Thursday, February 8, 2018
The large-scale weather pattern over North America is still dominated by a ridge of high pressure off the West Coast and a large vortex of cold air over Hudson Bay. Several storms are lined up to travel over or through the ridge of high pressure to our west and mix to some degree with the cold air over western Canada. There will be chances of accumulating snows in the Steamboat Springs area Saturday and early and late in the coming work week.
Generally, I am not impressed with the first two storms, though the forecast has been dripping with uncertainty for the past few days and could certainly change. Right now, moisture ahead of the Saturday storm will continue to stream over northern Colorado today and tomorrow, with some energy forecast to graze our area on Friday which may lead to some light snow showers, especially at the higher elevations, and breezy conditions.
The incoming storm will shear apart as it crosses Colorado on Saturday, with our area left between the northern and southern branches of the storm. Snow chances will be highest on Saturday as a piece of the cold front stalls near our area, but the disorganized storm is promising greater snow amounts to our south as that area is closer to the southern end of the storm.
The cold front finally blasts through our area around Saturday evening with clearing skies and cool temperatures forecast behind the front. We could see as much as 1-4”of snow on Saturday which would be reported Sunday morning.
Meanwhile, another Pacific storm is forecast to move through the western ridge of high pressure, and this one is forecast to split as some energy digs into the southwestern U.S. and some swings eastward across and north of our area on Monday. We will see sun and warming by Sunday afternoon ahead of this storm, but that looks short-lived as the northern piece of the storm moves over our area, starting light snow showers again on Monday.
The weather will turn quieter after the Monday storm as we are between the departing northern part storm to our east and the left-behind storm to our southwest. The next chance of snow around the end of the work week occurs as the southwestern storm is dislodged by another Pacific storm traveling through the western ridge of high pressure.
At this point, the end-of-week storm, as portrayed by the current weather models., is looking the most promising as the southwestern storm spends some time moistening off the southern California coast during the work week. The new Pacific storm is forecast to mix with both cold air from Canada and the southwestern storm leading to snow chances for our area around Thursday. However, the number of moving pieces between now and then leads to a very low-confidence forecast.
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Sunday, February 4, 2018
The overall weather pattern for the Steamboat Springs area has changed very little since my last forecast, with a ridge of high pressure to our west and a deep and very cold vortex of cold air over Hudson Bay. Waves of energy and moisture traveling over or through the ridge of western high pressure will mix to varying degrees with cold air over western Canada through Tuesday, with the amount of mixing the main uncertainty in the forecast.
Over the past several days, we’ve had plenty of moisture and favorable northwest flow, but the warm temperatures are strangling our potential snow accumulations. That looks to change around midnight tonight as some cool air finally makes its way over our area. Until then expect cloudy and warm temperatures with minimal snow accumulations, but snows should increase after midnight and become moderate to heavy at times through at least the early morning hours.
Since we may see snowfall rates over an inch per hour at times, I would expect 2-5” of snow by the morning report. Additional waves of moisture and energy will keep the snow going through the day and overnight Monday, and I would guess 2-5” during each twelve hour period, leaving a 4-10” forecast for Tuesday morning.
Snowfall will taper off for a time Tuesday before picking up again in the afternoon as the the last wave in this series crosses the area. This will also bring the coldest temperatures of the storm cycle, and while the moisture decreases, the colder temperatures will mean lighter and fluffier snow., especially after sunset Tuesday. The timing and strength of this final wave is still uncertain, but I could see another 2-5” for the Wednesday morning report.
There appears to be a break in the weather around midweek, with the weekend forecast becoming more uncertain as the weather models change their predictions. The end result is there may or may not be some sort of storm for the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival weekend.
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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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