Thursday, January 6, 2022
Temperatures have risen into the mid-thirties in the Steamboat Springs area this Thursday mid-afternoon under cloudy and still-precipitating skies as residents dig out from the long-duration winter storm that started Tuesday night. Snowfall will taper off through the rest of today and tonight before we see some sun on Friday. A modest storm follows on Saturday before the skies clear and the sun returns in earnest for the end of the weekend and the beginning of the work week.
A vortex of very cold air is currently sitting over most of Canada while a weak ridge of high pressure with warm temperatures sits just off the West Coast. Generally, the wind speed of the jet stream is dependent on the temperature difference between the two air masses it separates, and our current storm featured a strong jet stream with winds from the northwest, copious moisture and embedded disturbances.
The strong northwest winds were a key factor in generating the high snowfall totals over our area as moisture-laden air collided with the Park Mountain Range and produced orographic, or terrain-forced precipitation. The Steamboat Ski Resort reported 18” at mid-mountain this morning on top of the 3” reported Wednesday morning, with the upper mountain reporting 20” on top of the 5” yesterday morning.
Additionally, the two SNOTEL remote sensing sites at Tower, near the top of Buffalo Pass north of town, and Rabbit Ears showed very significant increases in the amount of water in our snowpack, with almost seven and three inches of equivalent liquid water respectively reported. Since the snowpack was just above average to start the week, this storm should put our snowpack solidly above average.
The Steamboat mid-mountain powdercam is currently showing about 3” of snow has fallen since the 5 am report, and with precipitation tapering off, 2-4” should be reported on the Friday morning ski report, which would take into account any snow compaction due to settling.
Friday will see a break in the active weather before another storm currently located in the Gulf of Alaska incorporates a chunk of cold western Canadian air as it crosses the Pacific Northwest coast on Friday and moves overhead on Saturday. Snow showers should be going by late Friday night or early Saturday morning, with snowfall intensifying for a time during the day as mountain-top temperatures fall from around 20 F to start the day to low teens to end the day. The speed of the storm and the limited moisture will hamper any big accumulations, but we usually do quite well in storms when the temperatures fall, and I would expect a 4-8” storm total between Friday and Saturday nights.
The coldest temperatures are reserved for Sunday morning behind the storm, with lows around 10 F in town and mid-single digits at the top of Mt. Werner. But temperatures will warm as the sun returns by Sunday afternoon as a building ridge of high pressure over the West Coast moves eastward and towards our area.
More warming and plenty of sun will start the work week as another Pacific storm approaches the West Coast and splits. This may or may not affect our weather later in the work week, but I should know more about that by my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.