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Winter returns starting Wednesday

Monday, February 20, 2017

A storm off the West Coast is again pounding the California mountains, and energy ejecting out ahead of the storm will help form a southwest to northeast oriented front across the Great Basin. This front will bring clouds and the possibility of light showers to the Steamboat Springs area on Tuesday ahead of new storm cycle that that will persist into the weekend.

The front is forecast to move through northern Colorado early Wednesday, bringing cooler temperatures and a likely burst of heavy snow down to the Yampa Valley floor. Light to moderate snows should continue during the day and overnight as the front stalls near our region and subtle, hard-to-resolve waves of energy periodically enhance snowfall rates.

Snowfall forecast amounts are bolstered by atmospheric cooling, but tempered by the predominantly west-southwest mountain-top winds and the location of the upper level jet stream just north of the Colorado border. Right now, I expect 4-8” of snow by Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, additional energy from the northern latitudes kicks the West Coast storm inland later Wednesday across the Great Basin, and another push of significantly colder air with moderate to heavy snows is expected sometime on Thursday. Good snow should follow the front as the upper level jet stream pushes south of northern Colorado and maintains the large-scale upward motion that is conducive to precipitation.

Light to moderate snows will continue overnight Thursday and through much of Friday as cool, moist and unstable northwest flow lingers behind the departing storm. If the storm comes together as advertised by some models, we could see as much as 6-12” by Friday morning and an additional 3-6” during the day.

Additional energy and cold air from the northern latitudes travels down the east side of a building Bering Sea ridge into the Gulf of Alaska, forming a new storm and reinforcing a generally west-to-east frontal boundary across the Great Basin. Models disagree on how much energy loiters off the West Coast vs. how much moves inland and the amount of ridging ahead of the storm, but unsettled conditions with seasonably cool temperatures are expected for the weekend.

Some models have the storm off the West Coast drawing in subtropical moisture and setting the stage for another atmospheric river event. Though the timing is uncertain, models have additional northern latitude energy again dropping into the Gulf of Alaska, displacing the hopefully very moist storm westward early in the work week and bringing another round of likely significant precipitation to the area.

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