Snow and cold for the work week ahead

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The cold temperatures in downtown Steamboat Springs this Sunday morning are warming nicely under bluebird skies, with noontime temperatures of 18 F at the Bob Adams airport and 33 F at the top of Mt. Werner. A big change comes tomorrow as a strong and complex storm moves across the area, bringing a sharp cold front and snow for a time. Bitterly cold but drier arctic air settles into our area for Tuesday and Wednesday before the snow machine cranks up for Thursday and Friday. We may see a break on Saturday before more unsettled weather may approach as soon as the end of next weekend.

A cold and strong storm is forecast to move across the Great Basin tonight. The storm is forecast to elongate and eventually stretch from Hudson Bay to Baja by midweek, which makes for a difficult forecast as there is no strong center of circulation to force definitive weather. It appears the cold air will arrive in several waves starting Monday, with colder temperatures and some snow arriving within a few hours of noon. Additional waves of cold air and snow look to occur during the afternoon and evening as an ill-defined storm center passes nearby. While we will see snow around the surges of cold air, we never get into favorable northwest flow, so I am not that optimistic on snow amounts. With further changes in the evolution of the storm likely, I would guess only 1-4” of snow during the day Monday with another 1-4” during the evening, and I hope that I’m wrong. Travel may be difficult at times during the heaviest showers from Monday afternoon through the evening.

What is more certain are the bitterly cold temperatures, with falling temperatures through Wednesday morning. Mountain-top high temperatures will be around zero on Tuesday and struggle to reach that mark on Wednesday, with cold valley high temperatures in the low teens or single digits. And if skies clear Tuesday night, Wednesday morning will bring low temperatures well below zero for the coldest night in a while.

Behind the storm, a ridge of high pressure builds over the West, bringing warming temperatures by Thursday at all elevations. However, Pacific moisture and energy is forecast to deform the ridge and bring a period of very favorable northwest flow for Thursday and likely Friday. Snows are likely to be heavy to moderate and persistent for at least Thursday, and likely Friday, where weather forecast models disagree. With mountain-top temperatures in the teens, we could see 6-12” by the time the snows get going early Thursday through Friday morning, with another 6-12” possible by Saturday morning according the more optimistic ECMWF before the snows end for at least the first half of the weekend.

However, our next storm is forecast to move southward along the West Coast during that weekend, forming an eddy in the Desert Southwest area by early in the work week. While me may see some light snows late in the weekend, the best weather looks to affect our area around the middle of the next work week.

Note that I may push by next regular Thursday afternoon weather narrative to Wednesday as details on the end-of-work-week storm evolve.

A nice weekend followed by snow and cold

Thursday, January 30, 2020

A couple of inches of new snow were on my deck this Thursday morning, which matched the two inch report at the Steamboat Ski Area. Snow will continue today before ending by around midnight, and other than a slight chance of showers Saturday morning, we should see a rare-this-season warm and mostly sunny weekend. But cold and snow return for Monday and last through the upcoming work week.

While yesterday’s storm under-delivered due to its severe and well-advertised split around our area, this Thursday storm is over-delivering, with 3-6” now expected to fall by midnight, to be tallied on the Friday morning report. As discussed in the last Sunday weather narrative, there was uncertainty with respect to how strong the wave today and Friday night would be. Weather forecast models have trended stronger with today’s storm and weaker with the Friday night storm, which is not all that unusual when there are embedded waves in the moist, unstable and favorable northwest flow.

Behind today’s storm and ahead of a strong storm developing over the Gulf of Alaska, a ridge of high pressure builds over the West. Another wave ejecting out of the Gulf of Alaska storm rounds the top of the ridge late Friday and may bring some light non-accumulating high-elevation snow showers for a short time early Saturday morning.

But the building ridge of high pressure dominates, bringing a partly sunny and warming weekend with some high clouds at times that may filter the sun. Enjoy the warm first few days of February as the Gulf of Alaska storm is forecast to make landfall on Sunday and intensify as it moves across the Great Basin on Monday. The intensifying storm will present some forecast challenges as the southern part of the storm will cut off from the main jet stream and form an eddy whose movement and strength will be notoriously difficult to forecast.

In fact, the forecasts for the storm has trended slower and deeper with the eddy, with winds forecast to turn from the northwest on Saturday to westerly and then southwesterly by Sunday, and increasing as the storm draws near.

Though the timing is likely to change a bit, and I hope to have a better idea about that by my next weather narrative on Sunday afternoon, a strong cold front will blast through our area around midday Monday, along with difficult or even impossible travel. The storm may bring some easterly winds after the cold front passes and temperatures plunge, though snows look to continue through Tuesday, in spite of the usually downward motion of air off the Park Range, as warm and moist air from the east rises within the very cold and unstable air mass.

Though Monday will start warm ahead of the cold front, temperatures will drop twenty to thirty degrees from the warm Sunday. Guessing snow amounts this far out is difficult, but 6-12” or more by Tuesday morning is possible with additional accumulations during the day, subject to change, of course.

If skies briefly clear Tuesday night, the Wednesday morning temperatures will start below zero, but regardless high temperatures will remain far below our average high of 29 F on both Tuesday and Wednesday. A ridge of high pressure behind this storm and ahead of our next one is again forecast to build over the West Coast for the end of the work week. Embedded waves and moisture will restart the snow-machine on Wednesday and last through the work week as we head into the following weekend, similar to what is occurring now.

And similar to this weekend, the weather is currently advertised to break for at least part of next weekend before we may feel the effects of the next possibly strong storm.

Snows likely Monday and Wednesday

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The partly cloudy morning on this Sunday in Steamboat Springs has finally given way to periods of sun, a welcome sight during this snowy January. A couple of incoming storms will give us good snow chances for Monday and Wednesday, with diminishing chances on Thursday and Friday night as we move through, dare I say, a mostly sunny and warm upcoming weekend.

Ahead of the first storm currently moving through the Great Basin, we should see increasing clouds by later this afternoon, along with some meager snow showers at the higher elevations, most likely in the northern portions of our Park Mountain Range.

The accumulating snow for Mt. Werner won’t start till after midnight, so I would only expect up to an inch on the Monday morning report. But snowfall intensity should increase through the morning, approaching an inch per hour at times, as the storm looks to split, or weaken, a bit less than earlier weather forecast models indicated. Snows should turn more showery after noon, with some showers producing brief, but locally moderate bursts of snow through sunset. We could see 3-6” of snow by around sunset, with lighter-intensity showers hanging on through the night in the the unstable cool, moist and favorable northwest flow. These may yield an additional 1-4” inches that would be added to the Tuesday morning report.

As showers end early in the day on Tuesday, we may see some sun as a quick-moving ridge of high pressure moves over our area ahead of next storm that enters the Great Basin on Wednesday. This storm is forecast to strongly split and weaken during the day Wednesday, with the southern portion diving into Arizona and the northern portion grazing our area through the day. We will get some cold air behind the storm, though the passage of the cold front is after the best moisture has left our area. With the uncertainties around a strongly splitting storm, I would expect total accumulations to be in the 2-5” range from early Wednesday through midnight when the snows should end.

Behind the storm, a ridge of high pressure builds over the West Coast ahead of strong storm forecast to develop south of the Aleutian Islands. Energy and moisture ejecting out of the storm and traveling over the top of the ridge may graze our area Thursday night and early Saturday morning, with light snow showers currently forecast for only Saturday morning. However, snowfall chances for either of these periods may change as the interplay between the ridge of high pressure and the incoming Pacific energy is difficult to forecast at this time.

But weather forecast models agree that a warm and dry ridge of high pressure moves over the West for most of next weekend. The fate of the Aleutian storm is contested by the models, with the European ECMWF moving toward the American GFS in predicting a split in the storm. However, whether the storm splits offshore or onshore will likely determine whether we see any weather associated with the storm during the following work week, and I hope to have more clarity on that by next weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Snowy upcoming week, except for Friday and Sunday

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Snow showers have started up again this Wednesday afternoon in Steamboat Springs as a weak cool front in northwest flow approaches north-central Colorado. The briefly moderate snowfall intensity this afternoon will become lighter behind the front tonight and taper off during Thursday night. Most of Friday and Sunday look to be precipitation free with some light snow likely from Friday night into Saturday morning, but a couple of more storms forecast for later Monday and Wednesday will keep snows going for most of the upcoming week.

A ridge currently over the West Coast has directed moist northwest flow over the Rockies. A wave in this flow will bring a cool front through our area this afternoon, leading to breezy winds and generally light snow showers which could briefly become moderate. On top of this mornings report of 3.5” at mid-mountain and 4” up top, the snow report for Thursday morning should again be in the 2-5” range.

Though light snow could continue through Thursday night, warmer air aloft ahead of our next small storm for Friday night will stabilize the atmosphere and limit accumulations to 1-4” by Friday morning.

Though the daytime hours of Friday are likely to be precipitation-free, a weakening storm moves over our area from Friday evening through Saturday morning. I would expect total accumulations to be another 1-4” by noon on Saturday.

A ridge of high pressure then moves over the West during the weekend, allowing snows to cease from Saturday afternoon through Sunday night. But the break in the weather will be short-lived as another weakening storm moves over our area Monday followed by a better-looking storm for Wednesday. Light snow between the storms is currently advertised for Tuesday and again after the storm on Wednesday, making for a snowy upcoming week.

Some sort of ridge of high pressure is forecast to move over the West around the following weekend which should stop the snows and allow the sun to reappear for a time.

Snow chances for Tuesday through Thursday

Sunday, January 19, 2020

A cool and mostly cloudy Sunday morning in Steamboat Springs should give way to more sun this afternoon and temperatures warming in town to around our average high of 27 F. Though Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be the sunniest and warmest of the long holiday weekend, a couple of storms will bring the chances for snow from Tuesday through possibly Thursday before the weather turns nicer for next weekend.

Currently, a ridge of high pressure over the West Coast is moving eastward thanks to some incoming Pacific energy and moisture. The ridge is forecast to move over our area on Monday, allowing for plenty of sun and warming temperatures.

The first of the two Pacific storms moving over our area will be relatively weak and warm, and should start light snow showers in the Steamboat Springs area on Tuesday. Even at this close range, there is weather forecast model disagreement on the amount of snow for the the Wednesday morning report, but 2-5” is a reasonable guess at this time.

It looks like there won’t be any break between the two weather systems, with the second one keeping snow showers going during the day Wednesday. This one will cross the Pacific Northwest coast on Tuesday and contain colder air originally sourced from Siberia. But as you may expect with the model disagreement on Tuesday, there is even more on Wednesday, as the European ECMWF keeps the storm more consolidated and moves it east of our area by early Thursday as compared to the American GFS, which moves the storm more slowly and has additional energy keeping favorable moist northwest flow over our area through Thursday.

There are enough differences that I will commit to moving my usual Thursday weather narrative to Wednesday in the hopes of gaining clarity on the eventual speed and strength of the storm. We could see as little as 1-4” by Thursday morning if the European model verifies, or as much as 4-8” by Thursday morning with an additional 1-4” during the day if the more optimistic American GFS verifies.

Remarkably, weather forecast models agree on a building ridge of high pressure for Friday and the weekend. Though the temperature forecast is uncertain, as the American GFS keeps much colder temperatures around longer as compared to the European ECMWF, we should see plenty of sun through next weekend.

Another Pacific storm is forecast to approach the West Coast late next weekend or early the following week, with the European ECMWF stronger and more consolidated than the weaker and more disorganized American GFS. We may see some effects from this storm by around the following Tuesday.

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