Warming temperatures and dry until possible storm for the end of the work week

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Snow showers on this cold Sunday morning have given way to patches of blue sky by noon in Steamboat Springs. Skies will continue to clear through the day as dry weather invades our area and lasts through most of the work week. While Monday and Tuesday mornings will start cold, afternoon temperatures will dramatically rise ahead of a possible warm and moist storm that may be near our area near the end of the work week, though precipitation will likely be minimal at best.

We are closing out a snowy and cold February with 9” of snowfall reported at both mid-mountain and the top of the Steamboat Ski Area this morning, almost all of which fell between 7 am and 9 am Saturday morning. The forecast from Thursday called for sometimes heavy snowfall after midnight on Friday, though the heaviest snowfall ended up falling just after report time as a storm cell produced 3.5”/hour snowfall rates for 2 hours! This reminds me of the much larger and very localized President’s Day storm in 2012 where a record-breaking 27” accumulated at mid-mountain during a 24-hour period thanks to two separate storm cells overnight that each produced 6”/hour snowfall rates for two hours!

Currently, we are in the grips of the arctic air mass behind the departing storm, though temperatures at the top of Mt. Werner have already warmed to 10 F, substantially above the high temperature of 3.5 F yesterday afternoon. We’ll stay about ten degrees below our average of 36 F in town today before a ridge of high pressure ahead of a storm currently just off the West Coast moves overhead for sunny skies and dramatically warming afternoon temperatures during most of the work week. However, expect chilly mornings for a couple of days as the new snow, clearing skies and light winds allow temperatures to plummet to well-below zero tonight and closer to zero tomorrow night.

Plenty of sunshine will allow afternoon temperatures to recover to near average on Monday and five to ten degrees above average for Tuesday through Thursday as the weather begins to feel springlike.

Concurrently, that storm off the West Coast is forecast to split tomorrow with the northern part racing across the northern Rockies and the southern part forming an eddy that vacations off the northern Baja coast for a few days before eventually being forced eastward across the Desert Southwest on Thursday by another incoming Pacific storm. Eventually by later Thursday, that warm eddy may be close enough to our area to bring increasing clouds and a chance of precipitation, though currently it looks like the bulk of the storm will stay south of our area.

The warming is forecast to resume for later Friday and Saturday as the next ridge of high pressure moves overhead, with temperatures approaching the fifty degree mark under sunny skies. There is a fair bit of weather forecast model disagreement for later in the weekend as the European ECMWF splits that next Pacific storm and brings the southern piece across our area while the American GFS has the storm deflected to our north by a more resilient ridge of high pressure.

Enjoy the upcoming springlike weather, and I’ll discuss the possible Thursday storm as well as the weather for next weekend in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Modest storm for the weekend

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Skies are clearing in Steamboat Springs this Thursday noon after 2” was reported at mid-mountain by the Steamboat Ski Area this morning and 3” up top. After a mostly sunny afternoon, clouds increase overnight and snow showers begin on a windy Friday and become heaviest overnight before tapering off late Saturday. A cold and dry Sunday and Monday morning will yield to warming temperatures into Tuesday. Another storm is forecast sometime after that, though it is unclear if it will be earlier or later in the work week.

A storm currently moving through the Gulf of Alaska is mixing with a reservoir of cold air stretched between Greenland and Alaska and is bringing precipitation to the Pacific Northwest. The storm is comprised of a windy and dry leading wave that will pass through our area Friday morning, followed by snow showers developing during the windy day ahead of the main storm which is forecast to split as it moves through the Great Basin later Saturday.

Before this split, however, enough of the storm will move through our area to produce moderate to even briefly heavy snowfall after midnight on Friday in the favorable and less windy flow from the northwest. Between some of the snow that will fall during the day Friday and most of the snow that will fall Friday night, we could see 4-8” of snowfall at mid-mountain by Saturday morning, followed by an additional 1-4” during the day Saturday.

Weather forecast models disagree on exactly how the storm will split and whether the snow showers will hang on Saturday night or not, but there could be additional dry and fluffy accumulations Saturday night in the cold, unstable but drying air mass.

Sunday should be cold and dry, with another cold morning forecast for Monday. Ahead of the next storm crossing the Gulf of Alaska on Monday, a ridge of high pressure moves overhead for sunny weather and temperatures warming toward our average of 35 F on Monday, with even more warming forecast for Tuesday. It’s probably too early to call it springlike, but after such a cold and snowy February, March will be arriving like a lamb.

Weather model forecasts differ substantially by Tuesday afternoon as the American GFS splits the incoming storm along the West Coast while the European ECMWF keeps the storm in one piece. While I would guess some sort of compromise solution will eventually verify, we could see a modest storm begin as early as Tuesday night, or the nice weather might persist through midweek before the storm passes through around Thursday.

An even more pronounced ridge of high pressure is advertised to move overhead after the storm, and if the early week’s weather did not feel springlike, then the late-week weather certainly should. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll have the snow totals from this weekend as well as a better idea of the timing of the next storm.

Weakening Wednesday storm followed by weekend storm chances

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Steamboat Ski Area reported 7.5” of low-density and fluffy snowfall at mid-mountain and 10” up top this Sunday morning, with an additional 3” recorded by mid-morning at mid-mountain and 4” up top. Additional light snowfall will hang around tonight and most of tomorrow, especially at the higher elevations, with the sun appearing at lower elevations by Monday afternoon and all elevations for the first part of Tuesday. The midweek storm discussed in the last weather narrative is trending weaker as it is now forecast to split around our area, though we will see the very cold air associated with the storm Wednesday night and Thursday. Snow returns in the weather forecast for Friday, with a possibly significant storm for the weekend.

The current light snowfall at the higher elevations is the result of moisture trapped against the Park Range being lifted over the mountains by the northwest flow behind the storm (orographic, or terrain-driven, precipitation). These showers don’t look to be too productive, with an additional inch or so possible overnight.

The sun will return later Monday first in the valley, and snow showers may taper off enough at the higher elevations to see some sun up there too. Drier air passes overhead during the first half of Tuesday for more sun and warmer temperatures ahead of our next storm that is forecast to travel through the Gulf of Alaska on Monday and mix with some very cold air that is stretched across the northern latitudes from Greenland to Alaska.

Some energy and moisture is ejected out ahead of the storm when it makes landfall along the Pacific Northwest on Monday and is forecast to graze our area later Tuesday. So after a sunny morning, clouds and wind will increase in the afternoon, though precipitation looks to be confined to Wyoming as the wave has trended further north in the weather forecast models.

The main storm is then forecast to split as it enters the Great Basin early Wednesday, with some light snowfall expected for our area centered around Wednesday night and another round of below average temperatures, currently at 34 F, for Thursday.

Splitting storm systems are notorious for being difficult to forecast as what will eventually end up happening over our area is dependent upon how much energy is partitioned between the northern and southern branches. If the storm splits as currently forecast, we might only see 1-4” on the cold Thursday morning report.

Another stronger storm that may evolve similarly is forecast to affect our area starting around the end of the work week and extending into and possibly through the following weekend. There are a range of possible solutions, from a lot of snow to very little, depending upon the eventual track and strength of the storm. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon for more details about this hopefully significant storm.

More snowfall for this weekend and midweek

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Cloudy skies and temperatures of 18 F at the Bob Adams airport and 5 F at the top of the Steamboat Ski Area are currently observed in the Yampa Valley late this Thursday morning. The snow looks to take a break down in the valley today with peeks of sun, though light snow showers look to hold on over the hill as the cool, moist, unstable and favorable northwest flow continues. A small storm is expected on Friday as temperatures rise followed by a moderate and colder storm on Saturday. Even though snow showers will persist on Sunday, especially at the higher elevations, they will gradually diminish before ending on Monday. Our next storm arrives around midweek.

Our active weather pattern in Steamboat Springs is delivering the goods, with 16” of fluffy low-density powder over the last three days at mid-mountain and 24” up top. While the first half of the storm behaved as expected, the second half of the storm from Tuesday night through Wednesday overproduced at the higher elevations, with 6” falling up top during the day yesterday and piling on top of the 11” that was reported at 5 am. This time, the shorter-range weather forecast models had the correct forecast, though they often over-predict which makes relying on them for every forecast problematic. Perhaps they are most reliable for our area when we are in the favorable northwest flow, and I will attempt to incorporate that insight into future snowfall guesses going forward.

Currently, a vortex of frigid air centered over Baffin Bay just west of Greenland is elongated across northern Canada, and chunks of this air mass are mixing with Pacific storms as they traverse the Gulf of Alaska. Ahead of the next cold storm forecast for later Saturday, a shallow ridge of high pressure quickly moves through our area on Friday. Even though we will see warming temperatures during the day, there is enough moisture embedded in the favorable northwest flow to produce light snow that will begin after the Friday morning report and possibly last into the night. While we generally don’t do well with snowfall under warming temperatures, weather forecast models insist there could be 2-5” by the Saturday morning report, most of which would fall during the previous day.

Snowfall may stop for a time around early Saturday morning before restarting as the next colder storm approaches. Snowfall should pick up through the day before the cold front passes through in the afternoon or evening, with snowfall continuing overnight in the cold, moist, unstable and favorable northwest flow. Based upon what happened this past Wednesday, I would guess 5-10” of snowfall could be reported on the Sunday morning report at mid-mountain, with more possible at the higher elevations.

Snow showers will hang on to the higher elevations on Sunday, though additional accumulations should be light. It does look like we will see a precipitation-free period for Monday and the first half of Tuesday before another cold and likely significant storm is forecast for later Tuesday and Wednesday. I’ll have some snowfall guesses in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

Snowy week ahead

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Steamboat Springs area is seeing mostly sunny skies and cold temperatures of 0 F at the Bob Adams airport and 9 F at the top of Mt. Werner this Sunday noon. We will see a break in the snowfall through today as the storm that grazed our area last night stays to our south. Snowfall starts up again Monday and lasts through Wednesday before we see a second brief break on Thursday, followed by more snowfall as we head into the following weekend.

Snowfall since Thursday night ended up at the low end of the forecast range these past three days, with 16” at mid-mountain and 22” up top. While the cold air associated with that grazing storm arrived last night as advertised, the storm drifted far enough away from our area to preclude the significant accumulations that were possible.

So enjoy the sunny skies today and crisp winter temperatures as another storm moving in flow from the northwest begins to affect our area on Washington’s Birthday. Some intermittent and light snow showers early in another cold day should give way to heavier and more persistent snow later Monday into Tuesday as favorable moist northwest flow ahead of the storm encroaches on our area and pushes the coldest temperatures to our east. Like the storm last night, this one is also expected to split as it crosses the Great Basin on Tuesday, though not as much, so expect our heaviest snowfall Monday night with lighter snowfall continuing on Tuesday and Wednesday.

There could be 4-8” of snow on the Tuesday morning report, with another 1-4” falling during the day Tuesday. While Tuesday will warm up a bit, the storm will bring another round of cold temperatures for Wednesday and Thursday, with another 1-4” possible during Tuesday night and again on Wednesday before the snowfall tapers off by Thursday morning.

A shallow ridge of high pressure passes overhead on Thursday behind the departing storm and ahead of our next one that could start snowfall as early as early Friday morning in fast flow from the northwest. However, weather forecast models disagree if we will see several waves in northwest flow through the weekend, like the current American GFS, or more of a consolidated storm similar to the latest European ECMWF. So we may see a couple of waves of snowfall centered around Friday and Saturday nights, or more of a single event centered on Saturday.

Current forecasts have another break in the snowfall after the weekend, though this one may also be short-lived as more possibilities for snow emerge during the following work week. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon to see how the upcoming weekend event is developing.

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