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.