Snow chances wait until next week

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Mostly cloudy skies with temperatures in the upper teens and low twenties are over the Steamboat Springs area on this Thursday noon, the last day of 2020. While there was some snow possible on New Years Eve earlier in the week, those chances have all but disappeared as the storm splits around our area. A couple of storms will pass to our north this weekend, with a moderate storm forecast for around Tuesday.

A storm just entering the Great Basin is in the process of splitting, and unfortunately it looks like we will be left with just clouds as the southern piece dives toward the Mexican border and the northern piece races across the Canadian border. We’ll probably see a mix of sun and clouds for New Years Day with high and low temperatures around our average of 27 F and 3 F.

A couple of storms will pass to our north on Saturday and Sunday nights, with the first being close enough to drag some cooler air across our region along with an increase in clouds.

Then, a flat ridge of high pressure will keep the storms away on Monday, though there will be enough moisture traveling through the ridge for some clouds. All in all, a rather uneventful start to the New Year, weather-wise.

A storm is forecast to cross the West Coast Monday night, and weather forecast models disagree both between and with themselves as to whether this storm will split and to what degree. At this point, we may see some snow showers ahead of the storm during the day Tuesday before a cold front is forecast for Tuesday night, bringing possibly moderate snows to our area for a time before they taper off Wednesday morning. I’ll hold off on snowfall guesses for now and hopefully the models have a clearer idea on the evolution of this storm by my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

A peek at the longer range weather forecast models indicates a steady stream of storms crossing the Pacific, though the general pattern looks disorganized and hard to predict. Some snow dances and other rituals to start the new year are entirely appropriate and may help nudge the storm track into a favorable position.

Two storms for this week

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Light snow and a temperature of 28 F are currently observed in Steamboat Springs on this Sunday noon behind a weak wave that moved through last night. A split storm will bring significant snows to our area by Tuesday morning followed by a dry but much colder Wednesday, with another storm advertised for New Years Eve.

Ahead of a split storm currently approaching the West Coast, light snows will continue intermittently today before ending around sunset. Our next more significant storm will start warm with light-intensity and high-density snow appearing during Monday morning as we see winds from the southwest. The snows should pick up in intensity during the afternoon and evening as the southern part of the split storm drawn near before a cold front associated with the weak northern part of the storm moves through around midnight. Moderate to heavy snows around the frontal passage and continued accumulations in the favorable moist and unstable flow generally from the northwest will occur through sunrise on Tuesday when snowfall rates decrease in the morning and taper off by sunset.

Thankfully, winds do not appear to be an issue as they are forecast to decrease as first the southern part of the storm passes by late Monday and stay subdued as the weak northern part of the storm passes over early Tuesday. But travel may still be difficult at times, especially over Rabbit Ears Pass, as the snowfall quickly accumulates between plow cycles.

So this could be quite a nice storm, with the dense snow on Monday followed by substantially fluffier snow after the front passes. I would expect 5-10” by the Tuesday morning report with another 1-4” during the day, which would be reported on Wednesday morning.

Trailing energy will force an additional cold front through our area Tuesday night, so Wednesday will be a cold and dry day with high temperatures on the hill in the single digits and in the teens in town, which is about ten or so degrees below the Bob Adams airport average of 26 F.

Another storm crosses the Pacific Northwest coast on Wednesday and undergoes a severe split, with the southern part forecast to cross the Great Basin on Thursday as it moves toward Mexico on Friday. It’s remarkable how many times we have had snow observed during New Years Eve, and we will once again as we enter 2021. The storm looks disorganized in the weather forecast models as it sinks across the Great Basin on Thursday, but it currently looks like it will stay organized enough for light snow from around Thursday afternoon to Friday morning. Since I plan to post another weather narrative on New Years Eve Day, I’ll hold off on guessing the snow amounts for Friday morning until then, though amounts currently look modest at best.

It looks like we dry out for the first weekend of 2021 as a weak storm is diverted well to our north on Sunday by a flat ridge of high pressure that briefly builds over the Intermountain West. Our next chance for snows should occur around the following Tuesday as the storm track orients itself into a west-to-east direction that directs Pacific storms inland and towards our area.

Stretch of snowy weather starts this weekend

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Sunny skies have moved over the Steamboat Springs area this Christmas Eve Day, though temperatures are quite cold behind the winter storm that started on Tuesday afternoon with an impressive snow squall. Expect warming temperatures for today and Christmas Day, especially at the higher elevations, before a stretch of unsettled weather starts mid-weekend and lasts into the new year.

Though sunny skies prevail late this Thursday morning, temperatures are still cold and in the single digits both in town and on the mountain after a sub-zero start. A ridge of high pressure will continue moving over our area today and tomorrow, with sunny skies and warming temperatures expected, with the warming most pronounced at the higher elevations as the clear and calm nighttime skies allow temperatures inversions to form.

A disorganized storm currently moving through the Gulf of Alaska will keep the ridge of high pressure moving eastward, with a sunny Saturday morning giving way to clouds by the afternoon and snow showers in the evening. While showers will continue overnight and into Sunday morning, accumulations should be light and in the 1-4” range by the Sunday morning report with an additional inch or so after the report.

A much colder and more organized storm currently in the Bering Sea will cross the Gulf of Alaska on Saturday and the West Coast on Sunday night. This low pressure system will not only tap very cold air from near the North Pole, but also some subtropical moisture as it approaches the coast.

Energy and moisture ejecting out ahead of the storm should keep clouds over our area later Sunday and begin light snow showers by Monday morning in the southwest flow ahead of the storm. There may be a brief break before the main storm restarts light showers by later Monday, before snows become heavier and more persistent overnight. The storm looks to start warm as the southwest flow moves warmer our to our south northward, with a cold front forecast to move through Monday night.

At this point, I’d guess this will be a 6-12” event by Tuesday morning, with cool temperatures expected on Tuesday. Several reinforcing waves of cold air are forecast during the day Tuesday and especially Tuesday night, keeping snow showers going in the favorable cold, moist and unstable northwest flow through at least some of Wednesday. Wednesday morning looks quite cold, similar to but perhaps not quite as cold as yesterday where temperatures at the top of the mountain did not rise above -2 F during the day.

The snow that falls after the cold front on Monday night will be progressively less dense as the air grows colder, leading to fluffy accumulations that will inflate the snow totals. Considering this is a week away, I’ll hold off guessing on snow amounts for Wednesday morning, but they may be healthy.

Even though a ridge of high pressure is forecast to build over the West Coast behind the storm, waves of energy and moisture riding over the top of the ridge will pass through our area in favorable northwest flow, and it looks like after a brief break later Wednesday, snow showers restart around Thursday. They look to persist through Friday before another storm is advertised for the following weekend.

Lots of weather is forecast for next week, so stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon for details on the promising Tuesday storm. And please remember to support your local forecaster when you visit this post on https://snowalarm.com/blog.

Snow likely for Monday, Wednesday and the weekend

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Cloudy skies with a temperature only one degree below our average high of 27 F are observed in Steamboat Springs this Sunday afternoon. We’ll see some light snow tonight before a stronger and much colder storm passes through later Tuesday. Drying and warming will then occur as we head through Christmas Day before a moderate storm is forecast for the weekend.

The current breezy mountain-top winds from the northwest are the result of the jet stream and resultant storm track sitting just to our north and grazing our area. A weak ripple in the flow will start the orographic, or terrain driven, snow machine going tonight and into Monday morning, though amounts will be light, with an inch or two expected by the morning snow report and another inch or so before noon.

Ahead of a cold storm for later Tuesday, a quickly-moving ridge of high pressure passes over our area later Monday and early Tuesday, allowing the sun to appear over the Yampa Valley after what seems like a long absence.

Even at this close range, weather forecast models are not in agreement on the evolution of the storm, though the European ECMWF with its colder and deeper solution has trended toward the American GFS, which advertises a cold front blasting trough our area Tuesday afternoon. Snowfall amounts are uncertain at this time, and there is a chance we will do well if we trend toward the colder and deeper solution as there may be fluffy low-density snowfall behind the front that would accumulate quickly before ending by around noon on Wednesday.

A middling forecast is 3-6” between Tuesday afternoon and noon on Wednesday, though at this point I would not be surprised by totals either half or twice as much. And travel may be difficult at times Tuesday night, especially over Rabbit Ears Pass, as there will be quite a bit of first westerly and then northwesterly wind.

But the forecast for colder temperatures on Wednesday is not nearly as vague, with around ten or so degrees below average likely. And while Thursday will start cold, weather forecast models agree that a ridge of high pressure moving over our area will bring the return of the sun along with upper-elevation warming by Thursday afternoon, though the Yampa Valley may stay cool with the fresh snow cover and low sun angle contributing to stubborn temperature inversions.

The nice weather should hang around for Christmas Day even as weak storm passes through Arizona and New Mexico well to our south. However, a moderate storm further north takes aim on our area by mid-weekend, with any sun early on Saturday quickly yielding to first clouds and then snow by Saturday afternoon.

Weather forecast models do agree on another storm sometime during the following week, though disagree on the timing. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on the afternoon of Christmas Eve Day for my guess at the snow totals for the mid-weekend storm and more details on the weather for the following holiday week.

Snow chances last through the weekend

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Even though the Steamboat Springs area saw a beautiful sunny morning, skies have clouded over late this Thursday afternoon in advance of our next storm for tonight and Friday. Light snow chances will linger through the weekend before we see a break early in the work week as the sun returns. However, a cold arctic air mass is forecast to enter our area later Tuesday along with some light snow, and though the snow is forecast to end early Wednesday, the cold air sticks around for Christmas Eve Day.

A storm currently moving through the Great Basin will begin light snowfall over our area this evening, with snowfall rates becoming heavier after midnight when the cool front passes through and turns our winds to be from the favorable northwest direction. Unfortunately, the storm will split and undergo some shearing, which will temper our accumulations. Still, I would expect 3-6” on the mid-mountain ski report before the snowfall tapers off in the morning hours. However, snow showers, some briefly moderate to heavy, will pick up in the afternoon in the cool, moist and unstable northwest flow, leaving another 1-4” by sunset.

Behind the storm, a flat ridge of high pressure builds over the West Coast, with weak waves of energy and moisture riding over the top of the ridge and passing near our area. Light snow showers should form in the breezy winds from the northwest on Saturday afternoon and evening, with another round of snow showers currently forecast for Sunday and Sunday night. While the accumulations from the Saturday disturbance will be meager, there is a better chance for some accumulating snowfall from the Sunday disturbance, though amounts would be modest and likely in the 1-4” range by the Monday morning report.

The sun looks to return for Monday and part of Tuesday before a another Pacific wave crosses the Pacific Northwest coast Monday night and mixes with some very cold arctic air originally from northern Canada. Current timing puts a very noticeable cold front through our area in north-central Colorado by around Tuesday afternoon, accompanied with some light snow that will persist into Wednesday morning.

The coldest air will be shunted to our east by a building ridge of high pressure over the West, but Wednesday will be cold, and possibly Thursday too if a dry cold front trails the main system. There is some weather forecast model agreement that the ridge of high pressure moves over our area starting Christmas Day bringing warming temperatures, especially at the higher elevations and sunny skies.

Though weather forecast models agree on another storm after Christmas, they disagree on the timing, with the European ECMWF bringing some light snow to our area early in the weekend and the American GFS holding off until later in the weekend. I’ll have some more details about the midweek storm and how cold it may be in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

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