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A nice weekend followed by snow and cold

Thursday, January 30, 2020

A couple of inches of new snow were on my deck this Thursday morning, which matched the two inch report at the Steamboat Ski Area. Snow will continue today before ending by around midnight, and other than a slight chance of showers Saturday morning, we should see a rare-this-season warm and mostly sunny weekend. But cold and snow return for Monday and last through the upcoming work week.

While yesterday’s storm under-delivered due to its severe and well-advertised split around our area, this Thursday storm is over-delivering, with 3-6” now expected to fall by midnight, to be tallied on the Friday morning report. As discussed in the last Sunday weather narrative, there was uncertainty with respect to how strong the wave today and Friday night would be. Weather forecast models have trended stronger with today’s storm and weaker with the Friday night storm, which is not all that unusual when there are embedded waves in the moist, unstable and favorable northwest flow.

Behind today’s storm and ahead of a strong storm developing over the Gulf of Alaska, a ridge of high pressure builds over the West. Another wave ejecting out of the Gulf of Alaska storm rounds the top of the ridge late Friday and may bring some light non-accumulating high-elevation snow showers for a short time early Saturday morning.

But the building ridge of high pressure dominates, bringing a partly sunny and warming weekend with some high clouds at times that may filter the sun. Enjoy the warm first few days of February as the Gulf of Alaska storm is forecast to make landfall on Sunday and intensify as it moves across the Great Basin on Monday. The intensifying storm will present some forecast challenges as the southern part of the storm will cut off from the main jet stream and form an eddy whose movement and strength will be notoriously difficult to forecast.

In fact, the forecasts for the storm has trended slower and deeper with the eddy, with winds forecast to turn from the northwest on Saturday to westerly and then southwesterly by Sunday, and increasing as the storm draws near.

Though the timing is likely to change a bit, and I hope to have a better idea about that by my next weather narrative on Sunday afternoon, a strong cold front will blast through our area around midday Monday, along with difficult or even impossible travel. The storm may bring some easterly winds after the cold front passes and temperatures plunge, though snows look to continue through Tuesday, in spite of the usually downward motion of air off the Park Range, as warm and moist air from the east rises within the very cold and unstable air mass.

Though Monday will start warm ahead of the cold front, temperatures will drop twenty to thirty degrees from the warm Sunday. Guessing snow amounts this far out is difficult, but 6-12” or more by Tuesday morning is possible with additional accumulations during the day, subject to change, of course.

If skies briefly clear Tuesday night, the Wednesday morning temperatures will start below zero, but regardless high temperatures will remain far below our average high of 29 F on both Tuesday and Wednesday. A ridge of high pressure behind this storm and ahead of our next one is again forecast to build over the West Coast for the end of the work week. Embedded waves and moisture will restart the snow-machine on Wednesday and last through the work week as we head into the following weekend, similar to what is occurring now.

And similar to this weekend, the weather is currently advertised to break for at least part of next weekend before we may feel the effects of the next possibly strong storm.

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