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Mostly sunny skies and seasonable temperatures to start the first week of the new year

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Temperatures are in the mid twenties under cloudy skies late this Sunday morning in Steamboat Springs. While the clouds look to hang around for most of today, more sun than not should be over our area through midweek along with seasonable temperatures. A storm moving to our south may bring a chance of some light snow showers later Thursday and early Friday ahead of a pattern change that promises cold and snowy weather starting around next weekend.

A sharp ridge of high pressure currently over the northern Rockies is being undercut by a weak Pacific storm that is bringing the cloudiness today. This pattern of Pacific storms traveling underneath a ridge of high pressure is a hallmark of the El-NiƱo weather phenomenon, and ahead of a similar storm moving even further south of our area on Tuesday, mostly sunny skies should return on New Year’s Day and last through midweek.

Our string of below average temperatures this past holiday week was broken yesterday afternoon as high temperatures reached 34 F at the Bob Adams Airport, six degrees above our average of 28 F, and the low temperature this morning was 11 F thanks to the insulating effects of overnight clouds, seven degrees above our average of 4 F.

While we will see more sun than not through midweek, the storms passing to our south will shave a couple of degrees off the high and low temperatures. A more significant storm currently in the southern Gulf of Alaska is forecast to move across northern California on Wednesday and the Great Basin on Thursday. Though the bulk of the storm will again move south of our area, it will be large enough to bring a chance of snow showers to our area by later Thursday and Thursday night, though accumulations look meager at this time.

But there is good news in the longer range weather forecasts as the atmosphere reorganizes itself thanks to a large chunk of very cold air breaking away from eastern Siberia starting on New Year’s Day. This will prompt a strong storm to develop in the northern Pacific which subsequently forces a ridge of high pressure to develop over and north of Alaska by next weekend.

Not only are we likely to see a significant winter storm starting around next weekend, but the cold air looks to stick around for a while thanks to arctic air moving southward along the east side of that Alaska ridge. But this scenario is a week away, so enjoy the pleasant start to the first week of the new year, and be sure to check back to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I’ll discuss what hopefully will be our next major winter storm.

Slowly warming temperatures with little hope for snow this weekend

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Temperatures are only in the mid teens under brilliant blue skies in Steamboat Springs this Thursday noon and on their way to the mid twenties. There is very little hope for precipitation this weekend with the current sunny weather continuing through Friday before clouds move overhead for most of Saturday and Sunday.

The storm that left around 28” of snow at the Steamboat Ski Resort from Saturday afternoon through Christmas Day is currently spinning in the Midwest while a ridge of high pressure sits over the Intermountain West ahead of another storm extending south from the Gulf of Alaska. Both low and high temperatures will moderate through the weekend and rise above the coldest averages of the year, which are 4 F for the low temperature and 28 F for the high temperature.

Some warming will be due to the relatively warm air mass under the ridge of high pressure, with temperatures reaching the mid thirties on Saturday and Sunday. More significant warming for the overnight temperatures on Saturday and more so on Sunday will occur from clouds invading the area ahead of the remnants of the approaching Gulf of Alaska storm and acting like a blanket to trap heat.

Unfortunately, the storm is forecast to split as it crosses the West Coast on Saturday, with the southern end of the split falling apart as it interacts with the ridge of high pressure over the Intermountain West. What is left of the storm may combine with a wave traveling down the east side of the ridge to bring a small chance of snow showers on Sunday, though accumulations currently look hard to come by.

A somewhat chaotic weather pattern is forecast to continue for the first week of the new year as a couple of incoming Pacific storms are also forecast to split as they approach the West Coast. Again, precipitation chances are very limited, with passing clouds the most likely outcome as the storms move south of our area early and late in the first week of the year.

Enjoy the current sunny weather, and be sure to check back to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I hope to have better news on our snow potential.

Cold and dry ahead

Sunday, December 24, 2023

It’s still snowing in Steamboat Springs late this Sunday afternoon after the high temperature of the day only managed to reach 21 F. The snow showers should taper off tonight and may last into Christmas Day at the higher elevations before we are left with just the cold to start the week. Clouds will come and go while temperatures begin moderating by midweek.

The snows started yesterday morning as the first of two low pressure systems affected our area, and by this morning the Steamboat Ski Resort reported 11” at mid mountain and 10” up top. And thanks to favorable moist and unstable northwest flow associated with the second system, mid mountain picked up another 8” during the day with the top gathering another foot, leaving a 19” storm total at mid mountain and 22” up top as of 4 pm Sunday.

Those storm totals are going higher, as a quick check of the Steamboat mid mountain powdercam shows two additional inches between 4 and 5:30 pm, and an unbelievable six inches at the Steamboat upper mountain powdercam for a snowfall rate of four inches per hour up top!

The two low pressure areas are forecast to merge by Christmas Day over Nebraska and Kansas and form an intense cyclone fueled by warm and moist air drawn northward from the Gulf of Mexico. Behind the cyclone, northerly winds will carry more cold air from the Canadian Plains overhead through Tuesday, keeping high temperatures in the high teens for Christmas Day and low twenties for Tuesday, well below our average of 29 F. And low temperatures will fall to below our average of 5 F to the low single digits tonight for a brisk start to Christmas Day and perhaps below zero for Tuesday morning.

A ridge of high pressure is forecast to begin building over the West Coast by Christmas Day ahead of a strong storm developing in the Gulf of Alaska, and move slowly eastward through the week. Energy and moisture ejecting from the Gulf of Alaska storm may move around the periphery of the ridge and eventually overhead around Wednesday and Friday night, bringing passing clouds and only a slight chance of snow showers.

Otherwise, another cool start to Wednesday morning gives way to average temperatures during the day and around five degrees above average starting Thursday and lasting into the weekend. There is very little agreement on our weather around New Years, with both dry and showery solutions offered, so be sure to check back on Thursday afternoon for my next regularly scheduled weather narrative for more details on the weather during the last weekend of the year.

Snow likely mid weekend

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.

Some hope for unsettled weather after midweek

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Temperatures are approaching twenty degrees in Steamboat Springs under brilliant sunny skies this Sunday noon. Some clouds will begin passing overhead tomorrow and may moderate the single digit low temperatures over this past weekend, but there is no hope for precipitation until after midweek when an unsettled weather pattern may begin.

A ridge of high pressure currently sitting over the West is bookended by a deep trough of low pressure beginning to affect the entire East Coast and an eddy of low pressure off the coast of California. Our low and high temperatures have been five to ten degrees colder than I forecast last Thursday as a stubborn temperature inversion sits over the Yampa Valley. A temperatures inversion occurs when temperature increases with elevation, thanks in our case to cold air pooling in the valleys, and is maintained by low sun angle, snow cover, light winds and clear nighttime skies.

The jet stream is also very strong between a couple of storms that currently sit over the Bering Sea and eastern Siberia. A piece of the Bering Sea storm is forecast to mix with some cold air moving through the Bering Strait and head south to dislodge the California eddy before taking its place as another eddy.

While the first eddy is forecast to move over the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday, after another mostly sunny Monday we may see some clouds skirting its southern end by Monday night that will raise our low temperatures back above our average of 6 F by Tuesday morning. And our high temperatures should reach between five and ten degrees above our 29 F average starting Monday afternoon.

Energy ejecting out of the replacement eddy will then keep passing clouds overhead for Tuesday with better cloud coverage for Wednesday. By Thursday, a piece of the Siberian storm that broke away earlier in the week is forecast to approach the eddy off the California coast and dislodge it by Friday. A piece of energy is forecast to eject from the eddy ahead of that and may bring a chance of snow showers as it passes overhead during the day Thursday, with meager accumulations at best.

Weather forecast models agree that the Siberian storm will remain distinct from the ejecting eddy early in the weekend, but are very inconsistent both between and with themselves as to how much interaction between the eddy and storm occurs over the Great Basin. Current forecasts for Christmas Eve Day vary between a dry cold front and the beginnings of a multi day storm.

Enjoy what will be a gorgeous start to the work week, and be sure to check back to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I should have more clarity on the Christmas weekend weather.

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10 July 2020

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