Thursday, December 21, 2023
Cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid thirties are over the Steamboat Springs area early this Thursday afternoon after a sprinkling of graupel, or snow pellets, last night. Clouds will grudgingly give way to some sun later this afternoon, with more on Friday, before snow chances increase from Saturday afternoon into Christmas Eve Day. And we can start looking forward to longer days starting tomorrow as the longest night of the year will be tonight as the winter solstice occurs at 8:27 pm.
An eddy of low pressure currently sits off the southern California coast while a developing storm is moving across the Gulf of Alaska. The Gulf of Alaska storm is forecast to cross the Pacific Northwest coast midday Friday while prompting the eddy to move across the Desert Southwest, and there is still weather forecast uncertainty as to how much interaction occurs between these two storms as they both move across Colorado this weekend.
There is reasonable weather forecast model consensus that the northern storm will drag a cold front through our area Saturday night, with moderate to even heavy snowfall possible at times. Ahead of that cold front, mild conditions are forecast to persist with high temperatures in the mid to upper thirties, which are between five and ten degrees above our average of 29 F. Thanks to the blanket-like insulation from overnight clouds, low temperatures will be in the upper teens and low twenties through Sunday morning, which are well above our average of 5 F. Both high temperatures on Christmas Eve Day and low temperatures on Christmas morning will cool by about ten degrees.
There is still no consensus, however, between the weather forecast models as to how much interaction occurs between these two storms, with uncertainty highest during the day Saturday and again Sunday. More interaction between the northern and southern storms will start the snows earlier on Saturday and keep them lingering into Sunday, while less interaction leads to almost all of the snowfall occurring Saturday night.
My best guess at this point is at least some interaction between the storms will occur, with snow showers from the southern storm leaving relatively dense snow starting by Saturday afternoon. Snows will continue overnight and become moderate to heavy at times, and less dense and fluffier, as the cold front associated with the northern storm moves through.
We could see 4-8” for the Sunday morning ski report at mid mountain, with another 1-4” possible in the morning as winds turn to be from our favorable northwest direction overnight. The snows should end by Sunday afternoon as a ridge of high pressure builds over the West behind the departing storm, with cool and partly sunny weather forecast for Christmas Day.
We may see a grazing and dry cool front around Tuesday, but the ridge of high pressure looks to hang around through much of the holiday week. There may be a chance for unsettled weather as we approach the new year, so be sure to check back for more details about that possibility in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.