Snow this weekend to chase springlike weather away

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Temperatures are approaching freezing under mostly sunny skies late this Thursday morning in Steamboat Springs. Clouds from the southwest will increase through the day and mark the approach of a long duration, warm and wet winter storm which should begin accumulating snowfall by later Friday. One to two feet of snow could fall at mid mountain at the Steamboat Ski Resort between Friday and Sunday afternoons, with five to ten inches expected in town.

A ridge of high pressure currently centered over the middle of the U.S. is flanked by a storm moving across the Great Lakes and a deep trough of low pressure extending from Alaska toward the Baja Peninsula. The southern end of the trough has been reinforced by a warm wave of energy and moisture drawn from around Hawaii in an atmospheric river nicknamed the Pineapple Express, and is forecast to move through the Great Basin and Desert Southwest on Friday.

By early Saturday, the storm looks to form an eddy that moves across southern Colorado before intensifying later in the day as winds from the southeast ahead of the storm snag additional moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, some cool air and moisture are forecast to break away from the northern portion of the Gulf of Alaska trough of low pressure early Saturday and move overhead around Saturday night.

Several moving pieces add uncertainty to the snowfall forecast, though generally we will see increasing clouds through the day today as the southern storm approaches. We will see warmer overnight low temperatures in the twenties in town, well above our average of 6 F, with the high temperatures today and Friday staying around five to ten degrees above our average of 31 F.

There are chances for some snow showers on the hill during most of Friday leaving minimal accumulations, though right now the substantial snows aren’t expected to get going until late in the afternoon or early evening. Snowfall rates as high as two inches per hour at times in the several hours before and after midnight will make travel difficult over Rabbit Ears Pass as the storm intensifies, with rates then decreasing to a still impressive one half to one inch per hour and persisting through Saturday night.

Temperatures are only expected to fall into the low twenties near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort on Saturday and Sunday, with low thirties in town. Winds won’t be too bad thanks to the absence of a strong jet stream, with Saturday afternoon the windiest period with mountain top winds around 15 mph gusting to twice that.

Snowfall guesses are 6-12” for the Saturday morning mid mountain report, with an additional 4-8” falling during the day. There is uncertainty concerning how much of that northern Gulf of Alaska storm breaks away and moves overhead by later Saturday, but right now we could pick up an additional 3-6” of fluffier snow overnight for a 7-14” Sunday morning report thanks to additional cool air and winds from our favorable northwest direction.

Snowfall should taper off during the day Sunday, and if there is some clearing later overnight on Sunday, low temperatures could fall to around ten degrees in town on Monday morning. After a couple of precipitation free days to start the work week, another significant storm is currently advertised for midweek.

So enjoy our last springlike day today, and the powder days this weekend, and be sure to check back to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon for details about the next winter storm just in time for the 111th edition of the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival.

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29 May 2019

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