Modest storm to start spring

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid-forties are over the town of Steamboat Springs on this Sunday, the first day of spring. The clouds are in advance of a modest storm tonight, with cool and unsettled weather persisting through Tuesday. Temperatures will begin warming on Wednesday under mostly sunny skies and approach fifty degrees on Thursday. The warming trend will continue into next weekend except for possibly Friday when a grazing cool front may be close enough to bring some light showers.

Currently, a trough of low pressure extending from British Columbia to the Baja peninsula is moving through the Great Basin after splitting as it crossed the West Coast last night. While the southern end is forecast to further intensify and form an eddy in New Mexico as it ingest moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, we will see a cold front associated with the northern end of the storm pass through our area overnight. Some light showers will break out this evening ahead of the cold front, with precipitation of the liquid variety at the lower elevations. Snowfall should be heaviest along and behind the front around or after midnight, with 3-6” expected at mid-mountain by the Monday morning Steamboat ski resort.

Light snow showers will hold on through the rest of a cool Monday, with another inch or two of accumulations possible. There may be a small break in the unsettled weather early Tuesday before a reinforcing wave of cold air and moisture restart snow showers from about noon on Tuesday into the evening, with several more inches of snowfall possible.

Meanwhile, the southerly flow ahead of strong storm currently developing near the Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska will bring much warmer and sunny weather to our area on Wednesday and Thursday. Some energy moving through the upstream storm may briefly graze our area on Friday for some cooler temperatures, clouds and possibly showers before the ridge of high pressure rebuilds overhead for what is looking like a beautiful start to the weekend.

So stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I’ll discuss the end-of-week weather and the possibility of that Gulf of Alaska storm moving through our area around the beginning of the following work week.

Spring weekend followed by early week winter storm

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Temperatures are in the mid-thirties in the town of Steamboat Springs and mid-teens near the top of Mt. Werner this Thursday mid-afternoon with peeks of sun between passing snow showers. Mostly sunny skies and warming temperatures are forecast for a nice spring weekend before clouds encroach later Sunday ahead of our next winter storm that is forecast to start around Sunday night.

The Steamboat Ski Resort reported 6” at mid-mountain and 7” up top early this Thursday morning, with snowfall starting early Wednesday. Interestingly, the Steamboat Powdercam showed that 5” of snow fell during the day and 5” overnight, though that 10” total settled to 7” by the 5 am report. While the Steamboat Ski Area is not usually favored with the upper-level flow from southwest that occurred yesterday, the atmosphere was more unstable than I anticipated in my last Sunday weather narrative and produced good snowfall rates through the day and night Wednesday.

Snow showers will continue through this evening, with snowfall amounts of around a half inch or inch per shower, so I still think that 1-4” is likely by the Friday morning report. But the weather will turn sunnier and warmer for Friday and the weekend as a ridge of high pressure builds over the West behind the departing storm and the next storm, which is currently located over the Aleutian Islands.

A minor wave of moisture is forecast to pass through the building ridge of high pressure later Friday afternoon and overnight, but expect only increasing cloudiness as this feature moves through the area. Otherwise, expect mostly sunny skies with high temperatures about five degrees below our average of 43 F on Friday, increasing around five degrees for Saturday and another five degrees for Sunday, which incidentally marks the vernal equinox, or the first day of astronomical spring, when the sun crosses the equator into the Northern Hemisphere at 9:33 am local time.

Meanwhile, the Aleutian Island storm is forecast to cross the West Coat on Saturday and then elongate to the south as it crosses the Great Basin on Sunday. So while Sunday is expected to start sunny, clouds will increase later in the day ahead of the storm which should begin snows over our area by Sunday night.

The storm is predicted to evolve in a complex manner, with the southern part of the storm intensifying to our south and forming an eddy as it ingest moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Right now, it looks like our best snows will be from the initial part of the storm from Sunday night into Monday morning, with unsettled weather hanging on through Tuesday. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll have more details on the storm as well as some snowfall guesses.

Roller coaster weather week ahead

Sunday, March 13, 2022

After a beautiful Sunday morning in Steamboat Springs with nary a cloud in sight, skies have clouded over and snows have just started late this afternoon. Even though snowfall is likely to become moderate to heavy at times by this evening, the storm is quick-moving and only modest amounts of snowfall are expected by Monday morning. Tuesday should be a beautiful springlike day ahead of a couple of days of unsettled weather for Wednesday and Thursday, with nice weather returning as we head into next weekend.

A storm currently on our doorstep and another in the Gulf of Alaska are lined up to affect our weather this week. The current storm is moving through Utah and has already left 6” of snow at the Alta ski area. Light snows started in Steamboat Springs just before 5 pm, and we should see moderate to sometime heavy snow showers peaking this evening.

While we will see a period of favorable cold, moist and unstable northwest flow on the backside of the storm after midnight, the storm is splitting as it moves over Colorado which will limit additional snowfall. We could see 4-8” of snowfall at mid-mountain by the Monday morning ski report, with accumulating snowfall quickly ending by sunrise. And while snow showers may hold on for some of the morning at the higher elevations, the sun should return for the afternoon, and perhaps during the morning in the valley.

Meanwhile, a ridge of high pressure is forecast to build ahead of the eastward-moving Gulf of Alaska storm, returning warm and sunny weather to our area on Tuesday. That storm is forecast to weaken as it crosses the Pacific Northwest coast on Tuesday and brings the possibility of snows back to our area on Wednesday and Thursday as it moves overhead.

There is uncertainty in exactly how the storm weakens and how much cool air from the northern latitudes is drawn into the storm, but right now it looks like the the first part of the storm will be Wednesday and Wednesday night under relatively warm temperatures, with a lull early Thursday followed by the cooler part of the storm Thursday afternoon and night. My snowfall guess at this time is 1-4” from each part of the storm before we see clearing skies on a cool Friday morning and the likely return of sunshine.

As I did last week, if the midweek storm looks like it is evolving into something bigger than forecast here, I’ll post an update Tuesday afternoon. Otherwise, I’ll be back Thursday afternoon with my regularly scheduled weather narrative to discuss the next possibly significant storm soon after what looks like a mostly nice weekend.

Storms take a break for the weekend

Thursday, March 10, 2022

The remarkable winter storm centered on yesterday ended up dumping three feet of snow near the top of Mt. Werner and 21” at mid-mountain from Tuesday night through this Thursday morning. After seeing a low temperature of -6 F up top and 2 F in town this morning , the cold temperatures will stick around for another day before we see warming by Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Our next storm is currently forecast for Sunday night.

We saw 10” at mid-mountain and 16” up top by Wednesday morning after the snows started at 10:30 pm Tuesday night. Ski Patrol measured 18” up top by 8 am Wednesday morning with only 4% liquid water content, and very heavy snowfall rates were observed throughout the day. Another 11” at mid-mountain and 20” up top was reported this morning, of which 4” and 6”, respectively, fell overnight. And as a bonus, the upper mountain base at the Steamboat Ski Resort cracked the 100” barrier for the first time this season at 103”.

The light and fluffy snowfall was settling as it was falling, and, for example, the 20” of snowfall reported this morning up top only contributed to 8” of base! And a long time-lapse of the Steamboat Powedercam never showed the storm total snow over 23” even though 36” was measured separately over the two days.

The arctic front that brought the heavy snows to our area has left a bitterly cold air mass in its wake, with Friday’s low temperatures again forecast to be well below zero up top. And if skies clear tonight, the Yampa Valley will also see low temperatures below zero which could be as cold as twenty to thirty degrees below our average of 15 F in the coldest low-lying areas.

But a ridge of high pressure is forecast to move overhead Saturday afternoon, so temperatures will warm as the arctic air mass is pushed to the east by the encroaching ridge. There appears to be some moisture that will move through the ridge of high pressure as it passes overhead, so we’ll likely see periods of clouds and sun during the days of Friday and Saturday, and perhaps some brief non-accumulating snow showers.

Sunday should start seasonably cool and sunny, though a storm currently developing near the Dateline is forecast to bring snows back to our area by Sunday night. Though there is disagreement between weather forecast models as to the strength of the storm, right now it is looking like a modest event. So stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll discuss that storm as well as another possible storm around midweek.

Quick update on the Wednesday storm

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

I wanted to give a quick update on the storm for tomorrow which I first discussed in my last Sunday’s weather narrative, as its looking bigger than that 5-10” storm total. The arctic front is currently located in central Wyoming as the parent storm moves southward from the Canadian border toward the Great Basin tomorrow.

We should see some light snow showers this evening ahead of the cold front, but the snows will get going in earnest by around mid-evening to midnight as the winds turn to be from our favorable northwest direction as part of the front moves through. We could see snowfall rates above an inch per hour at times, and I would expect 3-6” on the Wednesday morning mid-mountain report.

As the parent storm moves southward into the Great Basin on Wednesday, the winds should decrease and turn to be more from the west, which will keep the snows going through the day and into the overnight. Another 5-10” is possible by sunset, with another 1-4” overnight.

Travel will likely be difficult or even impossible at times over Rabbit Ears Pass, as the National Weather Service is talking about the possibility of snow squalls on Wednesday in the very cold and unstable air mass behind the front. Hopefully your travel can be completed by tonight or started on Thursday as Wednesday will be best enjoyed on the hill.

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