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.
Snow chances on the horizon after a dry start to the week
Sunday, January 10, 2021
A sunny but cool afternoon is over the Steamboat Springs area this Sunday behind a dusting of snow that fell early this morning. The work week will start with cool mornings and sunny days before clouds increase by midweek ahead of a grazing storm on Thursday. Another storm of uncertain strength follows for the weekend.
The storm that crossed the Great Basin on Saturday moved so far to our south that we were not able to muster even clouds on Saturday, despite having the cooler air associated with the storm overhead. So I was surprised early this morning to see some brief and light snowfall, evidently caused by the tail end of a dry wave currently over the Great Lakes brushing our area.
But that is the last precipitation we will see until Thursday as a flat ridge of high pressure moves over the Rockies on Monday and Tuesday. Expect cold morning temperatures thanks to temperature inversions with sunny days and modestly warming temperatures as the ridge moves overhead.
Most of a storm currently off the Aleutian Islands is forecast to move eastward as a sharp ridge of high pressure builds behind it from the Gulf of Alaska to the West Coast. The Aleutian storm will slide down the east side of the ridge of high pressure and graze our area on Thursday, and as noted in the last weather narrative, the storm is now trending more promising for our area. Based on the latest iteration of the weather forecast models, we could see increasing clouds on Wednesday and 1-4” of snow during the day Thursday before the quick-moving storm moves east of our area during the evening.
Another Pacific storm mixes with what is left of the Aleutian storm and attacks the building ridge of high pressure, with weather forecast models disagreeing on how much of the storm passes over the ridge and how much passes through it. The European ECMWF advertises much less snow for our area as the storm is split by the ridge, while the American GFS has a snowier solution with a more coherent storm.
Though weather models disagree on the weekend storm, they do agree that more storminess is likely after the weekend. The key for our weather will be the evolution of that ridge of high pressure around the West Coast, with its modification perhaps allowing an active storm track to penetrate inland and move over our area.
Be sure to catch my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon for a discussion of the storms for that day and the weekend, and a peek at the longer term weather pattern setting up for the second half of January.
Storms to our north and south
Thursday, January 7, 2021
Mostly sunny skies are over the Steamboat Springs area this Thursday noon, with a current temperature of 18 F at the Bob Adams airport on its way to just above our average of 27 F under continued sunny skies. A storm to our north will increase clouds tonight into Friday morning, though any light snow will be confined to the Continental Divide closer to the Wyoming border. Another storm will pass to our south on Saturday, though this one looks close enough for some light snow during the day. But our area looks to remain dry after that with some grazing storms possible by around the following weekend.
The storm yesterday was more productive than I thought on the Sunday weather forecast, specifically on the backside of the storm where we received an additional 4” at mid-mountain and 6” up top, bringing our storm totals to 9” at mid-mountain and 13” up top. In hindsight, we should not be surprised as we are favored for precipitation in the moist, cool and unstable northwest flow behind storms.
A relatively dry storm currently centered in Idaho will graze our area to the north tonight and tomorrow morning, likely bringing only clouds and keeping any light snowfall confined to the higher elevations nearer the Wyoming border.
A transient ridge of high pressure quickly moves overhead later Friday for clearing skies ahead of a quick moving storm forecast to cross the Great Basin Friday night. Weather forecast models have trended towards a storm moving to our south, though it looks like we will be close enough for some light snow showers on Saturday leaving as much as an inch or two of snow.
Another more substantial and longer-lasting ridge of high pressure is forecast to build over the West for the work week and keep our weather quiet. Waves of energy and moisture traveling over the ridge of high pressure are forecast to mix with some very cold air over central and eastern Canada, with weather forecast models wavering on the strength of the ridge and the western extent of the storminess.
Models have recently trended toward less weather for our area, but there is time for a stormier solution to emerge. Right now, a wave may graze our area with some cool air near the end of the work week, though precipitation looks to remain to our north. Additional waves look to affect our area for the following weekend and into the next work week, with increasing chances for light snow.
A stronger ridge of high pressure will divert the storm track further away from our area, while a weaker ridge of high pressure, perhaps as a result of stronger incoming Pacific energy, will allow for a storm track nearer to our area. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon when I should have a better idea of how this ridge of high pressure evolves.
Moderate storm likely for Tuesday
Sunday, January 3, 2021
A mix of sun and clouds is over the Steamboat Springs area early this Sunday afternoon, with temperatures in the mid-twenties. A weak storm will graze our area tonight with a stronger one forecast for Tuesday, possibly accompanied by a snow squall that could make travel difficult, or even briefly impossible. A couple of weak and disorganized storms may bring light snowfall back to our region near the end of the work week and again during parts of the weekend.
A storm to our north will graze our area tonight, bringing increasing clouds and light snow later today and overnight. We may see an inch on the hill by the Monday morning report
A ridge of high pressure then briefly moves over our area on a warmer and sunnier Monday before the next stronger storm is forecast to cross the West Coast Monday night and affect our area on Tuesday. Weather forecast models have trended towards a more consolidated storm, with a wave of light snow forecast Monday night followed by a strong cold front early on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service started issuing Snow Squall Warnings at the beginning of the 2018 winter season, though I did not see them on my cell phone until this season. Snow squalls are intense but limited duration periods of moderate to heavy snowfall accompanied by gusty surface winds and resulting in greatly reduced visibility and whiteout conditions. Note that administratively, these warnings are not issued when an area is already under a Winter Storm or Blizzard Warning since they are redundant.
We may see conditions that approach or exceed the threshold for a Snow Squall Warning Tuesday morning when the cold front blasts through, perhaps with a rumble of thunder. Winds will then turn to be from our favorable northwest direction for the rest of the day in the cold, moist and unstable air mass behind the storm. Accumulations will be limited by the quick motion of the storm, but after a possible inch for the Tuesday morning report, we could see an additional 3-6” of snowfall by the time it tapers off by midnight on Tuesday, which would be reported on a cold Wednesday morning report.
It looks like we will see a dry Wednesday and Thursday behind the storm as a convoluted weather pattern approaches our area for the end of the work week and the following weekend. While some sort of ridge of high pressure is forecast to build over the northern Rockies starting Friday, a couple of weak storms undercut the ridge and start an unsettled pattern to our weather. The position and evolution of these storms is quite uncertain, but right now it looks like light snow is a possibility for Friday with more intermittent snow showers forecast for the weekend.
Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon as there are indications a more persistent snowier period is possible starting sometime the following week. And I want to thank those who found and clicked on the displayed Amazon products before purchasing (embedded within this forecast when viewed on the website at https://snowalarm.com/blog) as the small commission helps offset the time and money it takes me to produce this community resource.