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.