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Cool and unsettled weather to end February and start March

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Temperatures are in the mid-thirties in downtown Steamboat Springs and 21 F near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort this Sunday mid-afternoon under mostly cloudy skies. A storm developing in the Gulf of Alaska will bring chances for snow through midweek, along with breezy to windy conditions, especially on Tuesday.

And while the temperature near the top of the Steamboat ski reached 27 F at 9:30 this morning, increasing clouds dropped the temperature a few degrees before noon and a weak cool front associated with a storm well to our south further dropped the temperature to the current 21 F. Unfortunately these cooler temperatures are all we are going to see out of the storm to our south as dry air behind the storm will preclude snowfall chances for this afternoon.

But the next storm in the Gulf of Alaska promises more snowfall chances as waves of energy eject out ahead of the storm through midweek before the remaining part of the storm makes landfall along the California coast early Wednesday and moves to the south of the Four Corners by Thursday.

Winds will shift from the current northwest direction to be from the west and the southwest as these waves of energy approach and move overhead through midweek and high temperatures in town fall back to the low twenties, ten to fifteen degrees below our average of 36 F. While moisture initially looked sufficient for at least moderate snowfall for most of the early week period, it now appears that the moisture will be more episodic and tied the passage of each wave.

So now, I’m only expecting 1-4” for the Monday morning mid-mountain report, with another 1-4” during the day as the first weak wave ejecting from the Gulf of Alaska storm moves through. The next wave from Monday night through Tuesday afternoon looks more promising, but is also expected to bring wind, with average wind speed at mountain-top increasing to 30 mph by early afternoon and gusts around twice that.

So after a 1-4” Tuesday morning report, with most of that falling on Monday, we could see another 2-5” during the windy day before snowfall ends during the afternoon. By Wednesday morning, the storm is forecast to be in northern Nevada and close to Las Vegas by the afternoon, reaching the Four Corners by Thursday morning. During this time, the last ejecting wave for us will move overhead during the day Wednesday and bring another 1-4” of snowfall and linger overnight where another inch or two may fall.

It does appear like we will see a break in the unsettled weather later Thursday and overnight before a promising but quick-moving wave in our favorable northwest flow moves across during the day Friday. Next weekend looks dry as a ridge of high pressure briefly builds ahead of another developing storm in the Gulf of Alaska that may affect us the following work week. I’ll be talking about that in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Warming temperatures to start the weekend after snow showers tonight

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Briefly sunny skies are over the Steamboat Springs area on this cold Thursday late-morning with temperatures in town and near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort around eight degrees. After another round of snow showers starting this afternoon and lasting into Friday, relatively quiet weather with warming temperatures is forecast for the first half the weekend. But the break will be short-lived as a storm moving to our south will restart the snow showers later Sunday.

Most of the monster storm that affected parts of the country from coast to coast is still currently centered over Pacific Northwest coast. While the Utah ski resorts did very well from this storm on Wednesday, and the southern and some central Colorado ski resorts posted two day totals approaching two feet, the Steamboat Ski Resort only mustered an inch at mid-mountain by Wednesday morning and an additional three inches this morning, along with a lot of wind.

This was a disappointing storm for us, and a busted forecast by me, as a couple of crucial ingredients for snowfall were absent. Not only was the atmosphere drier than expected thanks to some dry air that was sucked into the massive storm as an ejecting wave moved overhead, but the strong winds from the south and southwest scoured the pool of low-level cold air in the Yampa Valley that would have lifted those winds and created snowfall in an overruning event.

So now, while most of the storm is still to our west, we’ve seen some sun this Thursday mid-morning ahead of another couple of weak waves of snowfall ejecting from the parent storm that will start this afternoon and last into Friday. Snowflakes should start falling later today, and thanks to the generally unfavorable winds from the southwest and warming atmosphere, we might only see 1-4” of snowfall for the Friday morning mid-mountain report with another inch or two possible in the morning.

We may see a brief period of sun behind these waves on Friday afternoon before an even weaker wave brings the chance for some more light snow showers later Friday night and into Saturday morning with minimal accumulations.

Meanwhile the monster storm is still to our west and is forecast to move south along the California Coast on Saturday before being forced eastward into Arizona early Sunday and the Four Corners region later Sunday by another incoming Pacific storm.

We may see some periods of sun by Saturday afternoon and stars Saturday night, but clouds will thicken and lower through the day Sunday as the storm swings along the southern Colorado border. Snow showers should start later in the day and persist through the overnight and part of the day Monday as winds behind the storm finally swing around to our favorable northwest direction for the first time in a week.

Snowfall amounts are likely to be modest, and will be dependent upon how much moisture is in the northwest flow behind the storm and how long that northwest flow persists. And behind that storm, the weather forecast models are predicting that next incoming and possibly significant Pacific storm to be overhead by midweek. So check back on Sunday afternoon for my next regularly scheduled weather narrative where I’ll be discussing the upcoming unsettled work week.

Snowy week coming up

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Temperatures are in the low twenties in the town of Steamboat Springs and eight degrees near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort late this Sunday morning under lightly snowing skies. The snow showers are currently tapering off and will end today before more chances for snow reappear for most of the work week. After warmer early week temperatures, a significant storm is forecast from later Tuesday into Thursday morning that will bring another cold arctic air mass overhead by later Wednesday.

Currently, a ridge of high pressure is over the eastern Pacific and an eddy of low pressure is off the Baja Peninsula. A chunk of cold air originally from Siberia will ride over the ridge of high pressure today before crossing the Pacific Northwest coast on Tuesday. This wave is currently drawing in some moist subtropical air moving northward along the western side of the Pacific ridge, and will also mix with more cold air from Alaska tonight and western Canada tomorrow as it moves over the top of the ridge and then down its eastern side.

The end result is a large and powerful storm that will bring significant snowfall to our area from later Tuesday into Thursday morning. Ahead of the storm, snow showers will taper off this afternoon before being restarted by a subtle wave of energy in breezy northwest flow on Monday. Showers may end for a time behind the wave, or not, as energy ejecting out of the massive Pacific Northwest storm begins moving over our area. Winds will turn to be from first the west on Monday and then the southwest by Tuesday ahead of the storm as temperatures rise toward freezing in town on Monday and mid-thirties on Tuesday and likely Wednesday.

We could see 2-5” of snow by the Tuesday morning mid-mountain ski report, and snow showers during the day Tuesday should be quite light as the atmosphere warms and stabilizes thanks to the winds from the southwest. Meanwhile, the storm to our west begins moving into the Great Basin on Tuesday. The cold arctic air mass associated with the storm will sink through Wyoming on Tuesday before encountering the southwest winds ahead of the storm which will stall the cold front near or over our area on Wednesday.

While winds from the southwest are usually not favorable for our area, we have already seem several instances of heavy snowfall this season as the moist air from the southwest overruns the cold air to the north. So right now I would expect good snowfall from Tuesday night into Wednesday and again later Wednesday into Thursday along and behind the cold front, with snowfall quickly becoming light and fluffy behind the front Wednesday night. We could see 5-10” of snowfall at mid-mountain by the Wednesday morning ski report, and another 8-16” by the cold Thursday morning report.

There is a fair bit of uncertainty in the evolving weather as these large storms often end up behaving differently than forecast even a day or two in advance. So enjoy the snowy week, and I’ll be back with my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon with a review of the storm totals as well as a discussion of what currently looks like an unsettled start to next weekend.

Warmer weekend starts sunny and ends stormy

Thursday, February 16, 2023

A cold but thankfully sunny day was over the Steamboat Springs area this Thursday with high temperatures reaching only 16 F in town and 5 F near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort. After another subzero night at all elevations, temperatures should warm into the twenties in town and on the hill during a mostly sunny Friday and Saturday. A quick moving storm will bring some snow for Sunday with a quick break early Monday before a very active winter weather pattern engulfs the West through midweek.

A ridge of high pressure has set up shop over the eastern Pacific, allowing cold air from Siberia to mix to some degree with moist subtropical air from moving northward along the west side of the ridge. As the initially cold storms first ride over the top of the ridge and then down its eastern side into the West, even more cold air is drawn into the storms from Alaska and then western Canada.

With that pattern in mind, a series of storms looks to impact our weather starting on Sunday. The first one is currently elongating along the West Coast and splitting, with the southern end of the split forming an eddy that is forecast to move slowly southward off the coast through the weekend and eventually approach Baja.

Ahead of the split and behind the departing storm, a transient ridge of high pressure is forecast to move over the West, bringing sunny skies and moderating daytime temperatures to our area on Friday and Saturday. But the clear skies means cold overnight temperatures, especially in the Yampa Valley, with minus teens likely tonight, and perhaps colder in the favored low-lying areas. And the cold valley temperatures to start the day mean we may not reach our average high temperature of freezing, even though that is what the numerical guidance is indicating.

While the northern part of the split should pass north of our area Saturday with no effect, clouds should increase later Saturday as another storm with a more southern track follows in our favorable northwest flow. This is a quick-moving storm that should leave 3-6” of snowfall at mid-mountain during the day Sunday, and though timing is still subject to change, right now the best snowfall looks to occur by noon with snow showers tapering off during the afternoon.

Currently it looks like Washington’s Birthday will start dry, but another quick moving wave looks to start a period of very active weather starting later Monday and lasting through midweek. One possibility has that Baja eddy moving east and perhaps supplying some moisture to a very strong and cold incoming storm.

But there are lots of moving pieces after Sunday, and I hope to have some more clarity on the storms by my next regularly scheduled weather narrative sometime on Sunday, depending on when I need to sample the snowfall.

Some snow Tuesday and Wednesday with cold temperatures

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Temperatures are around twenty degrees at all elevations in the Steamboat Springs area under clearing skies late this Sunday morning. A couple of storms will skirt our area on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the first storm increasing clouds by Monday afternoon and bringing a passing chance of flurries. The stronger second storm looks to bring only light snow from Tuesday through Wednesday, but with much colder temperatures that will persist through Thursday.

The first relatively warm storm is currently an eddy in southern California while the second and much colder storm is in the Gulf of Alaska. The second storm is forecast to cross the Pacific Northwest coast on Monday and force the California eddy northeastward across Arizona during the day Monday and northern New Mexico Monday night.

Ahead of the eddy, temperatures today will be a bit cooler than yesterday as the overnight clouds clear behind a grazing cool front from a dry wave currently located in North Dakota. Temperatures warm on Monday as winds turn to be from the south ahead the eastward-moving eddy, along with increasing clouds by the afternoon that may produce some flurries.

The flurries may persist overnight, or not, with an inch possible by the Tuesday morning mid-mountain ski report with our southern neighbors seeing the best accumulations.

Meanwhile, the second storm is forecast to move into the Great Basin on Monday and grow colder as it mixes with some cold air from western Canada. This will cause the storm to split on Tuesday as it crosses the Great Basin, with the southern part of the storm forming an eddy over the Four Corners region by Wednesday morning.

Again, our southern neighbors will see the best accumulations, though all of Colorado will see much colder temperatures. There are a couple of factors limiting our accumulations, including the splitting storm moving around our area and a period of easterly winds on the north side of the southern part of the split later Tuesday.

Right now, it looks like light snow showers are likely during the day Tuesday as some energy from the Great Basin storm grazes our area along with possibly strong winds from the west, though later in the day the winds turn easterly and the strong down-sloping winds off the Park Range look to squash any snow showers. We could see 1-4” of accumulations by the Wednesday morning ski report.

Another chance for snowfall looks to occur Wednesday as the strongest winds from the east subside and eventually turn to be from the north and then our favorable northwest direction later Wednesday. However, the atmosphere rapidly dries, and total accumulations through the day Wednesday look again to be in the 1-4” range.

High temperatures in town look to be only in the low twenties on Tuesday, around ten degrees below our average of 31 F, and the teens on Wednesday and Thursday. Low temperatures look to be subzero on both Thursday and Friday mornings, well below our average of 5 F.

The end of the work week and the start of the long Presidents Day weekend looks to start sunny and warmer as a ridge of high pressure moves through the West behind the midweek storm and ahead of a possible stormy pattern that starts around the end of the weekend. I’ll certainly have more details about that in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

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1 July 2021

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