Sunday, August 16, 2020
Sunny skies devoid of smoke are over the Steamboat Springs area this Sunday noon as the temperature rises above 81 F. High temperatures in the upper eighties and lows in the lower forties continue this week, with a modicum of mid and upper level moisture forecast in our proximity starting midweek. However, with four wildfires partially encircling north-central Colorado, and continued dry lower levels of the atmosphere, this moisture may do more harm than good if it contributes to dry lightning and gusty, erratic winds.
Note: Even though I wrote this around noon on Sunday, internet issues delayed publication until Monday morning. Sorry for the inconvenience.
The fire situation around Steamboat Springs is not good; moving from southwest to east of our area is the Pine Gulch fire by Grand Junction at over 81,000 acres, the Grizzly Creek fire near Glenwood Springs at over 25,000 acres, the Williams Fork fire southwest of Fraser at 6,000 acres and finally the Cameron Pass fire east of our area and north of Rocky Mountain National Park at almost 11,000 acres.
The smoke plume forecasts I’ve been posting have done a good job over the weekend, predicting a clearing of smoke from Friday afternoon through today. Three of the fires could be clearly seen at the same time while I was on the upper mountain of the Steamboat Ski Area yesterday, with the distinctive pyrocumulus clouds, or cumulus clouds associated with a fire, clearly visible.
But the smoke model forecasts an increase in smoke for tonight and part of tomorrow as a ridge of high pressure over the Inter-mountain West amplifies. A small clockwise circulation is forecast to form to our north tonight that will produce some easterly winds, and this may force some smoke from both the Cameron Pass and Williams Fork fires over our area for some of Monday.
But winds are thankfully forecast to turn northerly, i.e from the north, later in the day, and this should once again clear smoke from our area. But the hot temperatures look to remain through the rest of the week.
Meanwhile, a series of storms in the Gulf of Alaska are forecast to deform the ridge of high pressure over the West through the week as a tropical storm passes to the south of Baja before eventually curving northward around the weekend. There is a chance that some of this moisture will make its way over our area starting midweek, though weather forecast models disagree on whether this moisture arrives Wednesday or Thursday and how long it stays around. However, there is agreement that the lower levels of the atmosphere will remain dry which means the possibility of dry lightning and gusty, erratic winds as the precipitation evaporates before reaching the ground.
The only good part of the forecast for fire weather concerns is that winds should be generally light through next weekend as we are underneath the ridge of high pressure, except around possible storms. I’ll have more details about some moisture returning to our area in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.