Thursday, January 26, 2023
Temperatures have reached eighteen degrees in the town of Steamboat Springs and five degrees near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort on this cold Thursday afternoon with continued light snow. Several weather disturbances in first northwesterly and then westerly flow will bring hefty snow totals to the region through at least Saturday. Snows should diminish by Saturday night, but may not stop as another storm influences our area on Sunday and Monday.
After 6.5” was reported by the Steamboat Ski Resort at mid-mountain on Wednesday and 5” today, the accumulated January snowfall is 90” after we saw 108” in December. That puts our season total at 275.5” so far which is already above our snowfall total from last season! And the impressive mid-mountain base of 73” pales in comparison to the 45% higher 106” summit base!
We should easily surpass 100” for the month of January at mid-mountain as the mountains of north-central Colorado are in the cross-hairs of a significant winter storm. A ridge of high pressure currently in the eastern Pacific and extending into the Gulf of Alaska is conspiring with a vortex of very cold air over Hudson Bay to direct cold air from the northern latitudes overhead. Additionally, weather disturbances moving over the ridge of high pressure have already mixed with some moist subtropical air that will provide the fuel for moderate and heavy snowfall rates centered between Friday and Saturday afternoons.
Temperatures will moderate starting tonight as the storm progresses and winds turn to be from the northwest to the west, with Friday morning likely starting out around 10 F up top and reaching 15 F by the afternoon. This temperature range is ideal for producing light and fluffy snowflakes (dendrites) so the snows should quickly pile up. I would expect 3-6” for the Friday morning mid-mountain report, with 4-8” during the day, 5-10” overnight and another 4-8” during the day Saturday. And for those adding it up, as I’m sure most are, that’s a 16-32” storm total!
Blowing snow may be an issue as winds associated with the passing disturbances pick up, especially from late Friday afternoon through midnight and again, but less so, on Saturday afternoon. Travel will likely be difficult at times over Rabbit Ears Pass especially around the windy times.
Snows should diminish by Saturday night, but may not stop as the next storm begins to influence our area. This particular storm is currently located in Alaska and is comprised of a very cold chunk of air that has broken away from Siberia. It is forecast to round the top of the eastern Pacific ridge and split as it moves along the Vancouver coast on Saturday.
Weather forecast models agree the southern part of the split will move down the West Coast on Sunday and turn our upper level winds to be from the southwest. However, the northern part of the split will also keep the cold air to our north in our proximity, and some sort of stationary front may loiter over our area on Sunday and Monday. Preliminary guidance indicates another 6-12” of snowfall possible, though that will ultimately be dependent upon the location of the stationary front.
We have a lot of weather to get through on Friday and Saturday first, so be sure to check back to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll have more details on our next storm.