Quick update on the storm

Saturday, March 3, 2018

I wanted to post a quick update after looking at the storm this afternoon. The expected cold front looks to arrive around mid-morning on Sunday, so I would not expect any snow for the morning report. In fact, we may see some sun and more gusty winds ahead of the front early in the day.

The later arrival of the front means that some of the snowfall that would have occurred during the day will instead accumulate later Sunday night. I still expect the same 6-12” of snow by the Monday morning report as my last Thursday forecast, but with 3-6” of snow falling during the day Sunday followed by another 3-6” overnight.

Best chances for snow this week on Sunday

Thursday, March 1, 2018

What might end up being the strongest storm for the Sierras this winter season is currently pounding the northern California mountains with wind and heavy snow. Additional upstream Pacific energy will move this storm eastward through the Great Basin this weekend, bringing snows to the Steamboat Springs area for Sunday.

Ahead of the storm though, we will see warming temperatures and breezy southwest winds. Some energy ejecting out of the storm will increase clouds later this Thursday afternoon and overnight, with the chance of an inch or two at the higher elevations by Friday morning.

The sun should return for a warm Friday and Saturday, and after last weekend’s frigid temperatures, the weather will feel springlike.

But that will quickly change Saturday night or Sunday morning as a strong cold front barrels through our area. The timing of the front is still uncertain, though Sunday morning looks likely, and the front will be accompanied with and followed by periods of moderate to heavy snowfall. If the current forecasts hold, I would expect 1-4” for the Sunday morning report with an additional 4-8” during the day.

As the storm moves east of Colorado, very cold air in moist northwest flow moves over Colorado, keeping snows going overnight Sunday on the backside of the storm and leaving an additional 2-4” of snow for the 6-12” Monday morning report. While we usually do very well in this circumstance, the very cold air might limit snow densities during the last half of the storm and temper the overall storm accumulations, or not.

Nonetheless, after a very cold Monday morning, sunshine and warming temperatures are on tap for the rest of the day and Tuesday, though the warmest temperatures, which will eventually reach well above average, will wait for the end of the work week. We may see some clouds with the chance of light snow showers later Wednesday and Wednesday night as a weak wave passes near our area.

After a warm Friday and Saturday, the weather looks to turn unsettled heading into the following weekend.

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Mostly dry this week with a chance of snow for Wednesday

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The very active weather experienced in Steamboat Springs for the month of February looks to take a break to close out the month after the Steamboat Ski Area received over 16” of snow at mid-mountain since the start of the storm cycle last Wednesday.

The current unseasonably cold temperatures will warm a bit from yesterday, though stay cold even as we see sun this Sunday afternoon.

After a chilly Monday morning, much more noticeable warming will occur by Monday afternoon, especially at the higher elevations, as our flow backs from the northwest to west and eventually southwest ahead of the next storm, currently moving southward from the Gulf of Alaska.

This storm looks weak and disorganized for northern Colorado as it splits Monday night while moving first southward along the West Coast and then eastward. We do get a weak cool front that passes through our area on Wednesday from the northern branch of the split, but moisture is sparse, especially in the northwest flow behind the front. The best snows are currently forecast to occur south of us with the southern portion of the split, with 1-4” of snow possible over our area during Wednesday. That forecast is uncertain, however, as the partitioning of energy between the northern and southern pieces of the storm, and the proximity of the southern piece of the storm, can still change over the next few days.

In any event, after a chilly Thursday morning, temperatures will warm for Thursday and Friday as the flow once again backs to the southwest ahead of another bigger and stronger storm moving southward from the Gulf of Alaska. However, while this storm starts strong, current weather models have the source of cold air in western Canada splitting into several pieces, and this weakens the storm as it heads westward near the end of the work week across the northern tier of the United States.

Weather models are struggling with the evolution of this storm as it moves by northern Colorado around next weekend. Right now, snow showers are advertised for Thursday as some energy and moisture ejects out of the storm with some drying for Friday. While the American GFS has some accumulating snows for our area over the weekend, the European ECMWF is wetter and stronger with the storm, offering a more encouraging snow forecast. More details should emerge by my next forecast on Thursday.

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Light snow for most of the next week

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The active weather pattern for Steamboat Springs will continue through next midweek as cold air from western Canada continues to mix with incoming Pacific storms. Several storms are lined up to bring mostly light snow and more cold temperatures to our area starting this afternoon and lasting through the first part of Sunday, with a small break advertised Saturday morning.

Before discussing the weather forecast, I’d like to show the temperature timeseries at Storm Peak Lab near the top of the Morningside lift from last Tuesday when a series of cold fronts blasted through northern Colorado. Storm Peak Lab cold front 2Feb2018 The red line is the temperature, the vertical scale ranges form -20F to 20F with each tenth representing 4F, and the horizontal timescale ranges from noon on Tuesday through noon on Wednesday. The initial cold front passed through the area around 2pm Tuesday with heavy snow, dropping temperatures from 18F to 6F in minutes and leaving about 4” of snow on the hill through that afternoon. Cold air continued filtering in until another strong push of cold air brought the lowest temperatures of the storm of -12F around 9pm. I had expected another 3-6” of snow overnight with that front, but the very cold temperatures changed the snowflakes from light and fluffy dendrites to dense needles and columns. Rather than snow densities of 30:1 or 40:1, the resultant 10:1 densities meant only about an inch of snow overnight, underscoring the difficulty in predicting snow amounts. Generally, our best accumulating snowfall occurs with mountain-top temperatures between about 5F and 15F.

Back to the current forecast, energy ejecting out of a large storm dropping into the Great Basin will start snow showers over Steamboat Springs later this afternoon as a weak cool front passes through tonight. I would expect 1-4” by the Friday morning report.

The Great Basin storm is pushed eastward by another incoming Pacific storm, keeping light snow showers going during the day Friday before a cold front associated with the storm increases snowfall rates for a time Friday night. I would expect another 3-6” of snow by Saturday morning before a brief break in the weather is advertised for a cold Saturday morning.

The last Pacific storm for the weekend brings another weak cold front through our area Saturday night or Sunday morning, restarting the snow showers by Saturday afternoon that last through Sunday morning. The timing of the front will determine if we get most of the expected 3-6” by report time or by later in the morning.

Yet another Pacific storm moves southward from the Gulf of Alaska late in the weekend along the West Coast, and turns our flow to the southwest early in the work week. We should see dry weather and warming temperatures from later Sunday through at least part of Tuesday before this storm is kicked over our area by another Pacific storm entering the Gulf of Alaska. The warming ahead of the storm will allow a good cold front to pass through the area around Tuesday night or Wednesday, with more accumulating snows likely.

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More snow and very cold this week

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Some of the frigid air over Hudson Bay in eastern Canada has moved westward this past week, mixing with and intensifying Pacific storms riding over a ridge of high pressure near the Gulf of Alaska. The next weather-maker for the Steamboat Springs area and our state is currently near the British Columbia / Washington coast and is moving southward.

Southwest winds will strengthen today as the storm continues moving south through Monday before turning eastward and entering the Great Basin. The southwest flow will mix with some remnant energy left off the southern California coast from last Friday’s storm, and begin snow showers over Mt. Werner after midnight tonight.

And similar to last Friday, the usually unfavorable southwest flow should bring good snowfall as ejecting energy and moisture travel over a stalled cold front over or near our area on Monday. Due to the late start of the showers tonight, I would expect only 1-4” on the Monday morning report, but another round of Steamboat Magic, where there are accumulations between the report time and ski time, is possible.

Snows should continue through the day as the southward progress of the cold front is stalled by the southwest flow. Sometime in the afternoon or evening, perhaps around sunset, the cold front will blast through the area with a period of moderate to heavy snowfall and plunging temperatures, contributing to difficult travel conditions.

Though moisture decreases behind the front, the coldest temperatures since last December will lead to light and fluffy snow overnight Monday. I’ll guess at 3-6” during the day Monday, with another 3-6” of lighter and fluffier snow overnight, leading to 6-12” for the cold Tuesday morning report.

Snowfall will continue Tuesday, but become lighter and more showery before ending overnight, with an additional 1-4” to be reported on a very cold Wednesday morning.

Unsettled weather will continue through the entire work week and following weekend as additional waves of Pacific energy travel over the top of the ridge near the Gulf of Alaska and continue to mix with the cold air over western Canada.

The timing of the waves are uncertain, but right now, light and non-accumulating snow showers are advertised for later Wednesday, light but accumulating snows for later Thursday, and better snows for Friday and later Saturday into Sunday.

It looks like we will finally have a snowy February as the long-term forecast for unsettled weather continues into March.

Don’t let the cold weather that’s coming shorten your ski day. My new favorite cold-weather glove are all about warmth. And when combined with the standard HotHands handwamers which I use below about 5F, I’m good for the day. Three fingers sit together with the index finger separated, but there is enough room to scrunch all your fingers together while on the lift, which is especially nice if you have a handwarmer in the mitten-part of the glove.

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