Let the snows begin
Thursday, January 9, 2020
After four inches was reported this Thursday morning on the mid-mountain ski report at the Steamboat Ski Area, and five inches up top, clouds have increased this afternoon ahead of our next small storm for tonight into Friday. After a break Friday night into early Saturday, the start of a long-duration snow event begins Saturday afternoon and extends into Wednesday morning. Quite cold temperatures will accompany most of the snowfall which could total in the 15-30” range by midweek.
Currently, a storm sliding down the West Coast has mixed with some cold air from Western Canada and is forecast to split as it crosses the Great Basin tonight. Despite the split, we likely see another 1-4” from this storm after snow starts this afternoon, with some occurring after the Friday morning report. The air mass dries considerably after Friday morning as cold air from the northern branch of the split pours over our area, leaving mountain-top temperatures struggling to reach the mid-single digits during the day.
A quick-moving ridge of high pressure crosses over Friday night into Saturday morning, allowing temperatures to warm about ten degrees from Friday. But don’t be fooled if the sun briefly appears early in the morning as a storm that traveled across the Gulf of Alaska on Friday restarts snow showers by sometime between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. This is the beginning of a series of storms that will move over our area in generally brisk and favorable northwest flow through the weekend and the beginning of the next work week. This first storm should leave 4-8” of snow for the Sunday morning report.
Some ill-defined waves moves through the northwest to perhaps westerly flow on Sunday and Monday, keeping light to moderate snows going through both days. Timing of the waves and snowfall amounts are uncertain at this time, but right now 3-6” for each of Monday and Tuesday reports are preliminary guesses. And be aware that strong westerly winds, if they occur, may affect snow quality on the predominantly westerly facing ski area slopes.
It does appear there will be a short break during the day Tuesday before the last wave in this series moves over our area. At this point, the storm looks to bring 4-8” by Wednesday morning, though that will likely change as we get closer to the end of this impressive long-duration snowfall event.
I plan to publish my next weather narrative on Sunday afternoon and should have better guesses for the remaining snow amounts. Additionally, the atmosphere looks to undergo a pattern change after this event as a ridge of high pressure over the Bering Sea is undercut by a strong and active Pacific jet stream, and I hope to have some clarity on how that may affect us as well.
Cool and unsettled weather week ahead
Sunday, January 5, 2020
Steamboat Springs is currently seeing partly cloudy skies early this Sunday afternoon ahead of a quick moving storm for tonight into Monday. Dry weather is forecast for Tuesday and most of Wednesday followed by modest snows from Wednesday night through Friday and a break for Saturday.
A storm currently affecting the Pacific Northwest coast will cross the Great Basin today and bring a cool front through north-central Colorado this evening. The best snows look to occur this evening, and may make travel difficult at times as there will be some wind. I would expect 3-6” for the morning report, with an additional 1-4” during the day, mostly before noon as snows taper off.
A ridge of high pressure moves over our area behind the storm and ahead of our next one that starts later Wednesday. Moisture may hold on in the drying northwest flow through some of Tuesday, with the chances for some sun increasing as the day wears on.
Some sun for Wednesday morning will give way to increasing clouds ahead of our next weather-maker that should start snows by Wednesday night. The first part of the storm will bring a cool front in northwest flow through our area Wednesday night with 1-4” of snow expected for the Thursday morning report. A trailing wave of Pacific energy mixes with some cold Canadian air as it grudgingly passes over our area on Thursday and Friday, leading to cool and unsettled weather with low-intensity snowfall for most of the two days. It is difficult to isolate the best period for snowfall during this time, but I would generally expect around 1-4” for each of the three twelve hours periods between Thursday morning and Friday afternoon.
Friday and the start of Saturday will be chilly behind the last part of the storm, though we should see some higher elevation warming by Saturday afternoon.
Snow showers are forecast to restart around mid-weekend as a strong storm moves through the Gulf of Alaska on Friday and again mixes with some very cold air from western Canada. Weather forecast models agree on this beginning a cold and wet period that may extend into the middle of the following work week, though differ on the details. I hope to have further clarity on the evolution of this possibly significant event by by next regularly schedule weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.
First storm of 2020 in progress
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
The snow has started on New Years Day 2020 in Steamboat Springs as snowfall rates as high as an inch per hour were observed mid-morning. The storm looks to deliver as promised, or even over-achieve, with 8-16” of light and fluffy powder expected by the Thursday morning mid-mountain ski report and an additional 3-6” by Friday morning, leaving a storm total of almost one to two feet. While the snowfall from this storm will end on Friday, with even some sun possible for Saturday morning, cool and unsettled weather with at least light snow showers will be over our area from later Saturday though Tuesday morning. A bit of a break is advertised from later Tuesday into Wednesday ahead of our next possible storm for later in the work week.
Three inches are shown on the powdercam as of 10:30 am this Wednesday, and though the snowfall has currently waned, it should pick up again later this morning for several hours. And after another decrease in intensity for the early afternoon, moderate to heavy snow showers should occur late in the afternoon and continue through most of the night. Snowfall rates of one to two inches per hour along with some wind will make travel quite difficult at times, especially at pass level, but even in town.
Though the heaviest snowfall will be over by around report time on Thursday morning, an additional 3-6” of light and fluffy powder is expected by the Friday morning report as showers continue, with shower intensity greatest from mid-afternoon through mid-evening on Thursday, and daytime temperatures hovering around 5 F at the top of Mt. Werner.
Light snow showers are forecast to hang on through Friday morning, with minimal additional accumulations expected.
Dry air briefly works into our area on Saturday, with at least some sun in the morning, as a ridge of high pressure traverses the Rocky Mountains. But waves of Pacific energy and moisture in generally favorable northwest flow will restart light snow showers as early as Saturday night. We may see some sun again on Sunday morning, but showers are expected from later Sunday through Tuesday morning.
As is often the case in fast and energetic flow off the Pacific, the timing, track and strength of waves of energy and moisture are difficult to forecast too far in advance, and weather forecast model disagreement emerges by later Sunday as the European ECMWF is more optimistic with a storm around then. My next weather narrative on Sunday should offer some clarity on the the eventual strength of this storm.
In any case, there is agreement that the snows will stop for most of Tuesday and Wednesday before a healthy but quick-moving storm is advertised for around the end of the work week, followed by a longer lasting storm around the weekend that may persist into the following work week.