of Tuesday. The midweek storm discussed in the last weather narrative is trending weaker as it is now forecast to split around our area, though we will see the very cold air associated with the storm Wednesday night and Thursday. Snow returns in the weather forecast for Friday, with a possibly significant storm for the weekend.
The current light snowfall at the higher elevations is the result of moisture trapped against the Park Range being lifted over the mountains by the northwest flow behind the storm (orographic, or terrain-driven, precipitation). These showers don’t look to be too productive, with an additional inch or so possible overnight.
The sun will return later Monday first in the valley, and snow showers may taper off enough at the higher elevations to see some sun up there too. Drier air passes overhead during the first half of Tuesday for more sun and warmer temperatures ahead of our next storm that is forecast to travel through the Gulf of Alaska on Monday and mix with some very cold air that is stretched across the northern latitudes from Greenland to Alaska.
Some energy and moisture is ejected out ahead of the storm when it makes landfall along the Pacific Northwest on Monday and is forecast to graze our area later Tuesday. So after a sunny morning, clouds and wind will increase in the afternoon, though precipitation looks to be confined to Wyoming as the wave has trended further north in the weather forecast models.
The main storm is then forecast to split as it enters the Great Basin early Wednesday, with some light snowfall expected for our area centered around Wednesday night and another round of below average temperatures, currently at 34 F, for Thursday.
Splitting storm systems are notorious for being difficult to forecast as what will eventually end up happening over our area is dependent upon how much energy is partitioned between the northern and southern branches. If the storm splits as currently forecast, we might only see 1-4” on the cold Thursday morning report.
Another stronger storm that may evolve similarly is forecast to affect our area starting around the end of the work week and extending into and possibly through the following weekend. There are a range of possible solutions, from a lot of snow to very little, depending upon the eventual track and strength of the storm. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon for more details about this hopefully significant storm.
Thursday, February 18, 2021
Cloudy skies and temperatures of 18 F at the Bob Adams airport and 5 F at the top of the Steamboat Ski Area are currently observed in the Yampa Valley late this Thursday morning. The snow looks to take a break down in the valley today with peeks of sun, though light snow showers look to hold on over the hill as the cool, moist, unstable and favorable northwest flow continues. A small storm is expected on Friday as temperatures rise followed by a moderate and colder storm on Saturday. Even though snow showers will persist on Sunday, especially at the higher elevations, they will gradually diminish before ending on Monday. Our next storm arrives around midweek.
Our active weather pattern in Steamboat Springs is delivering the goods, with 16” of fluffy low-density powder over the last three days at mid-mountain and 24” up top. While the first half of the storm behaved as expected, the second half of the storm from Tuesday night through Wednesday overproduced at the higher elevations, with 6” falling up top during the day yesterday and piling on top of the 11” that was reported at 5 am. This time, the shorter-range weather forecast models had the correct forecast, though they often over-predict which makes relying on them for every forecast problematic. Perhaps they are most reliable for our area when we are in the favorable northwest flow, and I will attempt to incorporate that insight into future snowfall guesses going forward.
Currently, a vortex of frigid air centered over Baffin Bay just west of Greenland is elongated across northern Canada, and chunks of this air mass are mixing with Pacific storms as they traverse the Gulf of Alaska. Ahead of the next cold storm forecast for later Saturday, a shallow ridge of high pressure quickly moves through our area on Friday. Even though we will see warming temperatures during the day, there is enough moisture embedded in the favorable northwest flow to produce light snow that will begin after the Friday morning report and possibly last into the night. While we generally don’t do well with snowfall under warming temperatures, weather forecast models insist there could be 2-5” by the Saturday morning report, most of which would fall during the previous day.
Snowfall may stop for a time around early Saturday morning before restarting as the next colder storm approaches. Snowfall should pick up through the day before the cold front passes through in the afternoon or evening, with snowfall continuing overnight in the cold, moist, unstable and favorable northwest flow. Based upon what happened this past Wednesday, I would guess 5-10” of snowfall could be reported on the Sunday morning report at mid-mountain, with more possible at the higher elevations.
Snow showers will hang on to the higher elevations on Sunday, though additional accumulations should be light. It does look like we will see a precipitation-free period for Monday and the first half of Tuesday before another cold and likely significant storm is forecast for later Tuesday and Wednesday. I’ll have some snowfall guesses in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.
Sunday, February 14, 2021
The Steamboat Springs area is seeing mostly sunny skies and cold temperatures of 0 F at the Bob Adams airport and 9 F at the top of Mt. Werner this Sunday noon. We will see a break in the snowfall through today as the storm that grazed our area last night stays to our south. Snowfall starts up again Monday and lasts through Wednesday before we see a second brief break on Thursday, followed by more snowfall as we head into the following weekend.
Snowfall since Thursday night ended up at the low end of the forecast range these past three days, with 16” at mid-mountain and 22” up top. While the cold air associated with that grazing storm arrived last night as advertised, the storm drifted far enough away from our area to preclude the significant accumulations that were possible.
So enjoy the sunny skies today and crisp winter temperatures as another storm moving in flow from the northwest begins to affect our area on Washington’s Birthday. Some intermittent and light snow showers early in another cold day should give way to heavier and more persistent snow later Monday into Tuesday as favorable moist northwest flow ahead of the storm encroaches on our area and pushes the coldest temperatures to our east. Like the storm last night, this one is also expected to split as it crosses the Great Basin on Tuesday, though not as much, so expect our heaviest snowfall Monday night with lighter snowfall continuing on Tuesday and Wednesday.
There could be 4-8” of snow on the Tuesday morning report, with another 1-4” falling during the day Tuesday. While Tuesday will warm up a bit, the storm will bring another round of cold temperatures for Wednesday and Thursday, with another 1-4” possible during Tuesday night and again on Wednesday before the snowfall tapers off by Thursday morning.
A shallow ridge of high pressure passes overhead on Thursday behind the departing storm and ahead of our next one that could start snowfall as early as early Friday morning in fast flow from the northwest. However, weather forecast models disagree if we will see several waves in northwest flow through the weekend, like the current American GFS, or more of a consolidated storm similar to the latest European ECMWF. So we may see a couple of waves of snowfall centered around Friday and Saturday nights, or more of a single event centered on Saturday.
Current forecasts have another break in the snowfall after the weekend, though this one may also be short-lived as more possibilities for snow emerge during the following work week. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon to see how the upcoming weekend event is developing.
Thursday, February 11, 2021
The Steamboat Springs area saw snow showers this morning along with some peeks of sun as temperatures climbed into the mid-thirties by this Thursday noon. A warm and breezy storm will pass through our area from tonight through Saturday morning followed by a short break around midday. A much colder storm then quickly follows for Saturday night.
A frigid vortex of cold air is stretched across southern Canada and has brought bitterly cold temperatures to the northern Midwest and East. The current storm track is along the boundary that separates that cold air from much warmer air to the south and southwest, and fortuitously is over our area. A storm currently just off the northern West Coast will move inland tonight and bring snows to our area from tonight through Friday night.
Similar to last Friday, the storm is warm and has a lot of moisture, so expect snowfall to pick up tonight and become moderate to heavy on Friday as the winds turn to be first from the west and eventually from the west-northwest later in the day. I would expect 3-6” to be reported at mid-mountain by the Friday morning report with an additional 4-8” falling during the day, with higher amounts at higher elevations likely. Another 5-10” is forecast for Friday night for a 9-18” Saturday morning report.
Some energy ejecting out of a strong storm near the Aleutian Islands is forecast to move across the Gulf of Alaska and mix with some of that bitterly cold air over western Canada and cross the northern West Coast Saturday morning. We’ll see a break between storms for the first part of Saturday, though the snowfall may not stop but only become lighter in intensity.
But snowfall will again become moderate to heavy later Saturday and overnight when the much colder storm moves by. While the center of the storm eventually digs into the Desert Southwest, additional cold air mixes with the system as it moves across the Great Basin, and it is not clear if our winds will turn to be from the favorable northwest or not. At this point, we could see as little as 3-6” by the Sunday morning mid-mountain report, or as much as 6-12” under the more favorable scenario. Additionally, the winds will die down and temperatures will be fifteen to twenty degrees colder than Saturday, with the temperatures falling during the day and creating low-density, fluffy powder.
Much lighter and more showery snowfall is forecast to continue through the day Sunday and overnight as the storm moves eastward to our south. It appears this storm will be strong enough to displace the cold vortex of air over Canada to the east, though there are indications that more cold air from the northern latitudes returns, but not quite as cold.
Another piece of that Aleutian storm is forecast to eject eastward on Sunday and take a similar path to the previous storm. We won’t see the heavy snowfall we will likely see on Saturday night as we will already be in the cold air, but snowfall is currently indicated to start up again after a brief break on Monday and last through most of the work week. The persistent low-density snowfall may quickly pile up, though I won’t venture a snowfall guess at this point as my attention is focused on this weekend.
I’d like to mention that I added the live Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s (CAIC) threat map to the SnowAlarm home page, so I encourage all backcountry and sidecountry users to check this valuable and easily accessible resource before beginning their journey.
Additionally, I’d like to mention to new users that the home page has all of the information needed for a safe and comfortable day on the slopes. Right at the top I show the town and mountain-top temperatures and wind so I know how to dress. I’d like to mention that you cannot trust the mountain-top wind and temperatures from the Steamboat website or phone report since their sensors are hung off the Patrol Headquarters building, and the location shadows westerly winds and inflates afternoon temperatures as the sun heats the deck. I grab my data from the Desert Research Institute weather station at the top of the Morningside lift and the Bob Adams airport. New snowfall as well as the Powdercam movie are also easily accessible so you can inspect the goods.
My next weather narrative will be issued Sunday afternoon, likely late Sunday afternoon as I hope to be skiing powder all morning! I’ll post the storm totals and have more details about the snowy week ahead.