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Significant rain likely about a week away

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Temperatures in Steamboat Springs are in the lower eighties early this Thursday afternoon, on their way towards ninety. As was the case yesterday, we may see a storm or two later today that would produce more wind than rain, but rain chances become almost nil with continued hot weather through the weekend. This continues into the next work week before good chances for moisture arrive starting midweek.

A ridge of high pressure currently stands firm over the western states, with light winds from the northwest bringing a modicum of moisture over our area today, similar to yesterday. But the lower atmosphere remains very dry, so while there may be some drops of rain, gusty winds and possibly dry lightning are the most likely outcome around any storms that form.

A continuing series of storms in the Gulf of Alaska is forecast to move the ridge of high pressure eastward and over the Rocky Mountains through the weekend. The resultant more westerly flow will eliminate whatever mid and upper-level moisture has been around these past two days, and keep high temperatures five to ten degrees above our average of 80 F. Fortunately, the insulating effects of the moisture at night will be lost with the dry air so expect nighttime lows to return to around our cool average of 43 F.

Our best hope for significant moisture since mid-July appears around the following midweek as current Hurricane Genevieve, located near the southern tip of the Baja peninsula, travels northward along the West Coast. The eventual remnants of this hurricane will merge with the southward-expanding storm complex over the Gulf of Alaska, and we will see our winds switch to be from the southwest early in the work week, bringing moisture-rich tropical and subtropical air over the Colorado mountains as early as Tuesday afternoon.

The interaction between the eventual former hurricane and the Gulf of Alaska storms will be complex, with current weather forecast models indicating that some of the hurricane will move ashore early in the work week while some will be left behind to be absorbed by another wave approaching the West Coast. Eventually, this second wave will move over our area by the end of the work week or the following weekend with even better chances of wetting rains than earlier in the week.

While the light westerly winds will keep the smoke from the Colorado wildfires away from our region, we may see some smokey haze from the California wildfires at times through the weekend. And while the winds turning to be from the southwest by Tuesday should bring desperately needed moisture to our area, it may also allow smoke from the Pine Gulch fire near Grand Junction to our southwest and the Grizzly Creek fire near Glenwood Springs to our south to once again infiltrate the Yampa Valley.

I’ll have a better idea by my next weather narrative, scheduled for Sunday afternoon, of the details surrounding this increase in moisture for the mountains of Colorado and the possible reintroduction of smoke to our area.

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