Thursday, January 31, 2019
Another sunny winter day with below normal temperatures has greeted the Steamboat Springs area this Thursday morning. Temperatures will moderate through Saturday before a series of storms affects the West through most of the next work week. The storms will start out on the warm side beginning Sunday, but another blast of arctic air is advertised to arrive around midweek.
The hemispheric circulation pattern is currently reorganizing, with the vortex of frigid air that has been centered over Hudson Bay this winter moving eastward. Concurrently, a strong and very moist storm in the eastern Pacific approaches the West Coast this weekend and pushes a shallow ridge of high pressure over our area through Saturday. Temperatures in the Yampa Valley should be near our average 29 F high today and exceed that for Friday and Saturday as warmer air moves through.
The Pacific storm crosses the West Coast early in the weekend, bringing very heavy precipitation to the Sierras. Clouds and southwest winds should increase over our area on Saturday in advance of the storm with snows starting sometime before midday on Sunday. The cold front associated with the storm is not very strong, and northwest flow behind the storm is limited with a more westerly component, but there is a lot of moisture that could lead to periods of moderate to heavy precipitation, along with moderate winds and difficult travel conditions. Though the forecast will likely change as the storm approaches, right now I would guess 4-8” of snow by Sunday evening before this first storm moves east of our area.
Hot on the heels of the first storm is a much colder storm from the Gulf of Alaska that will have mixed with some frigid western Canadian air. Snows may stop for a time Sunday night before they start again by Monday morning as the flow turns back to be from the west-southwest.
Forecast snow amounts will have to wait until the details become clearer, but periods of light to even moderate snow look possible ahead of the main Gulf of Alaska storm on Monday and through the day Tuesday.
Weather forecast models are struggling with the timing, but a strong cold front is forecast for around late Tuesday at which point snows will turn moderate to heavy. Temperatures will plunge and snows will continue on Wednesday as the moist upper level flow turns to our favorable northwest direction. Though moisture decreases in the very cold air mass behind the front, snows should continue to pile up as it becomes increasingly light and fluffy.
A trailing wave of even colder air will pass through our area and reinforce the very cold temperatures around Wednesday night, likely keeping accumulating snows going through part of Thursday.
Another storm and more cold air is advertised to be to our north near the end of the work week, though weather forecast models disagree about the southern extent of this event making the forecast for the following weekend uncertain.
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