Storms to bookend this weekend

Thursday, January 19, 2023

A cold but partly sunny day is over the Steamboat Springs area this Thursday mid-afternoon with temperatures around fifteen degrees at all elevations. A grazing storm brings a small chance of snowfall to our area later Friday with a better chance later Sunday as a more potent, but still modest, storm moves through.

Over the last two days, the Steamboat Ski Resort reported 16” of snow at mid-mountain and 29” up top, substantially more than the 5-11” I was expecting at mid-mountain in the last Sunday weather narrative. I expected more showery snows on Wednesday as the storm eddy moved east, but more consistent snowfall during the day at rates around one inch per hour at times left 8” at both mid-mountain and the top. Additionally, the upper mountain powdercam showed some intense showers between 4:30 pm and 6 pm yesterday that dropped 6” of very low density snowfall, and the additional 4” that fell overnight was the cherry on top of the two day storm.

The atmosphere is now forecast to transition to a cooler and drier pattern as a ridge of high pressure builds in the Gulf of Alaska and over the West Coast and directs air from the northern latitudes over our area. But drier does not mean dry, and there will be several chances for snow this next week, with the first coming Friday as a storm current over Nevada moves eastward tomorrow along the southern Colorado border. The storm has formed an eddy, and our chances for precipitation will be meager on Friday night as the eddy skirts to our south and favors the southern areas.

As the eddy departs Colorado early in the weekend our next storm is forecast to cross the Vancouver coast on Saturday and split as it moves through the Great Basin on Sunday. As difficult as eddies are to forecast, split storms pose their own challenges, specifically with regards to how much moisture and energy are partitioned between the northern and southern streams. Right now, snows look to begin around Sunday afternoon as the southern end of the storm moves to the Four Corners by Monday morning and could linger over our area overnight.

There is also a chance that we see continued showers through Monday as the northern piece of the storm moves near. Snowfall amounts at this time look modest, and I’ll have some snowfall guesses in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

Snowy start to the week ahead

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Temperatures are just above freezing in the town of Steamboat Springs and just above twenty degrees at the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort under cloudy skies this Sunday noon. Snows will restart ahead of a Pacific storm during this afternoon and continue at varying intensities through Wednesday night before a much colder and drier air mass overspreads our area by Thursday.

A broad trough of low pressure is currently centered just off the West Coast, and waves of Pacific moisture and energy traveling though the trough have brought considerable snow to the Sierras again, with 29” reported at Kirkwood this morning, for example. That storm is currently bringing precipitation to the Great Basin and will start snows over our area this afternoon and overnight. While me may see several inches of snow during the day, the heaviest snows look to occur around midnight with inch per hour snowfall rates making travel difficult at times over Rabbit Ears Pass.

While the highest accumulations in Colorado will be reserved for our southern and central neighbors, we could see 5-10” of snowfall reported on Martin Luther King Day Jr. morning at mid-mountain, with an additional 1-4” as snowfall tapers off during the morning. Temperatures should fall from the twenties up top this afternoon to the low teens by Monday morning allowing the snowfall to become lighter and fluffier through the overnight hours.

Though snowfall will taper off on Monday, it does not look to stop as moist mainly westerly flow from the Pacific keeps light snow showers going through Monday night as ripples of energy moves through the parent trough to our West. This trough looks to be forced bodily eastward on Tuesday through the Desert Southwest, with a lot of uncertainty as to if an eddy forms as soon as Tuesday over Las Vegas or Wednesday somewhere over Colorado.

Our snowfall will be very dependent upon the location and strength of the difficult-to-forecast eddy, with forecasts right now calling for a period of more intense snowfall sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons after the lighter snowfall Monday night. We could see 4-8” of snow during this period, though amounts could easily be less or more depending upon the evolution and position of that eddy.

Meanwhile, a ridge of high pressure is forecast to strengthen and move through the eastern Pacific by midweek , allowing much colder air from the north and northwest to overspread our area by Thursday morning. The high temperatures in the thirties this past week will be replaced by the low to mid twenties, around five degrees below our average of 27 F. Lows will fall to near our average of 3 F, with negative temperatures possible in the favored locations, especially if skies partially clear.

A break in snowfall is currently forecast for Thursday and overnight, with another difficult-to-forecast weather pattern emerging for next weekend. Be sure to check back to my regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I’ll discuss what may be in store for our area next weekend.

Snows restart Sunday after several days of nice weather

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Temperatures are around twenty degrees in the town of Steamboat Springs and in the low teens near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort under rare sunny skies late this Thursday morning. Snows will temporarily stop for several days as we head into the long Martin Luther King Day Jr. weekend before starting again on Sunday and lasting through most of the following week.

Before looking ahead, the last storm that started Tuesday and ended last night left far more snow that I anticipated in the Sunday weather narrative, leaving 18” at mid mountain and an incredible 34” up top, though winds yesterday adversely affected snow quality in most places on the upper mountain.

The Steamboat Springs area and associated north-central mountains have done very well from these relatively warm storms associated with decaying atmospheric rivers (long and relatively narrow streams of warm, moisture-laden air from the subtropics and possibly the tropics) this winter, despite winds being from the usually unfavorable southwest direction. While making for difficult weather forecasts, the moisture sure is welcome, with the snow water equivalent in our Yampa-White-Little Snake basin 56% above the 30 year median. The current moisture content is in the top 10% of the last 30 years and equal to what we usually see in mid-February!

Now, a ridge of high pressure has formed over the Intermountain region ahead of a large storm currently extending south from the Gulf of Alaska to east of Hawaii and incorporating yet another atmospheric river. We’ll see a break in the snowfall through Sunday morning as the ridge of high pressure is forced eastward by the next storm, with more sun than not from today through Saturday before clouds increase in earnest on Saturday night ahead of the incoming storm.

This storm looks to come through in pieces, with the best chance for accumulating snows Sunday night. Unsettled weather with continued snow showers looks to follow for the beginning of the week before a piece of another large storm currently near the Dateline barrels into the West Coast on Monday and may affect our weather around midweek.

So enjoy the nice start to the holiday weekend, and be sure to check back on Sunday afternoon where I’ll have more details on the incoming storms along with some snowfall guesses.

More snow on Tuesday and Wednesday

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Temperatures are in the mid-teens at all elevations in the Steamboat Springs area with high clouds filtering the sunshine on this Sunday mid-morning. High temperatures will warm toward the thirties in town and the twenties near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort today ahead of several Pacific disturbances that will bring good snowfall chances back to our area on Tuesday and Wednesday. The storms will be relatively warm, especially on Tuesday, before a ridge of high pressure builds over the Rockies and brings nice weather to our area starting on Thursday and lasting into next weekend.

A powerful storm currently located in the Gulf of Alaska has incorporated a relatively narrow stream of moisture from north of Hawaii along its southern end. This so-called atmospheric river will be carried inland first by several waves of energy rotating through the Gulf of Alaska storm and then the storm itself, even as it is replaced by and even stronger storm currently developing south of the Aleutian Islands.

Ahead of that, a nice day is in store today thanks to a ridge of high pressure just east of our area, with high temperatures in town reaching toward the thirties, about five degrees above our slowly rising daily average of 27 F.

The first disturbance ejecting out of the Gulf of Alaska storm will move by tonight behind the departing ridge of high pressure and will bring some clouds and snow showers to the higher elevations, with minimal accumulations expected.

We’ll see some more sun on Monday morning ahead of the next stronger disturbance that is forecast to move overhead from about Monday night through Tuesday afternoon. This disturbance has trended stronger in the last few weather forecast model iterations, though the timing of the best snowfall is uncertain, and I would expect 3-6” of accumulations at the mid-mountain snowstake.

The parent storm in the Gulf of Alaska is forecast to move bodily inland by the eastward-moving and still developing storm from south of the Aleutian Islands that is forecast to take its place. Unfortunately there is more weather forecast model uncertainty with this storm as it is forecast to intensify either over our area, with more snowfall, or just to our east, with less snowfall.

Best guess right now would be an additional 3-6” of snowfall that would occur mostly during the day Wednesday, with cooler temperatures filtering into our area during the storm and overnight. If the cooler air arrives in time, snowfall may become fluffier and less dense as the storm ends by Wednesday night.

A large ridge of high pressure is then forecast to build over the Intermountain West ahead of the still-developing Pacific storm currently forecast to make landfall along the West Coast late in the weekend. So right now, after the midweek storm, we should see more sun than not that looks to last into and possibly through next weekend. I’ll talk about that as well as the possible return of stormy weather in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Next storm lasts from Friday into Saturday morning

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Temperatures are in the mid-teens at all elevations late this Thursday morning in the Steamboat Springs area with a rare appearance by the sun. Clouds will increase later today ahead of our next storm starting Friday morning and lasting into Saturday morning. Snowfall rates around an inch per hour at times may make travel difficult over Rabbit Ears Pass from about Friday noon into Saturday morning. The sun then makes a return visit behind the storm for later Saturday and Sunday.

A transient ridge of high pressure over the Rockies will soon be dislodged by a storm currently bringing a variety of wintry precipitation to the Sierras. While the storm will weaken as it crosses the Great Basin tonight, there will be plenty of it left to bring snowfall back to our area starting early tomorrow morning.

Light snow showers beginning Friday morning will give way to moderate and even heavy periods of snowfall by the afternoon as the cold front associated with the storm passes through by noon and winds shift to be from the southwest to our favorable northwest direction. Good moisture and cooling temperatures through Friday and overnight will drop temperatures at the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort to around ten degrees by Saturday morning, allowing the snowfall to become fluffier and less dense.

Snowfall rates as high as an inch to an inch and a half per hour will persist from Friday noon through the overnight before they quickly taper off Saturday morning. We’ll could see 7-14” of snowfall by the Saturday morning mid-mountain ski report, with around half of that occurring during the day Friday and an additional several inches after the report, depending on how quickly the atmosphere dries behind the storm. Travel over Rabbit Ears Pass will likely be difficult at times from about noon on Friday into Saturday morning.

The sun looks to make a return appearance, first at the lower elevations in the Yampa Valley as soon as Saturday afternoon, and more broadly on Sunday after a batch of clouds moves through Saturday night.

The next work week looks to start dry, though we may see some very light snow showers at the higher elevations early Monday as a weak storm passes north of our area. Another disturbance looks to affect our weather by midweek, so stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll have more details about that possibility.

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23 February 2021

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