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Wintry weather for most of the work week

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Temperatures so far this Sunday afternoon are running thirty degrees below our average of 53 F, and this is the warmer day of the next several! Snow showers increase tonight behind the first of two cold fronts, and after the snows taper off on Monday, a second even colder front moves through on Tuesday, with light and fluffy snow showers persisting through Tuesday and most of Wednesday. While precipitation looks to end by Wednesday night, the cold air will stick around for another day under sunny skies before moderating heading into the following nice weekend.

The mid-winter-like weather is courtesy of energy and moisture riding over a sharp ridge of high pressure off the West Coast and mixing with frigid air from near the North Pole. Snowfall between this afternoon and Monday afternoon is expected to be in the 5-10” range on the hill and 3-6” in town, and with the Steamboat Powdercam finally back up, we will finally be able to watch the snow accumulate at the top of Sunshine Peak.

The snows will taper off on Monday before restarting very early Tuesday when another blast of arctic air moves across our area before noon. While the water content of the snow will be quite low due to the cold air, snow densities will be quite high, allowing 6-12” of light and fluffy snow to fall on the upper mountain on Tuesday and Wednesday and another 3-6” in town.

If skies clear Wednesday night, temperatures are expected to plunge on Thursday morning to five to ten degrees below zero before returning to the twenties by the afternoon with sunny skies. Additional energy is expected to round the top of the ridge of high pressure off the West Coast, and bring a more seasonable and grazing shot of dry cool air for Friday, with temperatures climbing out of the dungeon by Saturday afternoon under continued sunny skies.

The winter-like weather takes a break for the weekend and early the following week as the West Coast ridge briefly encroaches inland, but a cold and wet pattern is advertised by the long-range models to follow.

Three day break before the next storm cycle begins

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The sun is shining brightly on this cool Thursday in Steamboat Springs, which is a welcome sight after snow the past four days (and five out of the last six)! You would’t know we had a high of 69 F a week ago on Thursday before snow moved in and likely ended the mountain biking season in town, as it looks like mid-winter out there. Enjoy the break through Saturday as we have another storm cycle starting on Sunday that will again bring unseasonably cold temperatures to our area through most of the next workweek.

Despite the ample sunshine today, high temperatures will again stay in the thirties similar to the last four days, which is around twenty degrees below our average of 55F. After the cool temperatures today, low temperatures tomorrow morning will again be ten to twenty degrees below our average of 24 F. A ridge of high pressure moves over the West on Friday and Saturday, bringing considerable warming with high temperatures moving toward average on Friday and around average on Saturday.

But the ridge of high pressure will be pushed east of our area as a storm currently in the Gulf of Alaska makes landfall along the Pacific Northwest on Friday and moves across the Great Basin on Saturday. The storm will strengthen as it mixes with some cold Canadian air, bringing first clouds to our area later Saturday and then a cold front around Saturday night or Sunday morning.

The front looks to stall over northern Colorado during the day Sunday as the storm elongates to the southwest, likely bringing cold air all the way west to Nevada. Weather forecast models always struggle with these types of storms as they try and form eddies cut off from the main jet stream, though none more than the American GFS this fall as the new dynamical core (or equation-solver) installed recently by the NWS has made the forecasts far less consistent.

That being said, we could see significant snow through Sunday, and I’m currently guessing at 3-6” in town and 6-12” on Mount Werner by Monday morning. There could be more if the storm hangs back a bit before moving east as indicated by the more consistent European ECMWF and Canadian CMC, with snow persisting through some of Monday. Additionally, the Front Range could be in for more travel issues on Sunday as low-level easterly upslope flow settles over most of the state.

Meanwhile, a ridge of high pressure is forecast to build in the Gulf of Alaska over the weekend, and a wave of energy and moisture is forecast to round the top of the ridge on Sunday, mixing with some frigid air from the North Pole. I’ve discounted the likely too-progressive solution of the disappointing-so-far-this-season American GFS, so ahead of a break on Monday I am currently expecting an arctic front around Monday night or Tuesday accompanied by bitterly cold temperatures and very fluffy low-density snowfall that should persist through the day and possibly into Wednesday morning.

While the snows look to end on Wednesday, the bitterly cold air is likely to stick around before moderating on later Thursday or Friday. Another more seasonably cold, but dry, storm is forecast to move toward our area by early the following weekend.

Wednesday part of the storm likely to fizzle

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Just a quick note that the last part of the storm cycle forecast for tonight and Wednesday will be much drier that I indicated might occur in my Sunday weather narrative, though a cold front is still expected to cross through our area Wednesday afternoon or evening.

While we will see snowflakes in town, accumulations should be minimal, with maybe an inch or so later today, but likely not much additional accumulations on Wednesday.

Snowfall will be more likely at the higher elevations, with 1-4” expected for later today and perhaps a bit less than that for later Thursday. Some of the Rabbit Ears CDOT cams showed what looked to me like freezing rain or drizzle for a time around noon today, so that is a possible hazard. Otherwise, travel should not be nearly as difficult as on this past Sunday and Monday.

It’s still looking dry for Thursday through Saturday, with substantially warmer temperatures returning along with the sun. Stay tuned for my next post on Thursday when weather forecast models should have a better idea on what happens with a possible Sunday storm.

Snowy weather continues this workweek

Sunday, October 20, 2019

There were 3” of snow at 8 am on my deck this morning, and snow has picked up early this Sunday afternoon in Steamboat Springs with almost 5” there now. Snows should let up for a time tonight, but pick up again Monday before decreasing and migrating to the higher elevations on Tuesday. After a short break in town on Tuesday, another storm rolls in for Wednesday with more significant snowfall before this bout of winter-like weather ends as we finish out the workweek and head into the weekend.

Unfortunately the Steamboat Ski Area has not enabled their powdercam yet for the season, but the Tower SNOTEL atop Buffalo Pass at 10,500′ just north of town estimated at least 15” of snow as of noon with about half that indicated at the Rabbit Ears SNOTEL at 9400′. Snow showers will continue this afternoon before diminishing or ending for a time overnight, especially at the lower elevations. But a trailing surge of cool air will restart the snows again on Monday, so we could see another 2-4” in town by Monday night and 5-10” at the higher elevations.

While snows should end for Tuesday in town, they will continue at the higher elevations, albeit with much lighter intensity.

A secondary push of moisture, energy and cold air is forecast to cross northern Colorado early Wednesday. As temperatures cool aloft, snows will begin again overnight, especially at the higher elevations in our most favorable northwest flow. But town will not be left out and I would expect periods of moderate to heavy snow showers at all elevations during the day Wednesday before they taper off around midnight and end by Thursday morning. Significant accumulation and difficult travel conditions are again expected if the storm evolves as currently forecast, with storm totals from Tuesday night through Wednesday night in the 3-6” range in town and 6-12” range at higher elevations.

After a chilly start to Thursday with temperatures well below our 25 F average, clouds should give way to some sun, especially in the valley, as temperatures warm, though high temperatures will still stay well below our average of 57 F.

Another chilly Friday morning will yield warmer and sunnier weather that looks to persist for Saturday as a ridge of high pressure temporarily moves over the West. But the break in winter-like weather may be short-lived as a strong storm brews in the Gulf of Alaska by the end of the workweek. The storm is forecast to move eastward and mix with some very cold air from the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada as it makes landfall around Vancouver on Saturday. Weather forecast models agree that the storm will split soon after making landfall, so there is quite a bit of uncertainty with the weather forecast for the end of the weekend and early the following workweek.

Storms for Friday and Sunday

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Clouds have overspread the Steamboat Springs area this Thursday morning ahead of the first of two storms expected through the beginning of the upcoming work week. The first storm will be a weak quick-hitter with precipitation starting after midnight tonight and ending before noon on Friday. Saturday will be an in-between day before the stronger and colder storm moves in Saturday night and lingers through Tuesday.

Ahead of the first storm currently bringing precipitation to the Pacific Northwest, clouds have limited the warming seen yesterday, with noontime temperatures running a few degrees behind yesterday. Breaks in the clouds will help temperatures warm today above our average of 58 F, but they will likely not reach our high of 69 F observed yesterday.

The first storm will travel across the Great Basin today and pass through our area early Friday. While the elevations above 8000′ or so will receive several inches of snow, the upper Yampa Valley will be right on the edge of the rain-snow line. I think we will see snowflakes in town for a time in the morning, with some minor accumulations briefly possible on non-paved surfaces. But we should see some sun in the afternoon which would quickly melt any lower-elevation snow on the ground.

Saturday will be an in-between day with mostly sunny skies early giving way to increasing clouds later and high temperatures five to ten degrees below average.

Meanwhile, the second colder and stronger storm, currently near the Aleutian Islands, will race across the Gulf of Alaska on Friday and cross the Pacific Northwest coast on Saturday. This storm will be cold enough for snow down to the valley bottom, with any rain showers Saturday evening quickly changing to snow before midnight.

This will be a good winter-like storm as it strengthens after moving to our east on Sunday. It should be snowing Sunday morning with relatively light and fluffy snow, with cold, moist and windy northwest flow producing 6-12” of snow at the higher elevations and 3-6” of snow in town by the end of a wintry Sunday, with high temperatures in the thirties. While travel will almost certainly be difficult over Rabbit Ears Pass during the storm, travel difficulties may extend to the I-70 corridor as they will receive less, but likely still significant snow.

As the storm moves into the upper Midwest later Sunday and Monday, continued northwest flow will keep orographic, or terrain-driven, snow showers going even in town, with additional accumulations of 1-4” confined to the higher elevations by the end of Monday. Though snow showers will taper off in town by Monday night, the continued moist northwest flow will keep lighter snow showers going at the higher elevations on Tuesday with another 1-4” by the afternoon.

Even as a shallow ridge of high pressure moves over the West behind the storm, another incoming Pacific storm may graze our area and bring a cold front near our area on Wednesday. So there may not be much of a break behind the Tuesday storm before light snow showers start again, with minor accumulations possible at the higher elevations through Wednesday night.

A ridge of high pressure is currently advertised to build over the West behind the grazing storm yielding a dry, mostly sunny and much warmer forecast for the end of the work week and the following weekend.

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