Another wall of water restarts snows on Friday

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Temperatures are in the mid-teens with cloudy skies in the town of Steamboat Springs this Thursday morning while they are in the mid-single digits with light snow falling near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort. The upper elevation snow showers should reluctantly taper off this afternoon and overnight before snows restart at all elevations by Friday afternoon as the next wall of water washes through the Yampa Valley and brings heavy snowfall rates and dense snow through New Years Eve.

Snowfall totals at the Steamboat Ski Resort were impressive as the remnants of an atmospheric river moved over our area starting Tuesday night. Two day totals are up to 18” at mid-mountain after 7” was reported this morning and 23” up top after 10” was reported this morning, and light snow is still falling on the hill.

We should see a break in the snowfall tonight before snows restart on Friday as another atmospheric river, currently approaching the West Coast, moves overhead later Friday. Snows should increase in intensity by Friday afternoon and reach rates exceeding an inch per hour at times from Friday night into New Years Eve, making travel difficult at best over Rabbit Ears Pass.

We could see 6-12” of snow by the Saturday morning ski report at mid-mountain and that again by Sunday morning with most of the snow on the Sunday report falling during the last day of 2022. Unfortunately, temperatures will also rise as the warmer air associated with the tropically-sourced atmospheric river moves overhead, with temperatures up top starting under 10 F on Friday morning and rising to around 20 F on Saturday morning and 25 F by the afternoon. This may hamper late night New Years Eve plans for some as I expect a lot of tired people in town after the round of relatively dense snowfall during the day!

Earlier iterations of the weather forecast models had snow continuing on Sunday ahead of another significant storm for Monday that will also be driven by the remnants of another atmospheric river. This storm, however, is forecast to mix with some cold air from a massive low pressure area spanning the northern Pacific ocean and intensify as it crosses the West Coast on New Years Eve and enters the Great Basin later on New Years Day. There is disagreement on the eventual strength and track of the storm, and we may see a break in the snowfall later on New Years Day, or not.

But the weather forecast models agree that another significant storm is likely on Monday, with snowfall amounts dependent upon the eventual strength and track of the storm. Have a safe and happy New Years weekend, and I’ll be back Sunday afternoon with more details on the Monday storm in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative.

Snowfall continues with a short break around Tuesday

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Temperatures are around thirty degrees under cloudy skies this noon on Christmas Day in the Steamboat Springs area. Snow showers will continue through Monday, especially at the higher elevations, before the precipitation briefly stops from Monday night into Tuesday afternoon. The sun may may make a brief appearance for the first half of Tuesday before another significant storm cycle begins Tuesday night and lasts through Thursday.

A large and complex area of low pressure is currently extending southward from the Gulf of Alaska toward Hawaii and westward toward the Kamchatka Peninsula. Additionally, a very moist ribbon of air from the tropics and subtropics, called an atmospheric river, is being carried toward the West Coast along the southern periphery of the low pressure area.

A shallow ridge of high pressure ahead of the low pressure area has built over the West Coast, and waves of Pacific energy traveling down the east side of the ridge have brought the small amounts of snowfall to our area since Friday. The last wave is timed to traverse the area tonight, with the best chance of accumulating snowfall occurring in the few-degrees-cooler air behind the wave. I would expect 1-4” of snowfall to be reported on the Monday morning mid-mountain ski report.

I will note that I experienced some freezing precipitation yesterday afternoon near the top of the hill as the relatively shallow moist layer and warming atmosphere ahead of the ridge of high pressure conspired to keep snowflakes from forming. This left liquid cloud drops with temperatures below freezing, or super-cooled water, to instantly freeze on any surface it contacted, like goggles, trees and the snow surface. While we may still see some of that this afternoon, likely mixed in with some snow, it should change to all snow tonight as a weak cool front is dragged through our area by the passing wave.

In any event, snowfall should briefly end from Monday night through most of Tuesday as the ridge of high pressure is pushed eastward and over our area by the incoming Pacific storm, with even some sunshine possible Tuesday morning. But the break in snowfall will be brief as the low pressure system begins to move over our area in pieces through the work week and next weekend.

The storm will start warm, with even some rain possible in town Tuesday afternoon and night, so snow densities will be high on the mountain, and we could see 2-5” of relatively heavy dense snow by the Wednesday morning ski report. One piece of the low pressure area over the Pacific is forecast to move overhead later Wednesday, and the cooler air associated with that wave should allow for 4-8” of somewhat less dense snowfall in favorable northwest flow by the Thursday morning report.

Snowfall is forecast to taper off on Thursday with an additional 1-4”, but unfortunately before the coldest air of the storm arrives on Thursday night. It’s not very cold, but we could see the mountain-top high temperatures drop from the high twenties on Wednesday into the teens by Friday.

Another brief break in snowfall is expected from Thursday night into Friday before additional waves  of energy and moisture ejecting out of the the still-evolving Pacific low pressure area are forecast to continue snowfall into and possibly through New Years weekend. Be sure to check back Thursday afternoon when I’ll have more details about that in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative.

Warming temperatures with a chance for more snow this weekend

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The frigid temperatures today in the Steamboat Springs area have reached 3 F in town and -10 F near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort this Thursday mid-afternoon under sunny skies. After a bitterly cold Friday morning at all elevations, temperatures will warm through the Christmas weekend and the beginning of the following week as the arctic air vacates our area and follows the departing storm eastward across the country. Despite the warming, we will see chances for light snow from Friday night into possibly Monday.

Though the cold air did not disappoint with this arctic outbreak, snowfall ended up being on the light side with only four inches recorded at mid-mountain and up top for the morning ski report, in addition to the 3” at mid-mountain and 4” up top reported Wednesday morning.

The narrow ridge of high pressure currently extending from the eastern Pacific across Alaska and into the Arctic Circle, which directed the arctic air southward over our area last night, is in the process of being undercut by Pacific energy. This will not only direct the arctic air eastward to torment the rest of the country, but will also allow for warming temperatures for our area through the beginning of next week.

Between the departing storm and a huge area of low pressure currently centered over the Aleutian Islands, a ridge of high pressure tries to build over the West, though energy and moisture ejecting out of the Aleutian storm will travel through the ridge from later Friday into Monday. Ahead of snow showers starting as early as Friday afternoon or evening, look for a brutally cold night tonight, with low temperatures up top similar to this morning and temperatures in town in the minus teens, and colder than that in the favored low lying areas, especially if clear skies stick around overnight.

But these cold temperatures will quickly moderate on Friday, with high temperatures in the teens in town, which is still around ten degrees below our average of 27 F, and near 10 F up top as the ridge of high pressure approaches our area. But at least three waves of energy will move through the ridge and cross our area in the northwest flow ahead of the ridge between later Friday and Christmas Day, with weather forecast models disagreeing on the strength, moisture content and proximity of all three of these waves.

Generally light snowfall of 1-4” might be expected from any of them between Friday night and Sunday night, with the best snowfall likely during the day Saturday. The moisture embedded in the favorable northwest flow only slowly erodes after Christmas Day, with continued snow showers into Monday and the best chance for clearer skies from later Monday through Tuesday morning.

But the snows are expected to return by midweek, perhaps in a big way, as a chunk of that Aleutian storm is dislodged and finds its way over our area. So enjoy the wintry Christmas weekend, and I’ll be back with more details on the midweek storm in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

Storms for midweek and Christmas weekend

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Temperatures have warmed into the mid-single digits this Sunday mid-morning in the Steamboat Springs area under bluebird skies. Sunny skies today and Monday with continued brisk temperatures will give way to increasing clouds and light snow showers on Tuesday and Tuesday night. Another arctic front follows later Wednesday with significant accumulations expected by Thursday morning along with bitterly cold temperatures. A short break to end the work week will be followed by another round of snows starting later Friday and lasting into Christmas Eve.

My weather station near the base of the Steamboat Ski Resort recorded an astonishing -18 F around 8:30 am to start this Sunday, while the temperature near the top of the resort at the Storm Peak Lab was a more reasonable 6 F. Clear skies, fresh snow and light winds allowed the cold air to pool in the Yampa Valley, forming a temperature inversion where the temperature increases with elevation, a relatively common occurrence in high mountain valleys, especially after winter storms.

Temperatures in town will likely stay several degrees below our average high of 27 F despite the sunny skies today and Monday as the low sun angle around the winter solstice, which occurs at 2:47 pm on Wednesday, December 21, conspires with a highly reflective snow surface to limit daytime heating.

After another cold below zero morning on a mostly sunny Monday, increasing clouds Monday night ahead of our next storm system may bring some flurries and keep overnight lows much warmer than the past two days, likely above our average of 4 F, as the clouds insulate the surface like a blanket.

This next storm is currently rounding a sharp ridge of high pressure extending from the east-central Pacific through the Bering Sea and past the Arctic Circle. Bitterly cold air from western Canada will mix with the storm as it travels southward along the eastern side of the ridge of high pressure. Light snow showers in advance of the storm should start later Tuesday and last into Wednesday, bringing 1-4” of snow to mid-mountain for the Wednesday morning ski report.

By later Wednesday, the arctic front associated with the storm will be on our doorstep along with increasing winds, with moderate to heavy snowfall forecast into Thursday morning along with difficult travel over Rabbit Ears Pass at times. There is some weather forecast model uncertainty with respect to how cold and how much snow we may see, though I am inclined to side with the colder and snowier model solutions and would expect 6-12” of light and dry powder along with high temperatures at the top of the hill below zero, and near zero in town.

We should see a break in the snowfall by Thursday afternoon and into Friday ahead of our next storm currently timed for later Friday into Christmas Eve day. Early indications are that this storm may also be significant and will be accompanied by warmer temperatures as Pacific energy undercuts the Bering Sea ridge of high pressure and severs or at least partially interrupts the arctic tap of cold air.

There is additional weather forecast model uncertainty around the weekend storm, but I’ll have more details about that in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Monster storm departs Friday and leaves arctic air mass behind

Thursday, December 15, 2022

An arctic air mass has brought prodigious amounts of snow and very cold air to the Steamboat Springs area starting last Monday evening, and temperatures in town are currently in the mid-teens with low single digits near the top of Mt. Werner this mid-morning Thursday. A reinforcing wave of cold air this afternoon will continue the snowfall through today and into Friday and bring the coldest temperatures of the storm overhead. Saturday will stay quite cold despite the appearance of the sun with our average temperatures in the upper twenties not returning until Sunday. More average temperatures and dry weather will start the next work week.

What a snowy work week for the Steamboat Springs area! The Steamboat Ski Resort has reported an incredible 36” of snow at mid-mountain and 46” up top from when the storm started on Monday night until this Thursday morning. And during the day yesterday, 17” of snowfall was reported between 5 am and 4 pm up top which fell at rates around one and a half inches per hour for eleven hours!

And it’s still snowing! The center of the monster storm is currently located in the upper Midwest and is affecting almost the entire continent with winter weather. A wave of Pacific energy has mixed with western part of the storm and is expected to bring a reinforcing cold front through our area this afternoon. Expect some good showers and falling temperatures this afternoon as the front moves through, with another 2-5” to be reported at mid-mountain on a very cold Friday, with temperatures up top starting as low as -10 F and staying negative the whole day and overnight.

The town will not escape the very cold temperatures, with high temperatures on Friday only near ten degrees, around fifteen degrees below our average of 27 F, and low temperatures on both Friday and Saturday near -10 F, also around 15 F below our average of 5 F.

High temperatures on Saturday will approach average, but likely remain below it despite the sunshine, with temperatures finally reaching average on Sunday. The work week looks to start similarly, though another snowy pattern may be in our future starting around midweek as a ridge of high pressure builds over the Aleutian Islands and directs cool and moist northwest flow over our area.

There is weather forecast model disagreement over the location of the best northwest flow and embedded Pacific moisture, and the eventual location is critical for significant snow accumulations over our area. I’ll be back with my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon with details on the possible reappearance of the snow-making machine.

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23 February 2021

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