Thursday, December 14, 2023
After the fog layer dissipated this morning, temperatures are in the mid twenties under brilliant blue skies in Steamboat Springs this Thursday noon. Warming daytime temperatures and continued sunny skies will last through the weekend and into the following work week.
A storm currently crossing into New Mexico from Arizona in the form of an eddy has brought snow to southern Colorado and New Mexico, but is too far south for anything but some cool air over our area. Temperatures should approach the mid thirties today in town, which is around five degrees above our average of 30 F under sunny skies.
The skies will remain clear through the weekend as a ridge of high pressure builds over the West behind the departing eddy that will eventually bring misery to the East Coast starting late in the weekend and ahead of a strong storm currently developing in the Gulf of Alaska.
Clear skies under the ridge of high pressure will allow nighttime temperatures to fall into the low teens through the weekend, around five degrees above our average of 6 F. Interestingly, mountain top low temperatures might be several degrees warmer as cold air pools in the valleys, leading to a morning temperature inversion where temperatures increase with elevation.
Continued sunny skies will battle the cold air mass brought overhead by the eddy to our south through tomorrow for another day similar to today. And eventually, the sunny skies will allow high temperatures to rise another five degrees for Saturday and Sunday with another degree or two added for the beginning of the work week.
Meanwhile, that Gulf of Alaska storm is forecast to elongate to the south and split, with the southern end forming a large eddy that is forecast to briefly loiter off the coast of California. The bulk of this eddy is forecast to eventually eject across the Pacific Northwest next week, with only clouds likely affecting our area around next Tuesday.
Otherwise, quiet weather looks to persist into Christmas weekend when the long range weather forecast models offer some hope of snowfall. So while we all enjoy the gorgeous weather ahead, I’ll be monitoring the long term periods and have more to say about a possible pattern change in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.
Sunday, December 10, 2023
Temperatures are approaching twenty degrees with light snow falling in Steamboat Springs this Sunday mid afternoon. The snows will continue through Monday even as temperatures warm into the thirties before stopping by Tuesday. But even though the precipitation stops ahead of a dry period that looks to last past next weekend, clouds look to hang around through midweek before some sun reappears by Thursday and beyond.
The main part of the storm that produced a three day total of 17” at the Steamboat Ski Resort is currently over the Appalachians which leaves our area in moist and favorable northwest flow. The reason winds from the northwest are favorable is that they are lifted as they encounter the north-south oriented Park Range in a process called orographic , or terrain-driven, lifting. Ideal conditions for accumulating snowfall are then rounded out by some cold air, which makes the atmosphere unstable and adds to the lifting, some storm energy which also adds to the lifting, and of course moisture.
While winds from the west can also produce significant orographic snowfall, they tend not to have the cold air associated with winds from the northwest which negatively affects atmospheric stability and snow crystal shape. Additionally, and well known by those who ski here, westerly winds impinge directly on the predominantly westward facing mountain which can create substantial, but wind affected snow.
These northwest orographics will force another round of accumulating snowfall that will begin in earnest tonight and last through Monday. Though temperatures are forecast to warm into the mid thirties on Monday, which is around five degrees above our average of 31 F, the remaining three ingredients for orographic snowfall remain through the day Monday as a couple of waves in northwest flow pass overhead tonight and again later in the day Monday.
I know I mentioned an inch or two of accumulation in the last Thursday weather narrative, but both the wave and moisture tonight are more robust in the latest weather forecast models, and we could see 3-6” of snow for the Monday morning report with another 1-4” during the day and evening.
Meanwhile, a wave forecast to cross the Pacific Northwest coast on Monday is forecast to develop into an eddy that travels through Nevada on Tuesday and into Arizona on Wednesday. Our winds will shift to be from the west on Tuesday and south on Wednesday which will cut off our moisture supply and raise temperatures to the upper thirties by Tuesday and around forty degrees for Wednesday. Clouds look to stick around through Wednesday thanks to the eddy to our southwest before there is a chance for some sun on Thursday.
Unfortunately, weather forecast models agree that a ridge of high pressure builds over the West behind that departing eddy, so mostly sunny skies and temperatures warming to the low forties are likely for next weekend, and perhaps through at least part of the following work week. But that is over a week away, and forecasts can change, so check back to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon for an updated look at the weekend weather and when the chance of storms might return.
Thursday, December 7, 2023
Light snow showers with temperatures in the mid thirties are over Steamboat Springs this Thursday mid afternoon. The stronger portion of this two part storm arrives on Friday along with a cold front around noon bringing moderate to sometimes heavy snow showers that will persist through the evening before tapering off Saturday morning. While we may see some sun early Sunday, a storm may graze our area later in the day that might restart light snow showers that last into the overnight.
A cold storm from the Gulf of Alaska is on the move with the main piece of the storm currently bringing precipitation to the northern half of the West Coast. A leading piece that was ejected out of the storm earlier is grazing our area to the north, and has left about an inch at the mid mountain powdercam and almost twice that up top so far.
There may be some additional showers later today and overnight, or not, as the short term weather forecast model has the best accumulations to our north. But the main piece of the storm moves through our area on Friday along with a cold front current timed for late morning or early afternoon, and we could see 3-6” during the day and an additional 3-6” overnight for a 6-12” mid mountain Saturday morning ski report.
Temperatures are on a downtrend thanks to the cold air associated with both pieces of the storm, with high temperatures in the upper twenties on Friday and mid twenties on Saturday, which is around five degrees below our average of freezing.
If there is some clearing Saturday night as currently predicted, Sunday morning will start quite chilly with low temperatures reaching the low single digits which is around five degrees below our average of 8F.
A ridge of high pressure then tries to build over the West behind this storm system, and there is weather forecast model disagreement over a wave that moves through the ridge on Sunday and how much moisture it may contain. So there may be a chance for snow showers later Sunday and overnight, but the amounts should be only an inch or two if they occur.
There are another couple of waves moving over the West early next week, though weather forecast models disagree on whether we see snowfall chances before midweek or after. So check back to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I should have more clarity about the coming work week weather.
Sunday, December 3, 2023
Temperatures are in the upper twenties under cloudy skies late this Sunday morning in Steamboat Springs. Snows have briefly stopped but will pick up again later today and tonight as another wave in favorable and moist northwest flow moves overhead. They will become showery and taper off through Monday as the final wave in this storm cycle brushes our area and will be followed by warming temperatures and mostly sunny skies for Tuesday and Wednesday. But snow chances return for Thursday and last into the following weekend as pieces of our next storm move overhead.
Thankfully, winds peaked last night with gusts over 60 mph recorded at the Storm Peak Laboratory near the top of Mt. Werner before the anemometer froze around 3 am this morning. But the winds brought snow, with 10” reported at mid mountain on the 5 am Steamboat Ski Resort report. This is in addition to the 7” reported Saturday morning and the 2.5” reported Friday morning bringing the storm cycle total to 19.5” so far.
But we are not done yet as another significant but less windy wave of snowfall starts later today and lasts into Monday morning, bringing an additional 6-12” for the Monday morning report and about half that in town. Snowfall will taper off on Monday with another 1-4” possible on the hill as a final wave brushes the area Monday afternoon.
After the high temperature struggles to reach freezing in town today, which will be five degrees below our average of 35 F, temperatures will warm to the upper thirties on Monday despite the clouds. The sun will return on Tuesday and Wednesday as a ridge of high pressure moves over the West ahead of another storm forecast to develop in the Gulf of Alaska early in the work week. Temperatures in town should rise to around forty degrees on Tuesday and toward the mid-forties on Wednesday.
But the break in the weather will be short lived as that Gulf of Alaska weakens and moves over our area in pieces between Thursday and Saturday morning. Right now, only light snow showers are expected on Thursday ahead of the stronger piece of the storm on Friday. But the weather forecast models are still evolving, so be sure to check back to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I’ll have some snowfall guesses for the possible end-of-work-week storm and more details about the weekend weather.
Thursday, November 30, 2023
Mostly sunny skies filtered by high clouds and temperatures in the upper thirties are over Steamboat Springs early this Thursday afternoon. A series of waves developing over the northern Pacific will move overhead through the weekend creating a storm cycle that will start later today and last through Monday. Storm totals could be a foot in town and two feet or more at the Steamboat Ski Resort by the time the cycle ends late Monday, along with difficult travel over Rabbit Ears Pass at times.
A train of moist waves following an eddy that stayed well to our south is forecast to move through our area from the favorable northwest direction starting tonight. While the snows will start with light intensity, they will become moderate to heavy as the stronger waves pass through the area. Snowfall rates as high as an inch per hour at pass level will combine with increasing winds to make travel difficult or even impossible at times, especially from Saturday night through Sunday afternoon.
The leading diffuse wave tonight should only produce 1-3” for the Friday morning ski report, with another 1-3” during the day as a second diffuse waves moves through.
A stronger and more coherent wave is forecast for Friday night through Saturday afternoon which should produce another 4-8” of snow with most of that falling before the Saturday morning report and the rest falling during the day.
The brunt of the storm should occur from later Saturday through the day Sunday, with wind gusts as high as 50 mph and snowfall rates exceeding an inch per hour at times, making this the worst time to travel. Another 4-8” of snow overnight will add to the snow that fell during the day Saturday for a 5-10” Sunday morning report, and another 4-8” should fall during Sunday.
This train of waves is suppressing a ridge of high pressure trying to build in the eastern Pacific, with the result that each successive wave will be a bit warmer than the preceding one. Snowfall to water ratios will start at around 17:1 tonight and Friday night, and decrease to around 15:1 by Saturday night and Sunday and 12:1 by Monday, creating upside-down snow where denser snow overlays lighter snow.
High temperatures in town will be near freezing on Friday and the upper twenties on Saturday before approaching our average of 35 F on Sunday. And as is usual during storm cycles when the clouds act like a nighttime blanket, low temperatures will warm and be above our average of 11 F with mid teens tonight and Friday night and low twenties Saturday night.
Snowfall should taper off from Sunday night through Monday, with a ridge of high pressure bringing nice weather by Tuesday. Enjoy the wintry weekend coming up and the desperately needed snowfall, and be sure to check back for my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll discuss snowfall totals so far and have a snowfall forecast for the last part of the storm.