More beautiful weather through midweek

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Temperatures are in the mid forties under cloudless skies late this Sunday morning in Steamboat Springs. After the last several days with high temperatures in the forties, they will reach the mid fifties starting today and lasting through midweek under mostly sunny skies. The weather looks to turn unsettled starting Thursday with a chance for some passing showers, though what happens after that is unclear.

Super El Ninos vs Season snowfall at the Steamboat Ski Resort Monthly snowfall by year at the Steamboat Ski Resort during super El NinosSnowfall by month at the Steamboat Ski Resort during super El Ninos Before we get to the weather forecast, I’d like to revisit last week’s discussion on the predicted super El-Niño for this winter. I’ve collated three more charts that compare the snowfall recorded at mid-mountain at the Steamboat Ski Resort during the last three measured events since 1950.

The first shows the seasonal snowfall for each of the events, with the obvious conclusion that stronger El Niños are correlated with higher snowfall. However, beware of extrapolating over only three events, especially since this year is still just a prediction!

The second chart shows the monthly snowfall by year during these three events while the third shows the snowfall by month.

It was tough for me to draw any additional conclusions with these last two graphs, but feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments sections below!

Returning to the weather forecast, a ridge of high pressure currently sits over the West while a broad ridge of low pressure extends southward from the Aleutian Islands through the Gulf of Alaska.

Weather forecast models agree that cold air moving southward across Alaska will consolidate this trough into an eddy that is forecast to move south to be off the coast of California by midweek. Additionally, several waves in the northern Pacific jet stream are forecast to skirt to the north of the eddy through the work week, with some or all of these waves interacting with the eddy in some manner.

Until any of these interactions happen, our weather will stay beautiful with warm sunny days and high temperatures reaching the mid fifties, which is around ten degrees above our average. Low temperatures will also warm from the teens these last several days, reaching about five degrees above our current average in the upper teens.

By Thursday, there is considerable disagreement both between and within the weather forecast models as to how much interaction between the northern Pacific waves and the eddy off the California coast occurs. Right now, one wave may grab some moisture from the eddy as it moves through the Gulf of Alaska later Tuesday and graze our area on Thursday, leading to a cooler day with a chance for some showers.

Another more substantial wave may eventually force the eddy inland over the weekend, leading to more cool and unsettled weather. And for those anxious about Opening Day snowfall for the Steamboat Ski Resort scheduled only ten days away on Wedensday, November 22, that more substantial wave may bring a better chance of snowfall in the several days before opening.

There is a lot of time for the forecast to evolve before then, so enjoy the current gorgeous weather and I’ll be back with my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon with more details on the evolving snow chances starting around next weekend.

Warming temperatures for a nice weekend

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the mid thirties are over the Steamboat Springs area early this Thursday afternoon. Temperatures will gradually warm through the weekend reaching above fifty degrees by Sunday afternoon under mostly sunny skies. The only good news from the snow perspective is overnight temperatures will be cold enough for effective snowmaking through the weekend and into the next work week.

Skies have cleared behind the modest storm yesterday that left a bit of snow in town and an unknown amount at the Steamboat Ski Resort since both of their powdercams are down. Temperatures will be slow to warm today and struggle to reach forty degrees, which is over five degrees below our average of 46 F, and low temperatures should fall into the low teens which is also around five degrees below our average of 18 F.

A strong storm currently spinning in the Gulf of Alaska is forecast to eject a wave across the northern Rockies on Friday, and though we will see some clouds from the grazing storm later in the day, high and low temperatures should warm about five degrees to near average.

Plenty of sun will be around for the weekend and the beginning of the next work week as a ridge of high pressure builds over the West, with high temperatures on Saturday stubbornly similar to Friday before warming into the low fifties on Sunday and mid fifties by Monday.

The three occurrences of super El Niños since 1950, when sea surface temperature records began, and the 2023-2024 NCAR predictionSince there has been some chatter about a super El Niño, which is marked by exceptionally warm waters off the coast of Peru, I thought I would publish the snow water equivalents of our drainage basin for the years of the past super El Niños. As regular readers know, there is no correlation between our snowfall and either El Niño or La Niña (the cool ocean waters off the coast of Peru), but our winter may follow a similar path to the previously documented episodes, or not.

Snow Water Equivalent for the Yampa-White-Little Snake basin highlighting the current winter vs. the 1997-1998 and 2015-2016 wintersThe first graphic shows the three previously measured episodes of El Niño warm enough to be categorized as “super”, with the last bar an estimate from a newly developed climate model from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The second graphic shows the snow water equivalent of the snowpack in our Yampa-White-Little Snake basin from the SNOTEL remote monitoring network, with the highest and lowest curves the maximum and minimum amounts recorded since the 1985-1986 winter. The yellow curve is the average, the darker blue curve was measured for the 2015-2016 winter, the green curve was measured for the 1997-1998 winter and the black curve is the current state of our snowpack.

A couple of observations: First, the slow start to this winter is immediately obvious, and second, the last two super El Niño winters had near average snowfall. Unfortunately, the SNOTEL network was not activated until the 1985-1986 winter so there is no graph for the first measured super El Niño. This winter may or may not follow the previous super El Niño winters, but I will note that an average winter still makes for an excellent ski season.

The quiet weather for the weekend looks to continue through at least midweek, with a possible pattern change forecast for the end of the work week or the following weekend. So enjoy the beautiful weekend and check back for more details about that in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

Increasing winds ahead of midweek snow

Sunday, November 5, 2023

After reaching a high of 61 F this Sunday mid afternoon under mostly cloudy skies, temperatures have fallen into the mid fifties on this uncomfortably dark late afternoon in Steamboat Springs. Winds will pick up on Monday and especially Tuesday ahead of a cold front later in the day that will bring a bit of snow to town and modest amounts to the higher elevations through Wednesday evening. Much colder temperatures are forecast to stick around for the rest of the work week even as we see clearing skies by Thursday.

A broad trough of low pressure currently extending southward from the Gulf of Alaska is forecast to reluctantly move eastward ahead of a storm forecast to develop near the Aleutian Islands early in the work week. Breezes from the west have already increased ahead of the Gulf of Alaska storm, with winds forecast to strengthen on Monday and more so on Tuesday as the storm approaches our area.

The clouds are here to stay though midweek as a stream of Pacific moisture ahead of the storm is directed overhead. After a similar day Monday to today, high temperatures are forecast to drop into the mid fifties on Tuesday, which is still above our average of 48 F, along with wind gusts from the west and southwest as high as 40 mph in town and 50 mph at mountain top.

The storm is forecast to elongate to the southwest as it moves toward the Great Basin early in the work week, with the northern part of the modestly splitting storm forecast to bring a cold front through our area by late Tuesday afternoon or evening.

Snowfall should get going Tuesday night, with the snow continuing into Wednesday morning before tapering off during the afternoon and ending in the evening. We could see an inch of accumulation in town by Wednesday evening with 3-6” at the higher elevations. High temperatures on Wednesday will be in the low forties, with similar temperatures on Thursday despite the return of mostly sunny skies.

There should be some warming for Friday and the weekend, though a disturbance may graze our area later Friday. Be sure to check back for more details on the coming weekend weather in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Clearing skies and warming temperatures for the weekend

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Temperatures are right around our average of fifty degrees under cloudy skies this Thursday mid afternoon in Steamboat Springs. A weather disturbance passing to our north on Friday will bring another day of clouds and perhaps a high elevation flurry before clouds diminish and temperatures warm for the weekend.

A broad and weak area of low pressure is currently located in the Gulf of Alaska while a shallow ridge of high pressure is located over the southern West Coast. A stream of Pacific moisture, referred to as an atmospheric river, is currently impinging on the Pacific Northwest ahead of a weather disturbance ejecting out of the Gulf of Alaska low pressure area and is forecast to cross the coast tonight.

The leading edge of moisture has moved through the weakening ridge of high pressure to our west and is responsible for the cloudy skies today. The clouds will stick around on Friday as that weather disturbance moves through Wyoming and Montana and grazes our area Friday night, with a flurry possibly at the higher elevations to our north and another day of around average temperatures.

Mostly sunny skies should reappear on Saturday as what is left of the ridge of high pressure moves overhead behind the passing disturbance, making for a very pleasant day with high temperatures in the mid fifties. And even though temperatures will be a degree or two warmer on Sunday, moisture ahead of another Pacific disturbance ejecting out of the Gulf of Alaska high pressure area may bring the clouds back as the day progresses.

Temperatures will be on a gentle downswing for the start of the work week as additional Pacific disturbances ejecting out of the Gulf of Alaska low pressure are carried near our area in winds from the west. The last in this series is forecast for around midweek with below average temperatures and a chance for modest amounts of snow, though the strength and timing are still changing in the weather forecast models.

So enjoy the pleasant weekend, and be sure to check back for more details about a possible midweek storm in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

Plenty of sun and warming temperatures through the work week

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Temperatures are only in the upper twenties in the town of Steamboat Springs and ten degrees near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort under mostly cloudy skies this Sunday mid afternoon. After near record low temperatures Monday morning, the sun returns for most of the work week and temperatures grudgingly rise from the mid thirties today and Monday toward the mid fifties by Thursday.

A ridge of high pressure is currently just off the West Coast while a deep and cold trough of low pressure extends from Hudson Bay through our area and all the way to Baja. Winds between these high and low pressure systems are from the north and northwest and are continuing to carry very cold air originally sourced from the arctic overhead.

But the accumulating precipitation associated with the wintry storm has ended even as clouds and some flurries linger in the cold and unstable flow from the northwest after leaving around three inches in town and eleven inches at the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort. The arctic air mass left behind means high temperatures today will struggle to reach freezing even with peeks of sun.

The ridge of high pressure is forecast to weaken and move slowly east through the work week thanks to an active Pacific jet stream. The likely clearing skies by tonight will conspire with the fresh snow cover to produce low temperatures in the low single digits on Monday morning, approaching our low temperature record of zero degrees for the date, with the favored low lying reaching the subzero realm.

The cold start to Monday means another cold day with high temperatures in the thirties despite the abundant sunshine. But the warmer air mass associated with the approaching ridge of high pressure will allow both low and high temperatures to slowly rise through the work week with forecast low temperatures rising to the upper single digits on Tuesday morning, mid teens on Wednesday morning and approaching our average of 21 F on Thursday morning.

Likewise, the high temperatures will also rise toward our average of 50 F by Wednesday, with the high temperature in the mid forties for Halloween requiring an extra layer under the costumes of the trick-or-treaters.

The high temperatures for Thursday will even be around five degrees above average before a series of weakening Pacific storms approach our area beginning around the end of the work week. While we will see increasing clouds as soon as later Thursday, whether we see any precipitation is still being sorted out in the weather forecast models. So enjoy the sunny weather to start the work week and check back to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon for details on the coming weekend weather.

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2 May 2019

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