Thursday, February 18, 2016
Don’t let the current sunny skies fool you as this is a slot of dry air ahead of the very windy storm timed to cross the Steamboat Springs area late this afternoon. Gusty southwest winds will veer to the west and become stronger around and behind the frontal passage, with several hours of intense snowfall leading to blowing snow and difficult travel conditions around sunset.
Snowfall should be over by midnight, leaving 3-6” on the hill for the Friday morning ski report. Skies will become partly sunny on Friday before a weak wave to our north brings cooler temperatures and the threat of very light snow showers for early Saturday.
Drier air for Sunday promises a sunnier day before moisture increases late Monday ahead of a wave traveling over the West Coast ridge. This is an interesting development since some cold air from the Canadian Plains is forecast to mix with this wave, bringing some snows to the area on Tuesday.
The westward extent of the cold air over the Canadian Plains has been a key variable in our snowfall this winter. From about mid-December through early February, the West Coast ridge associated with El Nino events had been attacked from the west with Pacific energy and from the east by the cold air over the western Canadian Plains. We have done very well with snowfall as the moist Pacific air undercuts the ridge and overruns the cold Canadian air.
These last 10 days have seen the cold air move eastwards, bringing very cold air and winter weather to the East Coast, but leaving the West Coast ridge stronger and warmer, reducing the threat of snowfall for our area. I am hopeful that the cool air for the Tuesday storm marks a westward expansion of the cold Canadian Plains airmass and a return to a more active weather pattern.
Another drier and weaker wave is forecast to cross north of the area around Thursday, but current forecasts have no precipitation associated with this disturbance.