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Nice weather ahead of more snow Wednesday

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the twenties, on their way to the thirties, are over the Steamboat Springs area this Sunday noon. Monday will be similar with about five degrees of warming before clouds and winds increase on Tuesday ahead of a winter storm now starting to pound the Sierras. The storm will move through our area like a freight train on Wednesday with moderate to sometimes heavy snows that will taper off through midnight. Thursday is forecast to be an in-between day ahead of a small storm forecast for Thursday night and Friday.

A large and quite-cold area of low pressure currently in the Gulf of Alaska has tapped into a warm and very wet stream of moisture originating from north of Hawaii. This so-called Pineapple Express is one example of what meteorologists call an atmospheric river due to its long fetch but relatively narrow width. While some of the mountains of California are forecast to receive multiple feet (or yards!) of snow over their three day storm, our effects will be far more modest by the time the storm gets here on Wednesday.

The storm in the Gulf of Alaska is forecast to elongate along the West Coast before the strong cold front associated with the storm makes landfall on Tuesday. Our winds will switch from the west to the southwest on Monday and increase on Tuesday as the storm approaches. It looks like the southwest winds will keep the dry air currently over our area for Monday and some of Tuesday, so Monday should be sunny and warm with high temperatures possibly breaching forty degrees.

Tuesday should start sunny, but clouds will increase later in the day as breezes from the southwest increase. Precipitation will likely hold off until midnight, but will be insignificant until just before the cold front blasts through what is currently forecast to be Wednesday morning.

Travel will likely be difficult over Rabbit Ears Pass along and just behind the cold front with blowing snow, slick roads and reduced visibility. A trailing wave timed for later Wednesday should keep lighter snows going until midnight, and there might be 4-8” of snow by the Thursday morning mid-mountain report, with about half that in town.

We’ll see a break for at least part of Thursday before another very cold storm forecast to cross the Pacific Northwest coast on Wednesday approaches our area. Currently, weather forecast models have this storm splitting as it moves over our area on Thursday night and Friday, so snowfall is expected to be less than the midweek storm, but with far more cold air.

The coldest air is expected for Saturday morning, and the cold air over the West may be setting the stage for a prolonged period of unsettled weather as we head into Christmas week. So stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I’ll discuss the end of week storm, the weather for the following weekend and what weather might follow.

Significant snow still likely with colder temperatures and drier snow after midnight

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Steamboat Springs area is seeing a rain-snow mix in town with temperatures a few degrees above freezing and about 3” of snow on the mid-mountain and upper mountain powdercams with colder temperatures in the twenties. More wet snow is forecast for the higher elevations through midnight while the lower elevations will struggle with a rain-snow mix until this evening. A cold front will move through our area between midnight tonight and sunrise tomorrow, creating low-density powder that will quickly accumulate and create difficult travel conditions over Rabbit Ears Pass. Snowfall should wind down through Friday with the coldest temperatures of the season so far expected for Saturday morning.

After a disappointing storm that split to our south on Monday night and Tuesday and produced only 2” of snow at mid-mountain and summit when I called for 4-8”, some left behind energy did move overhead last night with an inch of snow falling by today’s morning ski report.

But there is still hope for significant snow from this last in a series of storms that is currently moving across the Great Basin. The winds from the southwest ahead of the storm are carrying very moist air overhead, with wet snow forecast to continue accumulating above 9000′ or so and more of the rain-snow mix down in town.

Temperatures should cool a bit as we head through sunset, so hopefully we see more snow down in town by then, but the real snow likely won’t start until the strong cold front associated with the storm moves through after midnight tonight. Snowfall rates could exceed an inch per hour at times as the front moves through, the atmosphere destabilizes and our winds shift to be from our favorable northwest direction. I would expect the bulk of the 6-12” expected at mid-mountain by the Friday morning report to fall during this time.

Snows will become more showery Friday morning, though some showers could be moderate to heavy at times in the afternoon as a trailing wave passes over our area. We could see another 3-6” of light and fluffy powder that falls on a relatively cold Friday with high temperatures in town barely reaching 20 F, around ten degrees below our average of 29 F. And a relatively frigid Saturday morning will see low temperatures reach to or even below zero, which will feel unreasonably cold after our last couple of weeks of warm temperatures, but will only be modestly below our average of 6 F.

The sun should return on Saturday and temperatures should warm closer to average in the afternoon as winds shift to be more from the west behind the departing storm and warmer and drier air is carried overhead. Even more sun and warmer temperatures in the mid-thirties are expected for Sunday.

While the warmer and dry weather is forecast to last through the beginning of the work week, another storm is forecast for around midweek. So stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll attempt to dial in the details of our next storm, which also might be significant.

Pattern change on track with cold and significant snow on tap

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Temperatures are currently in the upper forties under mostly sunny skies early this Sunday afternoon in Steamboat Springs, but they won’t get much warmer as winds have just increased as the first in a series of cold fronts expected this work week moves through. While we won’t see any precipitation from this grazing storm today, the next storm is far more promising for Monday night and Tuesday. There may be a break in the snowfall on Wednesday, or not, ahead of our best winter-like storm of the season so far that is expected to bring relatively frigid temperatures and significant snowfall to our area between Wednesday night and Saturday morning.

The ridge of high pressure that brought such unseasonably warm, dry and pleasant weather to our area over the last couple of weeks is forecast to be assaulted by a series of incoming Pacific storms. The first has just brought a grazing cool front through our area, with the next expected Monday afternoon or evening.

Ahead of that, look for cooler daytime high temperatures on Monday in the thirties, which will still be five or so degrees above our average high of 30 F. Winds will stay breezy out of the northwest and west as we see some sun to start the day, but clouds ahead of the next storm should encroach by the afternoon. Snowfall should break out by the evening, with the best snows likely between midnight Monday through Tuesday morning, with snowfall tapering off during the day. We could see 4-8” of snow at the top of Mt. Werner, with several inches of snow down in the Yampa Valley by Tuesday afternoon. Travel may be difficult at times over Rabbit Ears Pass, especially under the heavier showers.

Part of the Monday night storm is forecast to be left behind over California for a day before it is forced eastward over our area by the next very promising storm currently developing in the Bering Sea. So after a short break in the unsettled weather Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, the left-behind piece of energy may restart snow showers Wednesday afternoon and overnight as it moves over our area, though accumulations are expected to be minor.

The Bering Sea storm has already incorporated some sub-tropical moisture and is forecast to continue mixing with cold air from around the North Pole as it heads into the Gulf of Alaska. The end result is a cold and wet storm that may bring significant snowfall to our area from later Thursday into Saturday morning.

There is considerable uncertainty in the snowfall amounts since the storm will interact with several hard-to-time waves of upstream energy, and that will affect the track of the storm and whether or not a cold front stalls over our area Thursday night. Regardless of the snowfall amounts, the cold air associated with the storm is virtually assured, with high temperatures on Friday and Saturday likely in the mid to low twenties, almost thirty degrees below where we stood yesterday!

We could see impressive snowfall amounts later in the week, but there could also be changes to the storm so hopes should be tempered. Depending on the evolution of the storm, I may move my regularly scheduled weather narrative from Thursday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon, so keep an eye out for my coming snowfall guesses for the end-of-workweek storm.

Stormy pattern on the horizon

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Steamboat Springs area is enjoying another warm and sunny day with temperatures already in the low fifties as of early this Thursday afternoon. While today will likely be the warmest day of the week, and possibly the warmest day until next spring, lots of sun and still-warm temperatures around fifty degrees are expected through Saturday. However, Sunday turns cloudy and cooler with a chance of some showers as the storm track finally shifts southward, which brings good chances for cold and snow starting early in the work week.

Our area is currently south of the storm track which is moving across the Canadian border, and is bringing the unseasonably warm and dry weather overhead. Several waves of energy will nudge the storm track slightly southward through Saturday, lowering the high temperatures by a few degrees each day even as we still see lots of sun.

Meanwhile, our next weather makers consist of a storm currently northwest of Hawaii and another in the Bering Sea. A wave ejecting out of the Hawaii storm will move northward and mix with some cold air from the Gulf of Alaska on Saturday, grazing our area on Sunday with a cold front. Breezes will increase from the west and northwest Saturday afternoon ahead of the storm before the cold front passes through during the day on Sunday, dropping temperatures and bringing a chance of snow showers.

The small storm is forecast to quickly move through our area during the day, and we may see some clearing in the afternoon with high temperatures only expected to be around forty degrees, which is still around ten degrees above our average of 31 F.

But a much larger part of the Hawaii storm is forecast to follow a similar track a day later. And not only will the initial storm be stronger than the leading wave, but more cold air is forecast to mix with the storm as it moves through the Gulf of Alaska on Sunday, leading to a much stronger storm that is currently forecast to move through our area from Monday afternoon through Tuesday evening.

And we have the Bering Sea storm forecast to follow later in the work week, so it looks like the pattern change forecast over a week ago is actually going to happen. So enjoy the coming warm and sunny days as it looks like winter is fast (and finally) approaching. And I’ll have lots more to say about the coming storms including some snowfall guesses in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

More warm and dry weather ahead

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the upper forties are over the Steamboat Springs area early this Sunday afternoon. Not much change in the weather is expected heading into next weekend other than some periods of increased high cloudiness as disturbances pass well to our north.

A broad ridge of high pressure is currently centered over the Desert Southwest while a deep and cold area of low pressure extends from north of Hudson Bay southward across the Great Lakes and into the Ohio River Valley.

While Pacific energy and moisture traveling over the top of the western ridge of high pressure is currently bringing precipitation to areas around Vancouver and Washington, those waves are forecast to stay north of our area through the work week. We may see some increased clouds around Monday night and during the day Wednesday as these disturbances graze our area, along with high temperatures in the mid-forties on both Tuesday and Wednesday, but other than that expect lots of sun with high temperatures possibly breaching the fifty degree mark.

Despite the warm days, nighttime temperatures should continue to fall into the twenties, so snow making operations should be able to continue during each of the nights. Of course, all eyes are on the when this unseasonably warm and dry period might end, and it appears a Pacific disturbance may begin to break down the ridge next weekend and allow storms to move over our area by the beginning of the following work week.

This pattern has been promised for a while now by the longer term weather forecast models, but it is encouraging that it now appears in the middle of the approximately two week extended forecast period rather than at the end. Be sure to stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where we’ll see if this pattern change is still in our future.

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10 July 2020

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