Active spring weather continues with the next storm on our doorstep

Thursday, April 12, 2018

In advance of the Friday storm promised in the last forecast, Steamboat Springs has seen warm and windy conditions this Thursday, to be followed by a strong cold front bringing unseasonably cold temperatures and snow to northern Colorado by tonight.

Before the forecast, I would like to quickly review the last storm cycle as it has boosted the north central Colorado snowpack to above average for this water year which began on Oct. 1. Between about 3pm on Thursday, April 5 and 3pm on Monday, April 9, remote telemetry from the Tower SNOTEL site on top of Buffalo Pass indicated 32” of snow fell containing about 6.5” of water, some of that which fell as rain Saturday afternoon and evening. The precipitation at the Rabbit Ears SNOTEL site started closer to midnight, but that site received six inches of snow containing five inches of water, more of which fell as rain during the storm. And, as is expected during a storm with a largely orographic or terrain driven component, precipitation decreased with elevation, and the largest valley totals I found from CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network) stations reporting continuously during the event showed 2.5” of water.

This was an incredible amount of water and reflected the amount of moisture contained in the Atmospheric River that originated near Hawaii, also known colloquially as the Pineapple Express.

Now back to our featured storm that will bring snowfall to our area through early Saturday morning. We may see some showers ahead of the front, but any precipitation will quickly turn to snow even at the Yampa Valley bottom when the front blasts through around sunset. We may even hear a rumble of thunder in this unstable environment, and locally heavy snowfall is expected for a time that will create difficult travel conditions.

While snowfall may wane behind the front, I would expect 3-6” of snowfall at mid-mountain by the quite cold Friday morning report. But snowfall picks up again on Friday as the strengthening storm passes to our east and brings cold, moist and unstable northwest flow over our area. Showers, some of them heavy, will be ongoing through the day before tapering off overnight, and I would expect another 3-6” during the day with 1-4” possible overnight. As was the case this last Monday, the greatest snowfall will be found at the higher elevations.

After the snows ends early Saturday morning, we should see clearing skies and a seasonably cool day. Closing Day should feature warmer temperatures and more sun, though Monday looks to be the warmest and sunniest day of the week.

But the nice weather won’t last as a weakening storm passes near our area on Tuesday. Models disagree on the strength of the storm, but right now mid-mountain could see 4-8” of snow, with more at higher elevations, and some snow even in the valley, before clearing skies are forecast for Tuesday night.

Wednesday should start quite chilly if skies do indeed clear, but temperatures will quickly rebound during the day as southwest flow brings warm temperatures and sunny skies. The beautiful springtime weather will persist for Thursday ahead of another possibly significant storm forecast for around Friday.

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