Wall of water arrives Friday

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Temperatures are in the upper twenties in the town of Steamboat Springs and low teens near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort under clearing skies late this Thursday morning. The mostly sunny skies this afternoon will be replaced with a warm and wet Pacific air mass on Friday, possibly bringing rain below mid-mountain during the day and evening. Colder air arrives overnight Friday, turning any liquid precipitation to snow, with the bulk of the significant snow at mid-mountain and above over by Saturday afternoon. Snow showers may persist through the rest of the weekend.

The two inches of snow reported at mid-mountain today and three inches up top were due to an ejecting wave of energy and moisture from a persistent area of low pressure currently off the Pacific Northwest coast that had earlier formed an eddy. Our weather gets very interesting starting on Friday as a stream of subtropical and tropical moisture referred to as an atmospheric river combines with winds on the south side of that Pacific Northwest eddy and slams into West Coast later today.

Ahead of that, skies will continue to clear today for a mostly sunny afternoon. But we will see a warm and wet Friday after the atmospheric river dumps impressive low-elevation rain and high elevation snow on California and moves overhead. As is often the case in March, the low elevations will struggle with cold enough temperatures for snow, and rain or a rain-snow mix is likely below mid-mountain on Friday and Friday evening, with a dense 2-5” expected by sunset at and above mid-mountain.

That Pacific Northwest eddy is forecast to be forced eastward on Friday by another eddy forming in its place, and will move over our area around midnight on Friday. Much colder air will accompany the former eddy, with any liquid water turning to snow at low elevations and mountain top temperatures dropping from near thirty degrees ahead of the cold front toward ten degrees by Saturday morning. Winds will become strong and gusty along the front, though should quiet down by sunrise on Saturday. We could see another 4-8” by the Saturday morning report, with the snowfall becoming progressively less dense toward morning. And there may be another 1-4” of light and fluffy snowfall by noon.

The cold front will push the best moisture to our south, keeping the chance of snow showers going through the rest of the weekend as we are on the boundary between the warm and moist air to our south and the cold and drier air to our north. We could see 1-4” of additional snowfall Saturday night and that again during the day Sunday.

A final weak wave may move across Sunday night, and if that happens we could see another 1-4” fall in the favorable northwest flow. A ridge of high pressure then looks to briefly build over our area to start the work week ahead of the new Pacific Northwest eddy for some nice weather, though that may be short-lived as another significant storm is possible around midweek. I’ll have more details about that in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

Unsettled work week ahead

Sunday, March 5, 2023

After some sun and wind and temperatures in the mid-thirties in Steamboat Springs late this Sunday morning, snows have restarted with several inches of accumulation at the Steamboat Ski Resort by late this Sunday afternoon. Another several inches are likely to fall by midnight before they taper off by Monday morning with some clearing skies advertised for parts of the day. Our area will be right on the southern edge of light snows on Tuesday and Wednesday before good chances for snow reappear starting Wednesday night and lingering through Thursday.

A sharp ridge of high pressure currently over the eastern Pacific extends through Alaska toward the North Pole while an area of low pressure is anchored off the Pacific Northwest coast near the base of the ridge. Northerly winds on the east side of the high pressure are directing waves of cold air and energy around the somewhat stationary storm, resulting in a stationary front that extends from the base of the storm eastward across northern California, Nevada, Utah and northern Colorado. This front separates the colder air to our north from the warmer air to our south.

The snows from today were the result of some energy ejecting out of the storm yesterday and moving over our area this afternoon, accompanied by the strong winds of the jet stream overhead. The bulk of the 3-6” that should be reported at mid-mountain Monday morning that has not already fallen today will fall by midnight.

Weather forecast models are not in complete agreement as to the strength and location of the ejecting waves through most of Wednesday, and we may have some light snow showers at times as the front meanders south and perhaps even some sun as the front meanders north. Any accumulations are likely to be very light, with 1-4” the best hope on the Tuesday and Wednesday morning mid-mountain ski reports, though there also may be zeros reported.

Weather forecast models agree that a stronger wave of energy moves overhead by Wednesday night even as cold air from the northern latitudes replenishes the storm through the work week and beyond. Unfortunately, they disagree about the details, with the American GFS faster, stronger and wetter. That model is currently predicting as much as 6-12” between Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, though the European ECMWF, which I’m currently inclined to support since it has forecast this weather setup more accurately so far, has less than half of that.

A break in the unsettled weather is forecast by both models for at least some of Friday, and agree about some sort of storm for the weekend, though they disagree on how that storm may evolve. So be sure to check back Thursday afternoon where I’ll have more details about the possible weekend storm and what may be a break in the unsettled weather pattern for the beginning of the following work week.

Short breaks in snowfall later today and Saturday

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Temperatures are in the mid-twenties in the town of Steamboat Springs and mid-teens near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort late this Thursday morning under lightly snowing skies. We will see a short break in the wintry weather that has been over the area this past week later today before a modest storm quickly moves through on Friday. Another short break is advertised during the day Saturday before we see chances for snow from Saturday night through the beginning of the next work week.

The storm which dropped incredible amounts of snow to our west is now quickly scooting along southern New Mexico and will be through Texas by Friday morning. Mammoth Mountain, for example, reported an incredible 65” in the three days ending yesterday, and Arizona Snowbowl reported a monster three feet this morning!

Our snow reports were underwhelming by any measure, though we did pick up an inch after the morning report today at mid-mountain and two inches up top as shown on the powdercams. The snows have stopped for now and we may see some clearing today, especially at the lower elevations, before a quick-moving storm in favorable northwest flow moves through the area on Friday. The bulk of the predicted 3-6” for the Saturday morning mid-mountain ski report should fall during the day Friday with with the rest falling in the evening and tapering off by Saturday morning.

Some sun is currently forecast during the day Saturday, and that will be our last break before unsettled weather returns for an extended period starting Saturday night thanks to another large and complex storm forecast to develop off the Pacific Northwest coast Saturday and loiter there in some fashion through at least midweek.

Similar but slightly different than the last storm cycle, energy and moisture ejecting out of the storm will move across the West in winds generally from the west and west-southwest direction. As the first wave approaches our area Saturday night, winds will increase with average winds speeds approaching 40 mph on the mountain and gusts twice that. While the strongest winds are forecast for the overnight, they may only decrease to 30 mph by Sunday morning with gusts again about twice that, possibly leading to some more lift issues early in the day.

Luckily the winds are forecast to subside during the day as snows pick up, and while we won’t see much snow on the Sunday morning report, we could see 2-5” fall during the day. However, even at this short range, weather forecast models are wavering on how much moisture moves overhead and the location of the best storm energy.

The Pacific Northwest storm is forecast to loiter there through at least midweek as ejecting storm energy is replenished by more incoming Pacific energy. This forces a stationary front to set up shop across parts of Nevada, Utah and Colorado, with the front drifting north ahead of ejecting energy and south behind it. Our snowfall will eventually be determined by the location of the front and how much moisture each ejecting wave carries.

So lots of uncertainty regarding snow amounts, but the cool and unsettled weather looks likely. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll hazard some snowfall guesses and take a peek at what lies beyond the wintry start to the work week.

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.

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16 November 2017

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