Weather pattern is turning more active

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Though we received very little snowfall from the storm last night over the Steamboat Springs area, we did get the wind, with speeds of 50 mph and gusts above 80 mph observed at the top of Mt. Werner around midnight. Sunny skies and brisk winds from the west and northwest have followed this Thursday afternoon, with warming temperatures and decreasing winds forecast for Friday followed by a weak splitting storm for Saturday. After a dry Sunday, a stronger but still splitting storm is forecast for Monday, with a midweek break followed by a series of promising storms starting around Thursday.

As last night’s storm moves eastward, it mixes with some very cold air from the Canadian Plains and brings a cold and snowy air mass first to the Midwest on Friday and then the East by Saturday. Coincidentally, a quick-moving ridge of high pressure moves over our area on Friday for a sunny and warmer day with decreasing winds ahead of weak and splitting storm for Saturday.

Light snow is on tap for Saturday as the splitting storm crosses the Pacific Northwest coast on Friday and moves through Colorado before another quick-moving ridge of high pressure returns sunny skies and warmer temperatures for Sunday. Our accumulations will depend upon how much moisture and energy from the northern part of the split ends up over our area, but 2-5” is a reasonable guess at this time, with some of that reported Saturday morning and the rest occurring during the day and evening.

A stronger storm crosses the Pacific Northwest on Sunday, but also more strongly splits as it moves through the Great Basin through the day as the ridge of high pressure builds off the West Coast. Again, snowfall amounts on Monday will depend upon exactly how the storm splits and how much cold air from Canada mixes with the storm, but we could see as much as 3-6” of snow on Monday as the northern part of the split moves nearby and the southern part of the split forms and eddy over the southwest corner of the country.

Colder air will follow behind the storm for Tuesday, and if skies clear Tuesday night we could see more temperatures below zero for the Yampa Valley Wednesday morning.

And as uncertain as the forecast already is at this close range due to the splitting nature of the storms for Saturday and Monday, even more uncertainty appears after a dry Wednesday with moderating temperatures. That ridge of high pressure off the West Coast continues to build into the Gulf of Alaska as a strong storm vacates that area by midweek, with the storm forecast to mix with some even colder Canadian air sourced from close to the North Pole as it slides down the eastern side of that ridge of high pressure.

The storm is then forecast to travel down the West Coast Wednesday night and first dislodge the eddy that was spinning over the Desert Southwest before moving near our area. It is not clear at this point how far south that Gulf of Alaska storm travels before turning east, and that also affects when and how close that eddy gets to our area.

There is considerable weather forecast model disagreement on how all this plays out, both within and among themselves. The good news is they agree on a much more active weather pattern that could start as early as Thursday and last through at least part of the following weekend. Keep doing your snow dances and rituals as it looks like they are starting to work, and I’ll have more details on this promising snowier pattern in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

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23 November 2021

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