Cold with passing snow showers this work week

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Sunny skies and temperatures in the low twenties are over Steamboat Springs this Sunday mid-morning, on their way to the upper thirties. Today will be the warmest day of the work week as a series of moisture-starved weather disturbances periodically drag reinforcing surges of cold from the north through our area. These look to bring the possibility of light snow showers through most of the work week, though any accumulations will be meager.

Our area will be sandwiched between a deep and cold trough of low pressure currently located over the Northern Plains and Canadian Plains and a ridge of high pressure off the West Coast that is forecast to strengthen through the work week. Light winds generally out of the north and northwest will carry several relatively dry and cold surges of air over our area from either Pacific disturbances traveling over the ridge of high pressure to our west or rotating around the trough of low pressure to our east, or both, through the work week.

But first, an eddy currently near Las Vegas will move through the Desert Southwest through Monday. While only southern Colorado may be close enough to see some light accumulating snows from the system, our area will see a cold front pass through tonight as the eddy grabs some cold air from the Northern Plains trough. There may be some snowflakes with the frontal passage, but dropping temperatures will be the most noticeable effect, with high temperatures on Monday relegated to the upper twenties, about fifteen degrees below our average of 43 F, and low temperatures in the low teens, about five degrees below our average of 18 F.

The next wave of cold air is timed for early Tuesday and we should see a better chance for light snow showers through the day, with meager accumulations possible at all elevations, along with temperatures dropping a couple of degrees. Another similar but drier wave is forecast for Wednesday with a slightly stronger and longer lasting one for later Thursday into Friday morning as Pacific energy rounding the ridge of high pressure off the West Coast mixes with a lobe of energy rotating around the Northern Plains trough of low pressure. We will probably see our best chances for accumulating snowfall during this time period, though accumulations will be quite light with several inches possible at best.

A strong storm currently developing south of the Aleutian Islands is forecast to move east through the work week, and interact with the ridge of high pressure off the West Coast by the weekend. This looks to change the current weather pattern as the weakening ridge of high pressure moves inland and kicks the Northern Plains trough of low pressure to the northeast.

There is some disagreement on the timing of the pattern change among the longer range weather forecast models, with the American GFS currently advertising warmer weather earlier in the weekend and the European ECMWF holding that back a day. I should know more about that by my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon, and I also expect to take a peek at what follows this pattern change as the Steamboat Ski Resort prepares for its opening day on Wednesday, November 23.

Cool temperatures to persist this weekend under sunnier skies

Thursday, November 10, 2022

A cold and cloudy day is over the Steamboat Springs area late this Thursday afternoon after almost two inches of snow fell on my deck near the base of the Steamboat Ski Resort last night Some light and non-accumulating snow showers will end tonight with Veterans Day tomorrow starting and staying cold, though the sun should be returning in the afternoon as skies clear. And clearing skies mean an even colder Saturday morning, though plenty of sunshine will allow temperatures to warm around ten degrees. Sunday will be similar with the morning not quite as cold, and we may see some increasing clouds later in the day thanks to a grazing weather disturbance.

A deep trough of low pressure currently over the West has brought some impressive snowfall totals to the western ski resorts, with three day totals as high as four to six feet at Mammoth and two day totals around half that at neighboring resorts in Utah. Snow reports in Colorado were disappointingly modest, and I only saw 3” on Steamboat’s mid-mountain powdercam. Snowfall in the warm sector of the storm when winds are out of the southwest is always iffy for our area, regardless of what the short-term weather forecast models say, and the drying atmosphere behind the cold front yesterday afternoon limited what is usually a productive period of snowfall on the backside of the storm.

One thing the weather forecast models got right is the cold air, with high temperatures today only reaching 27 F, almost twenty degrees below our average of 45 F. And the cold air is going to stick around for a while, with low temperatures tonight dipping five to ten degrees below our average of 19 F.

While Veterans Day will dawn cold and cloudy, we should see decreasing clouds through the day, and the appearance of sun will make it feel warmer than it is, as high temperatures are expected to be similar to today.

But the clearing skies will allow for even colder Saturday morning as the combination of new snow, dry skies and light winds allow the surface to efficiently radiate heat to space, dropping temperatures toward the zero degree mark, especially in the coldest low-lying areas.

A transient ridge of high pressure is then forecast to build overhead behind the departing storm and ahead of a dry and weak storm forecast to cross the Pacific Northwest coast on Friday night. So we should see mostly sunny skies on Saturday, with high temperatures jumping up into the high thirties. Low temperatures should warm by a little more than five degrees on Sunday, though high temperatures will be similar to Saturday as we see increasing clouds ahead of the weak Pacific Northwest storm.

That storm is forecast to move through the Great Basin on Sunday after incorporating some cool air from the Canadian Plains and move across the Desert Southwest early in the work week as it is pushed along by another upstream Pacific storm of uncertain strength. So we should see a drop in high temperatures on Monday back toward freezing with more cloudiness as the storm grazes our area.

Though there is some weather forecast disagreement on the strength and track of the next storm for Tuesday, there is agreement that the cold temperatures will stick around along with the possibility of some snow. Amounts look light at this time, but stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll discuss that storm as well as the possibility of another cold storm around the end of the work week.

Several very nice fall days ahead of another wintry storm for Thursday

Sunday, November 6, 2022

The snow has stopped early this Sunday afternoon in Steamboat Springs with cloudy skies and temperatures around freezing. After the wintry weather that started on Thursday, look for a return to pleasant fall weather with lots of sun and temperatures approaching the mid-fifties to start the work week. But another wintry storm will bring more snowfall to our area for Thursday followed by another round of high temperatures near freezing to end the work week.

This past storm cycle started out well enough with an inch recorded at the official Steamboat Springs weather station near the high school on Thursday morning, with another five inches reported on Friday morning. However, freezing rain Saturday morning brought a 1/8” ice crust over town that I suspect made it to the top of Mt. Werner, based upon the drooping trees on the Steamboat Powedercam time-lapse accompanied by no snowfall accumulations.

The Thursday weather narrative predicted only light snowfall for this weekend, but the jet stream had other ideas as it sagged several hundred miles further south than originally forecast and brought the remnants of a Pacific stream of moisture overhead. Thanks to the shallow moisture and temperatures up top warming past 20 F, the snow production process stopped, leaving just cloud drops that were well below freezing falling through the cloud. Freezing rain resulted when they instantly froze on contact with any surface.

The same process can lead to freezing drizzle or freezing fog, which is not that uncommon for our area in the wintertime, especially near the end of a storm where the atmosphere is slowly drying, and may lead to some crust on the snow surface. However, accumulating freezing rain leading to a thick crust is uncommon, and the ugly breakable crust on the snow surface Saturday morning reminded me of the infamous Opening Day of 2014 that ruined thirty inches of cold and dry powder that had recently fallen.

Moose reading the mid-mountain snowstake at 8 am on 6 Nov 2022This was partially rectified when a cold front last night brought another 5” of snow to mid-mountain by 5 am and an additional 2” by 8 am, as measured by the resident moose stopping by to nibble on some shrubbery at that time.

Meanwhile, a storm with arctic origins is currently located off the Pacific Northwest coast, and is forecast to elongate along the West Coast through Tuesday as it brings good moisture to all of the coastal mountain ranges.

Weather forecast models have trended slower with this storm, and it is now expected to cross the Great Basin on Wednesday and bring more wintry weather to our area for Wednesday night and Thursday.

Before that, winds will turn from the current westerly direction to be from the southwest and increase ahead of the storm, bringing dry air and much warmer temperatures to our area. High temperatures reaching the low to mid fifties are expected starting Monday and lasting through Wednesday, which is more than five degrees above our average of 47 F.

The bulk of the precipitation associated with the incoming storm will be snow, most of which should fall Wednesday night and during the day Thursday, with 6-12” possible up on the hill.  High temperatures will plummet back near freezing which will be a twenty five degree drop from the first half of the week. 

And low temperatures will fall to well below our average of 20 F, especially if clouds start to clear by Friday morning and more so Saturday morning, Low temperatures in the teens are currently forecast for Friday and single digits by Saturday, and along with low relative humidity should allow for perfect snowmaking conditions ahead of the advertised opening of the Steamboat Ski Resort on Wednesday, November 23.

The weekend currently looks cool but nice, though a piece of a dry storm may affect our weather. I’ll know more about that in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Wintry storm followed by cool and unsettled weather for the weekend

Thursday, November 3, 2022

The snow is continuing to fall at all elevations this Thursday afternoon in the Steamboat Springs area with more expected tonight. The storm may depart our area by early Friday followed by a short break, but cool and unsettled weather looks to hang around through the entirety of the weekend thanks to the proximity of the jet stream and the moisture it is carrying. Some nice days should start the work week but will be followed by another wintry storm around midweek.

A split storm currently over the Great Basin has brought wintry weather to our area starting early this morning. After waking up to about an inch of wet snow on my deck near the base of the Steamboat Ski Resort, snows have continued through the day as waves of energy move over our area in the southwest flow ahead of the parent storm to our west. The Steamboat Powdercams at the top and mid-mountain are currently showing about 7”, though the mid-mountain powdercam showed 2” when it was mechanically cleared at 5 am. In fact, those two inches occurred in the span of just twenty minutes between 4:40 am and 5 am as a storm cell passed directly over the mountain. That the two measurements are currently similar is likely the result of the snow settling during the day.

Short range weather forecast models show another period of enhanced snowfall this evening, and there could be another 3-6” of snow up top and several more inches in town before cooler and drier air associated with the northern part of the split storm passes through after midnight. While we will see the favorable northwest flow accompany the cooler air, additional accumulations look quite light as the atmosphere dries considerably.

As the storm departs, a stout jet stream containing adequate moisture is forecast to be close enough to keep cool and showery weather around for later Friday and Saturday after a short break early Friday. Accumulations will be quite light and confined to the higher elevations, with high temperatures only around freezing on Friday and low forties on Saturday, well below our average high of 49 F.

By Saturday, a storm currently near the Arctic Circle north of the Bering Sea is forecast to move into the Gulf of Alaska, rapidly intensify and move southward along the West Coast through the early part of the work week. This will turn our winds from the northwest on Saturday to the west on Sunday and southwest to start the work week.

Moisture in the jet stream is forecast to stick around on Sunday, so expect some warming towards average thanks to the westerly winds along with continued showers, especially at the higher elevations. Dry weather with temperatures in the low fifties should start the work week, but that West Coast storm is eventually forecast to track through the Great Basin during the first half of the week and bring more wintry weather to our area around midweek.

There is weather forecast model uncertainty regarding the track and more so the timing of the storm, so stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I should have more details on when this next storm may arrive.

Nice start to the workweek ahead of Thursday storm

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Temperatures are nearing fifty degrees under sunny skies in the Steamboat Springs area early this Sunday afternoon. Monday will see a similarly nice day, with winds picking up on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of a modest storm for Thursday.

A stream of moisture associated with a storm currently in the Gulf of Alaska is bringing precipitation to western Washington State. The storm is forecast to incorporate cold air moving southward across Alaska and elongate along the West Coast through midweek. Our area should see pleasant weather today and Monday with plenty of sun and high temperatures around our average of 51 F.

Tuesday will be the warmest day of the workweek with high temperatures around five degrees above average as winds from the southwest pickup ahead of the evolving storm. The storm should be moving east on Tuesday thanks to an upstream wave of Pacific energy that will eventually slingshot around the bottom of the storm and cause it to split over the Great Basin on Thursday.

We should see temperatures drop a few degrees on Wednesday, but still stay above average, as winds stay from the southwest ahead of the splitting storm. That slingshotting piece of energy is forecast to move overhead by Thursday midday quickly followed by the northern part of the splitting storm. Much cooler temperatures with highs dropping into the lower forties and increasing chances for showers are forecast for Thursday. Any showers may start as rain early in the day in the Yampa Valley, and we may see a rain-snow mix before snow is forecast by the afternoon.

Moisture quickly dries out by Friday, so the storm will be relatively short-lived, limiting snowfall amounts. Plus, snowfall is always uncertain in the southwest flow ahead of storms, and our favorable northwest flow behind the storm never really gets going. We may see around an inch or two of snowfall in town and 4-8” at the Steamboat Ski Resort from this storm, but splitting storms are notoriously unpredictable and there may be changes in the forecast.

So stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I hope to be discussing the ongoing storm and what is looking like a nice start to next weekend.

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21 May 2021

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