Roller coaster weather week ahead

Sunday, March 13, 2022

After a beautiful Sunday morning in Steamboat Springs with nary a cloud in sight, skies have clouded over and snows have just started late this afternoon. Even though snowfall is likely to become moderate to heavy at times by this evening, the storm is quick-moving and only modest amounts of snowfall are expected by Monday morning. Tuesday should be a beautiful springlike day ahead of a couple of days of unsettled weather for Wednesday and Thursday, with nice weather returning as we head into next weekend.

A storm currently on our doorstep and another in the Gulf of Alaska are lined up to affect our weather this week. The current storm is moving through Utah and has already left 6” of snow at the Alta ski area. Light snows started in Steamboat Springs just before 5 pm, and we should see moderate to sometime heavy snow showers peaking this evening.

While we will see a period of favorable cold, moist and unstable northwest flow on the backside of the storm after midnight, the storm is splitting as it moves over Colorado which will limit additional snowfall. We could see 4-8” of snowfall at mid-mountain by the Monday morning ski report, with accumulating snowfall quickly ending by sunrise. And while snow showers may hold on for some of the morning at the higher elevations, the sun should return for the afternoon, and perhaps during the morning in the valley.

Meanwhile, a ridge of high pressure is forecast to build ahead of the eastward-moving Gulf of Alaska storm, returning warm and sunny weather to our area on Tuesday. That storm is forecast to weaken as it crosses the Pacific Northwest coast on Tuesday and brings the possibility of snows back to our area on Wednesday and Thursday as it moves overhead.

There is uncertainty in exactly how the storm weakens and how much cool air from the northern latitudes is drawn into the storm, but right now it looks like the the first part of the storm will be Wednesday and Wednesday night under relatively warm temperatures, with a lull early Thursday followed by the cooler part of the storm Thursday afternoon and night. My snowfall guess at this time is 1-4” from each part of the storm before we see clearing skies on a cool Friday morning and the likely return of sunshine.

As I did last week, if the midweek storm looks like it is evolving into something bigger than forecast here, I’ll post an update Tuesday afternoon. Otherwise, I’ll be back Thursday afternoon with my regularly scheduled weather narrative to discuss the next possibly significant storm soon after what looks like a mostly nice weekend.

Storms take a break for the weekend

Thursday, March 10, 2022

The remarkable winter storm centered on yesterday ended up dumping three feet of snow near the top of Mt. Werner and 21” at mid-mountain from Tuesday night through this Thursday morning. After seeing a low temperature of -6 F up top and 2 F in town this morning , the cold temperatures will stick around for another day before we see warming by Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Our next storm is currently forecast for Sunday night.

We saw 10” at mid-mountain and 16” up top by Wednesday morning after the snows started at 10:30 pm Tuesday night. Ski Patrol measured 18” up top by 8 am Wednesday morning with only 4% liquid water content, and very heavy snowfall rates were observed throughout the day. Another 11” at mid-mountain and 20” up top was reported this morning, of which 4” and 6”, respectively, fell overnight. And as a bonus, the upper mountain base at the Steamboat Ski Resort cracked the 100” barrier for the first time this season at 103”.

The light and fluffy snowfall was settling as it was falling, and, for example, the 20” of snowfall reported this morning up top only contributed to 8” of base! And a long time-lapse of the Steamboat Powedercam never showed the storm total snow over 23” even though 36” was measured separately over the two days.

The arctic front that brought the heavy snows to our area has left a bitterly cold air mass in its wake, with Friday’s low temperatures again forecast to be well below zero up top. And if skies clear tonight, the Yampa Valley will also see low temperatures below zero which could be as cold as twenty to thirty degrees below our average of 15 F in the coldest low-lying areas.

But a ridge of high pressure is forecast to move overhead Saturday afternoon, so temperatures will warm as the arctic air mass is pushed to the east by the encroaching ridge. There appears to be some moisture that will move through the ridge of high pressure as it passes overhead, so we’ll likely see periods of clouds and sun during the days of Friday and Saturday, and perhaps some brief non-accumulating snow showers.

Sunday should start seasonably cool and sunny, though a storm currently developing near the Dateline is forecast to bring snows back to our area by Sunday night. Though there is disagreement between weather forecast models as to the strength of the storm, right now it is looking like a modest event. So stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll discuss that storm as well as another possible storm around midweek.

Quick update on the Wednesday storm

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

I wanted to give a quick update on the storm for tomorrow which I first discussed in my last Sunday’s weather narrative, as its looking bigger than that 5-10” storm total. The arctic front is currently located in central Wyoming as the parent storm moves southward from the Canadian border toward the Great Basin tomorrow.

We should see some light snow showers this evening ahead of the cold front, but the snows will get going in earnest by around mid-evening to midnight as the winds turn to be from our favorable northwest direction as part of the front moves through. We could see snowfall rates above an inch per hour at times, and I would expect 3-6” on the Wednesday morning mid-mountain report.

As the parent storm moves southward into the Great Basin on Wednesday, the winds should decrease and turn to be more from the west, which will keep the snows going through the day and into the overnight. Another 5-10” is possible by sunset, with another 1-4” overnight.

Travel will likely be difficult or even impossible at times over Rabbit Ears Pass, as the National Weather Service is talking about the possibility of snow squalls on Wednesday in the very cold and unstable air mass behind the front. Hopefully your travel can be completed by tonight or started on Thursday as Wednesday will be best enjoyed on the hill.

Wintry weather continues this week

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Temperatures are in the upper twenties in the town of Steamboat Springs and mid-teens near the top of Mt. Werner this Sunday noon under mostly cloudy skies with peeks of sun. Snow showers should redevelop this afternoon and last through Monday as the third and final storm in this series scoots west of our area on Monday and south of our area on Tuesday. Though snowfall amounts will be limited, the cold air will not with below zero low temperatures in the forecast for both town and the mountain on both Monday and Tuesday mornings. And the winter weather continues on Wednesday as another cold storm with good snowfall potential moves through during the day and overnight.

Currently, the second storm in this three-storm complex is heading to our east while the third storm is moving through Idaho. This last one will be the coldest and driest of the three, and though we may see on-again and off-again snow showers from this afternoon through most of Monday, I would only expect 1-4” of snow to accumulate at mid-mountain. Temperatures will be cold though, with low temperatures around zero at all elevations on both Monday and Tuesday mornings.

There will likely be periods of sun Tuesday morning as our next storm, currently riding over the top of an eastern Pacific ridge of high pressure, mixes with some frigid air from the North Pole and moves southward toward our area later Tuesday. Expect snow showers to start by the afternoon or overnight and become moderate to heavy at times on Wednesday and Wednesday night as energy ejects out of the approaching storm and moves over the arctic cold front on our doorstep. I would expect 5-10” of accumulations by the Thursday morning report before snowfall ends early Thursday.

If skies clear by Friday morning, we could again be looking at low temperatures well below zero, possibly reaching the negative teens in the coldest low-lying valley locations. A storm currently near the Dateline is then forecast to bodily push the persistent ridge of high pressure towards our area for next weekend, though we may still be susceptible to some showers and surges of cool air as waves of energy and moisture possible mix with some cold air from western Canada and graze our area as they move down the eastern periphery of the ridge.

This dislocation of the persistent eastern Pacific ridge may open the door to warmer and wetter Pacific storms crossing the West Coast and moving toward our area, but there is a lot of weather to get through before discussing the period after next weekend. So stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I’ll discuss the weekend weather and the possible pattern change.

Complex storm to bring snows back for the weekend

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Sunshine filtered by high clouds was over the Steamboat Springs area most of this Thursday, with high temperatures reaching 47 F at the Bob Adams airport and 43 F near the top of Mt. Werner. A complex storm will bring three waves of precipitation over our area starting Friday afternoon and lasting through Monday, with the first part of the storm starting warm and the last part ending cold. Snowfall should diminish or even end at times between the waves, but the three day storm totals could be significant.

The first storm in this series is just crossing the central California coast and is warm since it is the southern part of a just-split storm from the eastern Pacific. Winds from the southwest ahead of the storm will keep our warm temperatures around for most of Friday until the storm passes overhead Friday night and winds switch to be from our favorable northwest direction. There could be some showers during Friday afternoon as energy ejects out ahead of the storm, and if precipitation reaches the ground it will likely comprise of raindrops down in the Yampa Valley and snow at the higher elevations above around 9000′.

But any liquid precipitation should turn to snow in the evening as temperatures cool, with moderate to even heavy snow showers at time overnight and into Saturday morning. I would guess 1-4” of snowfall on the 5 am mid-mountain snow report with another 2-5” during the day, most of which will likely fall by early afternoon.

Meanwhile, the second piece of the storm is currently off the coast of British Columbia and is forecast to travel southward along the West Coast before turning inland and moving across the Great Basin late Saturday and into Colorado on Sunday. There is some dry air that is currently mixing into the storm, and there is weather forecast model disagreement on whether that dry air makes it over our area. Depending on that outcome, we could see snow showers redevelop overnight Saturday or hold off until winds shift to be from the northwest behind the storm Sunday afternoon.

By later Sunday, the third and final piece of the storm will have mixed with some cold air from western Canada and will begin to interact with the preceding part of the storm as it moves toward our area. We could see some fluffier snowfall from Sunday night through Monday afternoon in the 2-5” range.

Another good-looking storm is currently being advertised for around midweek, so stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I hope to be discussing another round of significant snows.

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1 July 2021

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