Sunny skies and warming temperatures ahead of windy midweek storm

Sunday, January 2, 2022

After a frigid night where the low temperatures observed soon after midnight reached -16 F at the SnowAlarm weather station near the base of the mountain, -13 F at the Bob Adams airport and -11 F near the top of Mt. Werner, bluebird skies and temperatures of 8 F at all elevations are over the Steamboat Springs area this Sunday noon. We should be able to get into the teens today, and the twenties during another sunny day on Monday before clouds overspread our area and winds increase on Tuesday ahead of our next winter storm from Tuesday night through Thursday.

Currently, we are under a transient ridge of high pressure between the departing storm and another one spinning in the Gulf of Alaska. The ridge of high pressure centered over the Dateline is forecast to be undercut early in the work week by both upstream Pacific energy moving eastward and a splitting Gulf of Alaska storm whose northern half moves curiously westward early in the work week.

Ahead of this complicated atmospheric maneuver, a transient ridge of high pressure will move through our area today and Monday, bringing warming temperatures and sunny skies. While we saw low temperatures in the negative teens this morning, we were fortunately spared the coldest forecast temperatures by a cloud deck that moved over our area overnight, insulating the surface and immediately reversing the falling temperatures.

The warming temperatures aloft will strengthen the valley temperature inversion tonight, allowing nighttime lows to fall below zero in town as mountain top temperatures bottom in the positive single digits. So Monday will start warmer, and stay warmer as southwest flow on the backside of the passing ridge of high pressure moves overhead.

While about half of the splitting Gulf of Alaska storm moves oddly westward, the other half is forecast to stretch eastward and combine with the undercutting Pacific flow. The end result is a couple of waves of energy and moisture that will move overhead in our favored northwest flow, with clouds on Tuesday giving way to snow showers by the afternoon and overnight. It does appear that the storm will be windy, with sustained winds of 20-30 mph and gusts to as high as 50 mph during the day Tuesday, but I would expect 2-5” by the Wednesday morning mid-mountain report at the Steamboat Ski Resort.

Temperatures are forecast to warm during the day Wednesday as a shallow ridge of high pressure approaches, but the skies will remain showery and the winds will ramp back up again as another piece of that Gulf of Alaska storm moves toward our area in northwest flow. Some sort of front looks to stall over our area from later Wednesday into Thursday, and if that occurs we could see 2-5” during the day and another 5-10” overnight, for 7-15” on the Thursday morning mid-mountain report, and likely more than that at the top of Mt. Werner.

Snow showers will likely hang on for the rest of Thursday, especially at the higher elevations and taper off by the evening, with another 1-4” of snow possible. It appears there will be a brief break in the snowfall for most of Friday before another wave is forecast to start the weekend, though weather forecast models disagree on the strength and track of that wave.

That disagreement should resolve itself as the work week progresses, so stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I’ll have a better idea of the snow chances for the weekend.

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23 November 2021

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