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Continued cold ahead of promising New Years Day storm

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The cold temperatures in Steamboat Springs continue this Sunday afternoon, with a high temperature of -2 F at the summit already observed at 12:40 pm and the current 14 F in town likely at our high for the day. Lingering snow showers will end today, though the cold will stick around ahead of a promising storm that begins on New Years Day.

Currently, our early weekend storm has moved into Minnesota and strengthened, and the cold northerly flow on the backside of the storm is keeping our temperatures cold, with the 14 F in town twelve degrees below our average of 26 F. The light and barely-accumulating snow showers seen today will end by midnight as we are between the storm in Minnesota and another one currently dropping southward along the West Coast that will not affect our area.

There will be some clearing of the clouds overnight and through Monday, and this is important to the low temperature forecasts for town as any clouds insulate the surface of the earth like a blanket. Though it will be cold in town tomorrow morning, with temperatures at least five degrees below our average of 3 F, clearing skies would allow temperatures in town to fall to ten or even fifteen degrees below average.

There should be more sun for Monday, in spite of the possibility of high clouds, and though mountain temperatures will warm by five degrees or so from Sunday, they will remain cold as the cold northerly or northwesterly flow persists.

Drier air invades our area later Monday, and the fresh snow cover, light winds and clear skies will allow the valley temperatures to plummet into the negative teens for Tuesday morning. This will create a temperature inversion, where temperatures increase with elevation. While the mountain temperatures will still start cold near 0 F, they will still be warmer than the temperature at the base.

But along with sunny skies on Tuesday, the atmosphere will warm through the afternoon, allowing temperatures to move into the teens both on the hill and in town for a gorgeous mid-winter day.

Clouds increase New Years Eve ahead of a promising storm out of the northwest slated to begin snows over our area during New Years Day. There is a lot to like about this storm; it’s cold, it’s moist and it’s northwest trajectory is favorable for snow over Steamboat. I mentioned to some of the nice ticket-checking folks at the base of the gondola building yesterday that the storm looks too good to be true, but if it evolves as currently predicted, light snow early on Wednesday should turn moderate to heavy by the afternoon and continue overnight as first a cold front passes through and is then followed by orographic, or terrain-driven, snows.

Though there are some indications in the weather forecast models of the storm undergoing a minor split as it passes over our area, 6-12” of light and fluffy snow could be reported on the Thursday morning mid-mountain report, with light to sometimes moderate snow showers continuing through the day and into Friday morning leaving another 3-6” by the Friday morning report.

Another wave in northwest flow will keep snow showers going during the day Friday and into Saturday morning, though the atmosphere warms and stabilizes and limits the accumulations.

There is forecast uncertainty with respect to a ridge of high pressure that may briefly build over our area for part of the weekend, though weather forecast models agree on another northwesterly storm by later in the weekend or early the next week.

As an administrative note, while I normally publish these weather narratives on Sunday and Thursday afternoons, I do adjust this schedule based upon storms, so there may be a Wednesday afternoon discussion.

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