Storms for midweek and Christmas weekend

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Temperatures have warmed into the mid-single digits this Sunday mid-morning in the Steamboat Springs area under bluebird skies. Sunny skies today and Monday with continued brisk temperatures will give way to increasing clouds and light snow showers on Tuesday and Tuesday night. Another arctic front follows later Wednesday with significant accumulations expected by Thursday morning along with bitterly cold temperatures. A short break to end the work week will be followed by another round of snows starting later Friday and lasting into Christmas Eve.

My weather station near the base of the Steamboat Ski Resort recorded an astonishing -18 F around 8:30 am to start this Sunday, while the temperature near the top of the resort at the Storm Peak Lab was a more reasonable 6 F. Clear skies, fresh snow and light winds allowed the cold air to pool in the Yampa Valley, forming a temperature inversion where the temperature increases with elevation, a relatively common occurrence in high mountain valleys, especially after winter storms.

Temperatures in town will likely stay several degrees below our average high of 27 F despite the sunny skies today and Monday as the low sun angle around the winter solstice, which occurs at 2:47 pm on Wednesday, December 21, conspires with a highly reflective snow surface to limit daytime heating.

After another cold below zero morning on a mostly sunny Monday, increasing clouds Monday night ahead of our next storm system may bring some flurries and keep overnight lows much warmer than the past two days, likely above our average of 4 F, as the clouds insulate the surface like a blanket.

This next storm is currently rounding a sharp ridge of high pressure extending from the east-central Pacific through the Bering Sea and past the Arctic Circle. Bitterly cold air from western Canada will mix with the storm as it travels southward along the eastern side of the ridge of high pressure. Light snow showers in advance of the storm should start later Tuesday and last into Wednesday, bringing 1-4” of snow to mid-mountain for the Wednesday morning ski report.

By later Wednesday, the arctic front associated with the storm will be on our doorstep along with increasing winds, with moderate to heavy snowfall forecast into Thursday morning along with difficult travel over Rabbit Ears Pass at times. There is some weather forecast model uncertainty with respect to how cold and how much snow we may see, though I am inclined to side with the colder and snowier model solutions and would expect 6-12” of light and dry powder along with high temperatures at the top of the hill below zero, and near zero in town.

We should see a break in the snowfall by Thursday afternoon and into Friday ahead of our next storm currently timed for later Friday into Christmas Eve day. Early indications are that this storm may also be significant and will be accompanied by warmer temperatures as Pacific energy undercuts the Bering Sea ridge of high pressure and severs or at least partially interrupts the arctic tap of cold air.

There is additional weather forecast model uncertainty around the weekend storm, but I’ll have more details about that in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Monster storm departs Friday and leaves arctic air mass behind

Thursday, December 15, 2022

An arctic air mass has brought prodigious amounts of snow and very cold air to the Steamboat Springs area starting last Monday evening, and temperatures in town are currently in the mid-teens with low single digits near the top of Mt. Werner this mid-morning Thursday. A reinforcing wave of cold air this afternoon will continue the snowfall through today and into Friday and bring the coldest temperatures of the storm overhead. Saturday will stay quite cold despite the appearance of the sun with our average temperatures in the upper twenties not returning until Sunday. More average temperatures and dry weather will start the next work week.

What a snowy work week for the Steamboat Springs area! The Steamboat Ski Resort has reported an incredible 36” of snow at mid-mountain and 46” up top from when the storm started on Monday night until this Thursday morning. And during the day yesterday, 17” of snowfall was reported between 5 am and 4 pm up top which fell at rates around one and a half inches per hour for eleven hours!

And it’s still snowing! The center of the monster storm is currently located in the upper Midwest and is affecting almost the entire continent with winter weather. A wave of Pacific energy has mixed with western part of the storm and is expected to bring a reinforcing cold front through our area this afternoon. Expect some good showers and falling temperatures this afternoon as the front moves through, with another 2-5” to be reported at mid-mountain on a very cold Friday, with temperatures up top starting as low as -10 F and staying negative the whole day and overnight.

The town will not escape the very cold temperatures, with high temperatures on Friday only near ten degrees, around fifteen degrees below our average of 27 F, and low temperatures on both Friday and Saturday near -10 F, also around 15 F below our average of 5 F.

High temperatures on Saturday will approach average, but likely remain below it despite the sunshine, with temperatures finally reaching average on Sunday. The work week looks to start similarly, though another snowy pattern may be in our future starting around midweek as a ridge of high pressure builds over the Aleutian Islands and directs cool and moist northwest flow over our area.

There is weather forecast model disagreement over the location of the best northwest flow and embedded Pacific moisture, and the eventual location is critical for significant snow accumulations over our area. I’ll be back with my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon with details on the possible reappearance of the snow-making machine.

Long duration winter storm starts Monday

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Temperatures are in the mid-twenties, on their way toward the forties, under bluebird skies late this Sunday morning in the Steamboat Springs area. Enjoy the warmest day of the week today as a powerful winter storm brings very cold temperatures and significant snowfall to our area starting Monday afternoon and lasting through at least Wednesday. While snowfall will diminish by Thursday, it may or may not end as another wave of cold air later Thursday keeps the chances for additional snowfall around for Friday.

A large and very cold winter storm is almost done pounding the Sierras with precipitation, with three to four feet of snowfall already reported over the past day and a half. Breezy winds from the southwest ahead of the storm today will allow temperatures to climb toward forty degrees by this afternoon, over ten degrees above our average of 28 F. With continued sunny skies, today will be the nicest and warmest day of the week.

The center of the storm is forecast to move through the Great Basin on Monday and cross the Divide overnight Monday, though the storm is so large that we should see the cold front well ahead of the center of the storm system Monday after noon. We should see some good snow showers along and behind the front, with 5-10” expected by the Tuesday morning mid-mountain report, along with much colder temperatures that will struggle to reach twenty degrees in town for the rest of the work week.

By Tuesday morning, the center of the storm should be located near northeast Colorado and is forecast to intensify and move very slowly to the northeast for a time. While winds will subside as the storm moves overhead Monday, likely limiting larger snowfall accumulations by Tuesday morning, winds pick up to be from our favorable northwest direction towards noon on Tuesday.

Crucially, the storm will be large enough to draw moisture from the Gulf of Mexico starting Monday night, and the moisture is forecast to circle the storm and be carried over our area by the northwest winds later Tuesday. Combined with the cold and unstable air mass, the resulting orographic, or terrain-driven precipitation should pick up around noon on Tuesday and last into or even through Wednesday.

There is some weather forecast model disagreement on the exact track of the winter storm, so there is uncertainty on how long the deepest moisture will stay around. I would expect 6-12” of additional snowfall at mid-mountain by the Wednesday morning report, with more likely up top.

Snowfall may taper off around Wednesday afternoon if the storm moves further to the northeast, or may continue if the storm stalls as it moves across Nebraska during the day. I’d guess an additional 3-6” by the Thursday morning report, subject to the vagaries of the eventual storm track.

The center of the storm should be around Minnesota on Thursday, leading to a break in the snowfall during the day as the atmosphere dries, but a reinforcing wave of cold air from a storm currently near the Aleutians is forecast to eventually merge with the storm and move overhead from the north around Friday. So expect the cold temperatures to persist through the work week with another round of very low density snowfall to close out the work week.

So enjoy the very cold and snowy work week in what has been already been a cold and snowy start to the ski season, and I’ll be back with my regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Snow showers later Friday ahead of a nice weekend

Thursday, December 8, 2022

The storm that dropped five inches of snow at the Steamboat Ski Resort by the Thursday morning report left an additional two inches before leaving the area and allowing some sun to appear over the Steamboat Springs area this Thursday mid-afternoon. A quick moving wave will bring some snow showers back to the area by Friday afternoon and overnight with meager accumulations ahead of a nice looking weekend. Enjoy the pleasant weekend weather since a large and powerful winter storm will be on our doorstep to start the work week.

An area of low pressure currently stretching southward from the Gulf of Alaska is forecast to cross the West Coast tonight and weaken, turning the partly sunny skies to start Friday cloudy by the afternoon and starting snow showers that are expected to continue into the overnight. We may see an inch or two of accumulations before we see lots of sun and warming temperatures through the weekend, with high temperatures on Saturday around five degrees above our average of 29 F and twice that on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a chunk of very cold air originally from Siberia is forecast to move southward across Alaska and mix with a wave of Pacific energy in the Gulf of Alaska on Friday. Weather forecast models agree a large and powerful winter storm will develop and begin affecting the West Coast on Saturday. The storm is forecast to begin moving through the Great Basin on Sunday, with snow showers out ahead of the main storm starting in our area as early as Monday morning.

Despite its prodigious size, this will not be a slow moving storm to start, so expect snow showers to increase on Monday before the very cold air associated with the storm begins moving through our area Monday night. The storm is forecast to slow as additional cold air from the north is incorporated into the storm through the work week, and we may see quite cold and snowy weather conditions lasting through Thursday with significant accumulations.

So enjoy a very pleasant weekend before the snow and cold returns in what has been a very snowy start to the ski season, and I’ll be back with my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon with more details about our impending winter storm.

Periods of snow possible through Thursday

Sunday, December 4, 2022

After three inches of snowfall was reported at the Steamboat Ski Resort this Sunday morning, temperatures have warmed into the mid-thirties over the Steamboat Springs area under cloudy skies this mid-afternoon. An active weather pattern remains over our area this week leading to periods of snow possibly lasting into Thursday, with a good round of snowfall likely during the day Monday and overnight.

An eddy of low pressure is currently off the California coast and a deep vortex of very cold air is spinning over Hudson Bay. A stationary front is forecast to form over our area on Monday as energy ejecting out of the California eddy from the west and southwest meets cold air to our north rotating around the Hudson Bay vortex.

Some light snow showers have already started near the top of Mt. Werner, and these showers are forecast to descend and become moderate at times through the day on Monday and overnight. The accumulated snow will be denser than our last week of snowfall as temperatures will be warmer thanks to the warmer air from the west and southwest ahead of the California eddy.

There may be only an inch or two on Steamboat’s mid-mountain powdercam by the 5 am Monday morning report, but snowfall rates should increase during the day and overnight as energy ejects out ahead of the California eddy and rides over the stationary front. We could see an additional 3-6” by sunset and that again overnight for a 6-12” Tuesday morning report. And it’s always worth checking Steamboat’s upper mountain powdercam as there is often more snow at the higher elevation.

Meanwhile, a storm currently near the Dateline, which may affect us by next weekend, is forecast to move eastward through the work week and eventually nudge what is left of the California eddy near or over our area by Thursday. While weather forecast models agree that snowfall at least diminishes later Tuesday, they disagree on whether it will end for a time or we see several inches of snowfall Tuesday night and during the day Wednesday.

There is additional uncertainty with respect to the track of what is left of the California eddy, with one model keeping the eddy south of our area with very little additional snow after Tuesday and others bringing the storm closer with a period of moderate snow showers later Wednesday.

They also disagree on how much cold air from a wave spinning around the Hudson Bay vortex gets incorporated into the decaying eddy on Tuesday night as it crosses the Great Basin, but agree on at least some cooling by Thursday morning with briefly clearing skies by the afternoon.

That Dateline storm looks to move over our area during next weekend, though there is a lot of uncertainty as to the details. A large chunk of cold air rotating around the Hudson Bay vortex is forecast to break away, move across Alaska, and eventually be incorporated into the storm as it moves across the Gulf of Alaska around midweek. However the amount of cold air and how it interacts with the storm is not agreed upon by the weather forecast models.

So enjoy the snowy work week, and I’ll be back with my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon with more details about the weather for the coming weekend.

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24 March 2018

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