Thursday, December 7, 2017
The current wintry conditions in Steamboat Springs will last through today before the sun returns for most of the next week. Several more inches of snow are possible through about midnight tonight as more cold air slides southward along the eastern periphery of a large and dominant ridge of high pressure centered over the West Coast.
With the new snow cover, temperature inversions, where temperatures increase with elevation, have formed in the Yampa Valley and will continue for the next several days as clear nighttime skies will allow the surface to efficiently cool. Additionally, the West Coast ridge is forecast to expand eastward, bringing warmer air to the higher elevations. The combination of a low sun angle, cold surface temperatures and warm mountain temperatures makes the atmosphere very stable and inhibits any vertical mixing that may bring the warmer air aloft down to the surface.
The end result will be the Yampa Valley will be slower to warm than the mountains under the sunny skies that are forecast for Friday and the weekend.
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There are three waves of energy traveling over the top of the ridge that may help to drag some cooler air into northern Colorado on Monday, Wednesday and later Thursday as the West Coast ridge periodically retreats to our west. The Monday wave will bring a slight cool down under mostly sunny skies, while the Wednesday wave may only bring some clouds.
The strongest and moistest of the waves is currently timed for later Thursday and is advertised to bring some light snow to our area. It should be noted that the boundary between the warm and dry air to our west and the cold and moist air to our east will be very sensitive to the track of these waves, so the forecast can easily move to either the warmer and drier side or the cooler and moister side, especially after the dry Monday wave. In fact, the European ECMWF has the late Thursday wave much further west than the American GFS, so the forecast is quite uncertain for the end of the work week.
This of course leads to further forecast uncertainty for the following weekend. While the West Coast ridge is forecast to rebuild for a time, there are indications of a pattern change after that as incoming Pacific energy starts to break down the dominant West Coast ridge. This may allow for a more active weather regime starting around that weekend or the following work week.