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Stormy weather window opens today

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

We have light rain in the town of Steamboat Springs this Thursday afternoon and light snow at and above the 9000′ elevation of mid-mountain. Rain should turn to snow later today as some cool air filters in from the north, and intermittent periods of light to perhaps moderate snow will continue through the day Friday before temperatures warm and skies mostly clear for the weekend. But the winter weather returns on Monday and looks to persist through Thanksgiving week, with a short break currently advertised for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

The current precipitation is courtesy of an old storm from near Baja that was forced over Colorado by an upstream storm currently located in southern California. The California storm itself represents the southern part of a Pacific storm that split yesterday as it crossed the West Coast, and a cool front associated with the northern part of this split will drop snow levels to the mountain base by tonight even as snows briefly end. While we could see 2-5” of accumulation at the top of Mt. Werner by Thursday morning, totals will be closer to 1-4” at mid-mountain and likely less than an inch, if at all, in town.

While the first storm is forecast to be east of our area tonight, the California storm moves into the Great Basin on Thursday and elongates back westward as it moves eastward, creating unsettled conditions over our area that will last through Friday. Energy ejecting out of the Great Basin storm looks to bring a period of better snows at all elevations around Thursday morning, with snow showers ending for a brief time in the afternoon. But light and intermittent snow showers will begin again in the evening and last through Friday evening as the Great Basin storm moves over Colorado. I would expect an additional 1-4” to be reported on the Friday morning ski report.

Even though showers will continue during the day Friday, additional accumulations will be scant before dry air overruns our area for the weekend. There may be some clouds around on Saturday due to trapped low-level moisture, and on Sunday due to a grazing disturbance in northwest flow, but a pleasant weekend with some new snow will greet the commemoration of Steamboat’s new gondola.

Attention then turns to a stronger and colder storm that will affect our area starting later Monday and lasting through Tuesday, with significant accumulations likely. And while a break is currently advertised for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the stormy weather window stays open as another significant storm of some sort looks to bring an additional round of snow for Thanksgiving Day, with much colder temperatures and unsettled weather persisting through the following weekend. I should have a much better idea of how this all unfolds on my next twice-weekly weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

Nice before unsettled weather begins midweek

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Temperatures are already several degrees above our average of 40 F at the noon hour this sunny Sunday, and other than some clouds later today and tonight, clear skies and warm days will prevail through Tuesday. A couple of storms will affect our area from later Wednesday through Friday, and possibly into Saturday, before dry weather is advertised for the end of the weekend and the beginning of the next work week.

Part of yesterday’s weak storm was left behind near the Baja Peninsula, and this will spin undisturbed under a ridge of high pressure over the West for a couple of days. Meanwhile, a weak disturbance moving along the ridge of high pressure in northwest flow will increase moisture over northern Colorado tonight and early Monday, leading to some clouds and perhaps some high elevation snow flurries.

Behind the disturbance sunny skies will prevail for a gorgeous late-fall Monday and Tuesday, with warm daytime temperatures in the low fifties on Monday and high fifties on Tuesday.

A complex storm will travel over the West starting by midweek as a Pacific storm traveling across the Gulf of Alaska mixes with some cool western Canadian air and splits as it crosses the Pacific Northwest coast on Tuesday. The southern part of the storm will travel south along the West Coast and dislodge the old Baja storm to the northeast, bringing it across the Desert Southwest on Wednesday. Additionally, the bulk of the northern part of the storm sweeps across the northern Rockies and brings a cool front near northern Colorado later on Wednesday.

While we usually don’t do well with these southern storms unless they pass directly overhead, the proximity of the cool front makes for an uncertain forecast. Currently, light showers by Wednesday afternoon look to start as rain but turn to snow and become heavier by the evening and overnight as the cool front stalls near our area. Storm evolution and snow amounts are uncertain enough that I will defer guessing at this time, though at this point I expect that my usual Thursday afternoon forecast will be moved up a day and I will include guesses in that weather narrative.

Meanwhile, the storm that dislodged the Baja storm will itself be forced eastward near our area on Thursday by another incoming Pacific storm. Our weather will remain unsettled in the proximity of this storm, and weather forecast models are struggling with the speed and evolution of the eastward movement. The European ECMWF is currently forecasting a more elongated storm and slower movement that would keep cool and showery weather around into Saturday, while the American GFS clears us out on Friday.

In any event warmer and drier weather returns to our area behind the storm as a ridge of high pressure rebuilds over the West. This looks to persist through the weekend and into the following Monday before another storm that should be considerably colder is forecast to impact our area around the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Slight chance of precipitation mid-weekend with a better chance midweek

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Another seasonably warm and sunny day is gracing the Steamboat Springs area this Thursday afternoon, with the current temperature of 49 F seven degrees above our average of 42 F. Similar weather is expected for the upcoming week, briefly interrupted later Saturday with a slight chance of precipitation. However chances for precipitation become much greater starting midweek.

The ridge of high pressure that has taken up residence over the West Coast these past two weeks is finally on the move, thanks to an incoming Pacific storm system that strengthened in the Gulf of Alaska. We’ll see another warm and mostly sunny day on Friday before clouds increase for Saturday ahead of the storm that is forecast to pass over our area during the day.

As alluded to in last Sunday’s weather narrative, the storm will split with some energy dropping into the Baja area and the bulk of the storm traveling across the northern Rockies and grazing us on Saturday. The best chance of snow showers will be during the day Saturday at the higher elevations when the cold front passes, with meager accumulations around an inch at best. There may be raindrops in town, though the cool air behind the front should turn any liquid into snowflakes by later in the day along with breezy northwest winds.

The sun will return for Sunday, though we may see some increasing clouds later in the day as a weak impulse in the northwest flow passes by.

After a chilly start to Monday morning, more sunny skies and a warming airmass should allow temperatures to once again reach around five to ten degrees above average which will persist through most of Tuesday.

Meanwhile, another Pacific storm drops southward along the West Coast by midweek and forces the loitering storm around Baja northeastward and toward or over our area around midweek. Weather forecast models always struggle with identifying the track and strength of these interacting storms, especially when they are cut off from the main jet stream, but currently it looks like a good chance of warm precipitation around midweek or soon after, followed by a better chance for snow around the end of the work week as the stronger and colder upstream storm is forecast to move near or over our area.

Dry weather follows chance of light snow tonight

Sunday, November 10, 2019

After another sunny bluebird morning in Steamboat Springs, clouds have overspread northern Colorado in advance of a grazing storm that will be mainly felt in areas to our east. There will be a chance of some light snow showers tonight and early Veterans Day morning, especially at the higher elevations before dry weather is forecast for the rest of the upcoming week.

A persistent ridge of high pressure over the West Coast has been deflecting incoming Pacific weather systems around our area for the last week. However, the storm currently on our doorstep has managed a far-enough-west trajectory to bring the chance of some snow showers tonight and early Monday morning, especially at the higher elevations.

While the main effects of the storm will be felt east of our area, including the Front Range, we will see high temperatures on Monday five to ten degrees below our average of 46 F, even with some afternoon sun. A chilly start to Tuesday morning follows as the clear skies and light winds allow temperatures to drop ten to 15 degrees below our average of 19 F.

Sunny skies will be the rule through the work, with temperatures around average on Tuesday bouncing back to five to ten degrees above average for the rest of the work week, despite another grazing storm later Wednesday that looks to have very little effect on our weather.

A strong storm is forecast to develop in the Gulf of Alaska midweek, and weather forecast models agree that this may be the beginning of a hemispheric pattern change that will deamplify or remove the West Coast ridge of high pressure and allow Pacific storms to propagate inland.

Forecasts are always uncertain during major pattern changes such as this, but currently the storm is likely to split to some degree as it crosses the West Coast early in the weekend (as forecast by the American GFS last week). There is disagreement on how much energy is partitioned in the northern and southern parts of the split, though the weather will likely remain dry over the weekend with this initial storm. That does look to change soon after the following work week starts as additional storms are forecast to move inland and possibly pass near or over our area.

Quiet weather for the upcoming week

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The sunny skies and seasonably warm temperatures observed in Steamboat Springs this week will continue for the upcoming week, save for a couple of grazing storms that will bring clouds and cooler temperatures for Monday and later Wednesday.

The benign weather is due to a large and stable ridge of high pressure over the West Coast which extends across Alaska and into Siberia. An incoming Pacific storm will travel through the West Coast ridge this weekend and mix with some cold air from the Canadian Plains as it sinks toward the Midwest, grazing our area late Sunday or early Monday and briefly interrupting the current gorgeous late-fall weather.

The Rocky Mountains will divert moisture and most of the cold air to the Front Range and areas east, but we will see some clouds and a cool down on Veterans Day from the recent five to ten degrees above our average of 47 F to five to ten degrees below. There will also be a small chance of some high elevations snow showers.

While the sun should return on Tuesday, temperatures will increase toward average even as the morning starts chilly.

Another grazing storm is forecast for later Wednesday, and though it won’t be as cold, the storm track may be slightly further to the west. Again, there will be increasing clouds and only a slight chance of snow showers at the higher elevations before the sun returns for more dry and seasonably warm weather for the rest of the work week and headed into the weekend. So the Steamboat Ski Resort’s just-announced and earliest ever Opening Day on that Friday is currently forecast to be a nice one.

Longer-term models agree on another storm crossing the West Coast around the following weekend, but disagree on the storm track, with the more consistent ECMWF forecasting another grazing storm and the more mercurial-this-season American GFS forecasting some type of splitting storm that may bring some weather into the West.

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