Four more waves of snow this work week

Sunday, January 12, 2020

After 7” was reported this morning at the Steamboat Ski Resort, and 10” up top, snow showers have picked up again this Sunday afternoon ahead of the first in a total of four more storms expected this work week in Steamboat Springs. A second storm is forecast to move through our area on Monday with a break in the weather advertised for Tuesday. The third, and unfortunately weakening and north-trending storm is timed for Tuesday night into Wednesday before the fourth and final promising storm moves across later Thursday into Friday.

Three day snowfall totals range from 18” at mid-mountain and 21” up top as of Sunday morning, and these will be added to through our last storm in this series on Friday. All of the snow is courtesy of a strong and active Pacific jet stream from the northwest that is moving through and over a ridge of high pressure over Alaska. The moist Pacific air has been mixing with cold air from western Canada as it flows southward along the eastern periphery of the Alaska ridge.

And before I discuss what may be, I’ll briefly mention that the snows this past Friday morning were not predicted by the couple of shorter-range forecast models I look at. My guess is the moisture was under-forecast Thursday night, leading to a couple more inches than expected. But the big miss was the 6” on Friday morning that was likely due to eddies of moisture and energy that broke away from the splitting storm and moved over our area. While it may be tough to forecast, it is really not all that surprising as the Steamboat Springs area often overachieves in cold and moist northwest flow.

Moving on, I would expect 2-5” of snow for the Monday morning report, with snow continuing through the day that will accumulate an additional 3-6” to be reported Tuesday morning. Accompanying this wave will be stout westerly winds of up to 30 mph, gusting to as high as 60 mph during Monday, and this may affect snow quality on the predominantly west facing Mt. Werner, as well as lift operations. Additionally, travel over the passes will likely be difficult at times from at least mid-morning Monday through mid-afternoon as there will be blowing snow.

We should see a break in the snows during the day Tuesday, though it is not clear if they end or just significantly decrease in intensity, with similar winds to Monday. By Tuesday evening, a third storm travels over our area, though weather forecasts models have trended weaker and further north with this feature, forecasting snows Tuesday evening that end around midnight. Therefore I am less optimistic with snow amounts on this one than I have been for the last several day, and currently only expect 2-5” for a cold Wednesday morning ski report.

Thursday should be snow-free ahead of a quick-moving but good looking storm for Thursday night or Friday. This will be the last storm to mix with cold western Canadian air for at least several days as Pacific energy is forecast to undercut the ridge of high pressure over Alaska and introduce a milder and drier weather pattern to our area as the jet stream shifts a bit to the north. This Friday storm may also draw some moist subtropical air in from the southwest, creating a cold and wet storm that is looking to leave at least 6-12” of snow, and possibly more by the time it wraps up on Friday night.

Though we may see some snow showers mid-weekend, or not, quieter weather looks to last into the following work week.

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25 December 2020

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