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Record setting winter continues

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Temperatures are near forty degrees in the town of Steamboat Springs and mid-twenties near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort under mostly cloudy skies this Sunday noon. Some clearing skies to our west may make it over our area this afternoon as a strong spring snowstorm crosses the Pacific Northwest coast. Monday will be the last warm day of the work week before snows start Monday night and last into Thursday, along with another couple of chances to break the records for the coldest high temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday, and perhaps the coldest low temperature for Thursday.

yampa-white-little_snake Snow Water Equivalent through 2 April 2023Before we get to the next blast of winter starting Monday night, note that our river drainage system has more water in the snowpack on this date since this metric first started being tracked in the winter of 1985-1986! In the figure, the blue line represents the maximum recorded equivalent liquid water, the black line current values and the green line the median for the thirty years starting in the 1990-1991 winter season.

And we are going to add to our snowpack this week as a strong winter-like storm currently crossing the Pacific Northwest coast moves across the Great Basin on Monday and gets the snows going over our area Monday night.

This storm is similar to the last one on Friday with a very cold air mass originating in Siberia moving across the Pacific while absorbing moisture from another atmospheric river originally formed over Indonesia. While the storm won’t be centered over Nevada until later Monday, we should see gusty winds increase from the west today in the warm air mass ahead of the storm. Temperatures in town are expected to be near our average of 48 F today under partly sunny skies, 

A similar day is expected on Monday, possibly with cloudier skies, as the winds turn to be from the southwest and remain gusty. The storm is forecast to move east across the Great Basin Monday night and move overhead on Tuesday, dragging a strong cold through our area Monday night. While there may be some light snow showers ahead of the front, moderate to heavy snows should accompany the front and continue behind it with snowfall rates possibly over two inches per hour at times, leading to 5-10” by the Tuesday morning mid-mountain report and an additional 2-5” during the day.

Temperatures will plunge behind the front, with temperatures falling to five degrees up top by Tuesday afternoon and possibly subzero on Wednesday and Thursday mornings as a reinforcing waves of cold air pass through on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Record cold high temperatures may be set in town on both Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, with the lowest high temperatures of 32 F set in 2011 and 28 F set in 2009 in jeopardy, though the record low temperatures of -15 F set on Tuesday and -5 F on Wednesday, both in 1945, appear safe. But the record low of 0 F set in 1983 may be broken if skies clear enough as currently forecast by Thursday morning.

While the weather forecast models agree on the likely record-setting cold, they disagree on precipitation amounts, so that part of the forecast is uncertain. Each of the reinforcing waves could enhance snowfall, though moisture is likely to decrease in the very cold air behind the initial front. Another 1-4” could fall around Tuesday night and again Wednesday into Thursday morning, especially considering the dry and fluffy nature of the unseasonably cold early April snowfall.

Temperatures look to recover by Thursday afternoon as the storm departs, with a dry and seasonable weekend currently in the forecast. And for those hungry for above average temperatures, there is hope as a giant ridge of high pressure looks build over the West the following week for this first time this winter. So be sure to check back Thursday afternoon where I’ll discuss that prognosis in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative.

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1 July 2021

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