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Dry with warming through the weekend

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The weather will stay dry in Steamboat Springs with continued warming through the Winter Solstice weekend, which occurs at 9:19 pm on Saturday and makes that night the longest of the year. Warm and pleasant weather will last through Monday before several waves of Pacific energy and moisture turn our weather unsettled starting around Tuesday, Christmas Eve day.

After a relatively warmer morning in town with a low temperature of 2 F this Thursday, just two degrees below average, an anemic and moisture-starved wave will pass over the Rocky mountains today, barely bringing even clouds to our area. However, some cool air associated with the wave will keep temperatures in check today and create another chilly morning in the Yampa Valley for Friday. But warming commences during the day and increases through the weekend and into Monday under mostly sunny skies as a ridge of high pressure builds over the West ahead of a Pacific storm expected to affect California late Saturday and Sunday.

The evolution of this storm has not been well-forecast so far, with a lot of inconsistencies both between and within successive weather forecast model prognoses. This is not unusual with storms off the West Coast that will be affected by additional upstream Pacific energy and are forecast to mix, to some degree, with cold air from western Canada. The differences arise from not only the paucity of data over the Pacific Ocean, but also how the weather forecast models incorporate those data.

This is a long way of saying that there is considerable uncertainty in the timing and strength of storms passing over our area as soon as Tuesday, Christmas Eve day. There is a lot of time for the weather forecast models to iron out their differences by my next weather narrative on Sunday afternoon, but currently the storm is expected to undergo some sort of split by the end of the weekend even as additional Pacific energy rounds the base of the storm.

Clouds will increase later Monday into Tuesday as moisture is drawn northward over our area in southwest flow ahead of the storm. Snow showers are currently advertised to break out during the day Tuesday and last overnight before ending by Christmas as a cool front passes through.

After a likely break on Thursday, another couple of storms are forecast for around the Thursday/Friday and Saturday/Sunday time frames, though their speed and track are too uncertain for a forecast at this time. Check back for my next weather narrative on Sunday afternoon for more details.

Quiet and cold weather with warming starting midweek

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The long-duration and well advertised snows have ended over the Steamboat Springs area this Sunday morning, with the Steamboat Ski Resort reporting three day totals of 22.5” of snow at mid-mountain and 27” up top. Cold temperatures are now observed behind the storm and are expected to last for the next couple of days before we see warming, first at the higher elevations, by later Tuesday and Wednesday. And other than some light snow showers during the day Monday and possibly on Thursday, quiet weather is expected through the upcoming week before the next possibly significant storm approaches the West Coast around late next weekend.

Colder overnight temperatures than recently observed were right at our average of 5 F this Sunday morning, with high temperatures over the next few days staying ten degrees or so below our average of 27 F thanks to the cold air mass behind the storm, fresh snow cover and low sun angle.

After a precipitation-free and partly sunny day today, a trailing and weak wave of energy and moisture will move over our area during the day Monday. Some light snow showers are possible at the higher elevations, possibly leaving several inches of snow during the day that would be reported Tuesday morning.

A ridge of high pressure then moves over our area for Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing plenty of sun and warming, first noted at the higher elevations. Mornings in the Yampa Valley will stay chilly with low temperatures around zero as the clear nights, light winds and fresh snow cover allow the ground to efficiently cool, and sets the stage for early-day temperature inversions, where the air is actually warmer higher up on the hill than it is in town.

The ridge will keep moving eastward thanks to a moisture-starved storm that will cross the central West Coast on Wednesday and move over our area on Thursday. At this point, not much more than some clouds and cooler daytime temperatures are expected before a stronger and longer-lasting ridge of high pressure builds over the Rocky Mountains for Friday and the weekend.

So, much of the Rocky Mountain region should see a beautiful and warm Friday extending through the following weekend. This looks to last into at least part of the following Monday before there is considerable uncertainty with respect to the next storm forecast to affect the West Coast around then. The weather forecast models indicate some sort of splitting storm, though the severity of the split and how additional upstream energy are handled is unknown at this time. I hope to have a better idea how this may affect our Christmas Eve day and Christmas by my next weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Long duration snow event extends through Saturday

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Snows have started this Thursday morning in Steamboat Springs ahead of time, and will wax and wane over the next two and a half days leading to storm cycle accumulations that could total 16-32” by Saturday afternoon. The most most intense snowfall on Thursday night and then again from Friday night into Saturday morning will be accompanied by stout westerly to northwesterly winds and will make travel difficult to impossible over mountain passes. Much colder but drier air sweeps in behind the storm for Sunday and extending to midweek, with warming, especially at the higher elevations, expected for the remaining work week.

Snowalarm Point Forecasts from CAIC SnowAlarm Precipitation Forecasts

Note that I have just added some additional numerical guidance to the Snowalarm Home page that shows the temperature, wind and precipitation forecast from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center for the Steamboat Ski Area for both Thunderhead and the top of Mt. Werner over the next three days. This represents the high-resolution version of the weather forecast model that office runs every 6 hours, and is useful for getting an overview of a predicted storm. To access the data, click on ‘Precipitation Forecasts’ and scroll down the container until you see the ‘Latest CAIC Point Forecasts’ heading. Also, previous forecasts can be viewed with the ‘Previous forecast / Next forecast’ links at the bottom of the image and give a useful indication of how the forecast is trending. Note that the scale can change when navigating through successive forecasts. Be cautioned that this is one of many weather forecast models I review before making a forecast, and as such may have its own ‘opinion’ at times.

Back to the forecast, a strong Pacific jet stream is carrying subtropical moisture from around Hawaii inland and across our area. Lots of good things associated with this, including moisture and upward motion associated with the jet stream, several embedded waves within the flow and generally northwest flow which is good for orographic, or terrain-driven, atmospheric forcing over the Park mountain range. The relatively light snowfall will continue today leaving 2-4” at mid-mountain by close. However, an embedded wave brings a cool front through our area in favorable northwest flow early this evening, increasing snowfall rates to an inch or more per hour at times from sunset or so through the overnight. Along with the wind, travel will quickly become difficult to impossible tonight over the mountain passes. I would expect 5-10” overnight which would yield 7-14” of snow for the Friday morning report.

Snows are expected to at least decrease, or even end, during the day Friday, though continued windy conditions will keep travel difficult.

Snows pick up again and turn moderate to heavy Friday night and Saturday morning as a second embedded wave in northwest flow begins to move over our area. Travel will become more difficult or impossible again through that time as snowfall rates of an inch per hour or more occur at times along with continued windy northwest flow. Another 6-12” of snow is currently forecast for Saturday morning, with snowfall rates decreasing in the morning and tapering off in the afternoon. But we could see another 3-6” during the day which would make the storm total 16-32” by the time the lifts stop turning Saturday.

Though our significant snowfall will end around then, a third colder wave is forecast to take a more southern route through the Rocky Mountains, bringing significant snowfall to southern Colorado. There is some uncertainty with the track of this part of the storm, but right now we could see some light snowfall Saturday night associated with a strong cold front that will bring much colder temperatures for Sunday that will extend into the work week.

At this point, we will be on the edge of additional snow showers on Sunday, but the sun should return for a chilly and dry Monday, Tuesday and possibly some of Wednesday before warmer air associated with a ridge of high pressure behind the storm moves over our area by Wednesday.

Snows Sunday into Monday and then next weekend

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Clouds and a few snow showers have greeted Steamboat Springs residents this Sunday morning ahead of a storm for this afternoon and tonight. Not much more snow is expected after Monday morning until a possible long-duration event begins around Friday and extends through next weekend.

Currently, a batch of showers is traversing across western Utah and is associated with the northern part of a split storm that extends into southern California. While the storm will continue to split today, our area should see good snowfall this afternoon and overnight as the northern part of the storm swings through.

While snows may have a tough time getting started this morning, we should see some moderate to possibly heavy snowfall for a time this afternoon and into the evening as a weak cool front ahead our portion of the storm turns winds to be from the southwest to the west and eventually the northwest. Temperatures may be warm enough ahead of the front for some mixed rain/snow in town that should turn to all snow as precipitation rates increase in the afternoon, especially around sunset. Travel may be difficult for a short time, especially at pass level, during the heavier showers.

While snowfall intensities will decrease for a time this evening, a stronger cold front is forecast to pass through our area within several hours of midnight. Snowfall should increase around the front, and become lighter and fluffier before tapering off during Monday morning. I would expect 6-12” of snow to be reported on the Monday morning mid-mountain report, with a bit more than that at the top as the orographic, or terrain-driven snowfall in favorable northwest flow favors the higher elevations.

Unfortunately, the split storm will not allow further accumulations later Monday into Tuesday as my forecast last Thursday indicated was possible. So only 1-4” of snow is now expected after the Monday morning report and before noon.

While a ridge of high pressure temporarily builds over our area on Tuesday for a nice day, a weak and moisture-starved storm is forecast to pass through the ridge on Wednesday, bringing some clouds but likely no precipitation.

However, this does open the door for a steady stream of Pacific energy and moisture to move over our area as soon as Friday. So after a pleasant Thursday, a long-duration precipitation event is advertised to begin by the end of the work week and last through the weekend. Generally light to perhaps moderate snows will wax and wane on Friday and Saturday in the relatively warm temperatures as difficult-to-time waves of energy periodically pass through in the moisture-laden atmosphere.

A stronger wave is advertised to mix with some cool air from western Canada near the end of the event, currently timed for around Sunday, which would create the heaviest snowfall rates and lightest snow densities. If this occurs, it would make for some great skiing and be the cherry on top of several days of snowfall.

Snows likely from Sunday through Tuesday

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Snows have been falling at a moderate rate this Thursday morning in Steamboat Springs, with 5” being reported at mid-mountain and 6” up top on the 11 am snow report update. A bit more snow can be expected through the rest of today before snows end tonight. A couple of nice days are forecast for Friday and Saturday before a long-duration snow event with significant accumulations is advertised from Saturday night through Tuesday.

Today, a relatively warm storm is traversing over Colorado and is the remnants of the southern part of the split storm that passed over our area earlier in the week. Snows will continue into the evening with up to an inch or two of additional accumulations possible.

Behind the storm and ahead of our next Pacific storm, mostly sunny skies and warming temperatures are forecast for Friday and Saturday as a ridge of high pressure quickly moves over the Rocky Mountains. High temperatures on Friday should be several degrees above our average high of 30 F, with high temperatures for Saturday five to ten degrees above that average.

Meanwhile, a large Pacific storm currently off the West Coast is forecast to make landfall late Friday night or early Saturday morning and move across the Great Basin on Sunday as it mixes with some cold air drawn southward from western Canada. Additionally, the storm looks to incorporate subtropical moisture on Saturday in the southwesterly flow ahead of the storm, creating a long-duration snow event that will begin late Saturday or early Sunday and last through Tuesday.

Details are still evolving with this powerful storm, but right now it looks like we will see two main waves of significant snowfall; the first during the day Sunday in the warmer part of the storm and the second from Sunday night through some of Monday in the colder part of the storm. This second part of the storm is currently the most uncertain, not only because if is later in the forecast period, but also because there is weather forecast model disagreement on the amount of energy in the southern part of the storm.

While there could be a small amount of snow on the Sunday morning report, we could see 6-12” of relatively dense snow during the day and through the evening on Sunday in the generally westerly flow ahead of the parent storm. Around Sunday night or early Monday morning, a cold front is expected to pass through the area, lowering snow densities and creating some light and fluffy powder that will ski great on top of the denser layer of snow underneath.

There may be a break in snowfall for a time later Monday, but orographic, or terrain-driven, snow showers, which occur in our case when air is lifted by the Park mountain range, will occur from Monday night through Tuesday in the favorable cold, moist and unstable northwest flow.

A couple of days break is currently advertised for around midweek before some sort of storm may bring snows back to our area around Thursday.

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