Thursday, February 1, 2018
Colorado will be sandwiched between a ridge of high pressure off the West Coast and a deep and very cold vortex of cold air over Hudson Bay, which will continue tormenting the Midwest and East with cold and snowy weather. The resultant northwesterly flow over the Steamboat Springs area, which will be breezy to windy at the higher elevations, will yield generally light orographic or terrain-driven precipitation for almost the entire upcoming week in a long-duration event, enhanced from time to time by passing waves of energy and moisture.
These waves will travel over the top of the West Coast ridge and possibly mix with some cool air from western Canada, though the coldest air looks to stay to our north and east. We won’t be seeing any snow to liquid water ratios of thirty or forty to one, like the last storm, though snowfall will vary between denser and less dense depending upon how much cool air mixes with the incoming waves. The amount of mixing, along with the timing and strength of each wave are the sources of uncertainty over the next five days.
Snowfall should taper off this afternoon and evening on Mt. Werner behind the current small storm before picking up again Friday in advance of the next wave, timed to pass over Colorado during the day Saturday. The warming temperatures forecast for Friday will put the Yampa Valley near the rain-snow line, but right now it appears there is enough cool air for precipitation to remain as snow even in town, though there may be a mix at times.
Cooler air arrives with the storm after midnight Friday, and snowfall rates should increase for a time through Saturday morning before decreasing again as the wave moves past our area by the afternoon. I would guess 2-5” of snow for the Saturday morning report, with another 2-5” possible during the day and overnight, to be reported Sunday morning.
The light and continuing snowfall should pick a bit for Sunday as another wave in northwesterly flow skirts northern Colorado before ending for a short time Sunday night, leaving another 2-5” for the Monday morning report.
But the coldest and strongest wave follows for Monday, with snow redeveloping as early as Monday morning. Moderate to heavy snow is currently expected for Monday afternoon and night before tapering off on Tuesday, and there may be 6-12” of snow by the Tuesday morning report.
Adding up these snow guesses yields around one to two feet of snow between today and Tuesday before the western ridge pushes inland and ends the storm cycle. Because of the large orographic component, snowfall rates will increase with elevation, so amounts in town will not be nearly as impressive as the snowfall recorded at the top of the Steamboat Ski Area.
Drier weather is advertised to return after Tuesday, though there are an additional couple of waves for Wednesday and the following weekend which may trend stronger or weaker as incoming Pacific energy continues to ride over the top of the building western ridge.
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