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Two storms on track for Thanksgiving night and Saturday

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Two storms will grace the Steamboat Springs area this Thanksgiving holiday, with the first weaker one starting light snows by this Thursday mid-afternoon and the second stronger, colder and longer-lasting storm bringing moderate to heavy snows starting Friday night.

Remarkably, the storm scenario laid out in my last Sunday forecast looks to occur, with the Saturday storm likely producing even more snow than I initially forecast! The first storm has already put down a foot of snow in the Sierras around Mammoth and Kirkwood (see the California snowfall totals here as the storm develops), and clouds will increase through the day today before we see some light snowfall by mid-afternoon. Snowfall will be moderate at times this evening, likely starting around sunset before becoming lighter again after midnight. I still expect 3-6” at mid-mountain by the Friday morning report.

Though we will be between storms on Friday, light snows will likely continue during the day, along with increasing winds that may make travel difficult, especially over the passes. We will see some warming ahead of the second storm from midday Friday through Friday evening before cooler air brings the onset of moderate to heavy snows and continued strong northwest winds starting later Friday night or very early Saturday morning. Difficult travel may well become impossible from Friday night through the day Saturday.

We could see 5-10” of mid-mountain snowfall by the Saturday morning report with continuing moderate to heavy snows for a day of full-on mid-winter storm skiing! The coldest air arrives Saturday afternoon along with a period of intense snowfall, gustier winds and likely whiteout conditions. Though moisture decreases behind the cold air, snow densities will decrease, keeping light and fluffy accumulating snows going overnight and into early Sunday morning, when another 5-10” of snow will likely be reported.

Though Sunday will start quite cold, we should see the sun reappear along with some higher elevation warming, producing a spectacular ski day (especially if new terrain opens!).

After the weekend excitement, a ridge of high pressure is forced eastward by a strong Pacific jet stream and moves over the west early in the work week. Northern Colorado will be susceptible to some dry cool fronts as energy from the Canadian Plains travels down the east side of the ridge and clips our area on Monday and early Tuesday. Wednesday will be the warmest day at higher elevations, and even though the sun will be out, cold low-elevation temperatures will persist as inversions form over the newly fallen snow blanketing the Yampa Valley.

The end of the work week looks uneventful before another storm develops off the West Coast and possibly brings another round of stormy weather to our area around the following weekend.

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Two storms possible on Thanksgiving night and Saturday

Sunday, November 18, 2018

After several inches of snow fell at the Steamboat Ski Area yesterday afternoon and evening, the next chance of snow in the Steamboat Springs area occurs late on Thanksgiving day and again around Saturday.

Skies will clear this Sunday, with temperatures staying several degrees below our average high of 39 F as a ridge of high pressure moves from the West Coast to the Rockies by midweek. Some energy traveling down the east side of the ridge from the Canadian Plains will graze northern Colorado starting tonight, and other than some clouds and continued below average temperatures on Monday, no additional precipitation is expected.

Dry air overspreads Colorado by Tuesday and Wednesday leading to some gorgeous warm late-fall weather for Opening Day at the Steamboat Ski area on Wednesday. And for those keeping track, the weather forecast model differences discussed in last Thursday’s forecast have been resolved in favor of the European ECMWF which captured the upcoming unsettled weather a day earlier than the American GFS.

So an incoming Pacific storm crosses the West Coast by Wednesday and quickly travels across the Great Basin, first bringing clouds early on Thanksgiving Day and then snows by later in the day that continue overnight This is not a cold system, but we should see snow down to the Yampa Valley floor, with possibly 3-6” at mid-mountain by Friday morning.

Even though the snows may not completely stop, we will be in between storms during the day on Friday as another storm that forms in the Gulf of Alaska around midweek quickly follows our Thanksgiving Day storm. This one will be stronger, colder and longer-lasting, with moderate to heavy snows possible starting late Friday or early Saturday and continuing into the evening. Weather forecast models have not settled on the exact track of the storm yet, but 6-12” of additional snow at mid-mountain is possible during the day Saturday, which will be reported Sunday morning.

We may see some clearing on Sunday along with cool temperatures before another possibly weaker storm is advertised for early in the following work week.

Warm and dry weather follows a small storm for Saturday

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Other than a weak storm for Saturday, warm and sunny late fall weather looks to usher in Opening Day at the Steamboat Ski area, which is scheduled for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

The beautiful weather this Thursday continues on Friday for Steamboat Springs, with even warmer high temperatures that will be five to ten degrees above our average of 41 F. Our best chance for snow will occur from Saturday afternoon through the night as s small storm currently in British Columbia moves across our area in northwest flow. Cooler air begins moving in early Saturday with snow showers most likely from the afternoon through the night. I would expect only 1-4” at mid-mountain by Sunday morning, with the best snows falling along the Wyoming border.

The sun returns starting Sunday, and after a chilly start, warming will occur first at the higher elevations during the day followed by the lower elevations by later Monday. Gorgeous warm and sunny weather will continue for Tuesday at which point substantial disagreement in the weather forecast models leave hope that we’ll see the chance of snow around Thanksgiving or the following weekend. But the hope is based upon an abrupt change in the prognosis of the usually consistent ECMWF and is at odds with the American GFS. For what it’s worth, the GFS shows a continuation of the dry and sunny weather for Thanksgiving and the following weekend, so stay tuned for my Sunday forecast on how this difference is resolved.

Warm and sunny weather returns after a cold start to the week

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The light snow falling in Steamboat Springs this Sunday won’t accumulate to much, but a reinforcing surge of cold and dry air tonight means a cold start to the work week before warmer and sunnier weather returns.

Currently, a large trough of cold air sits over much of the United States, save for a ridge of high pressure over the West Coast, where hot and dry weather and the seasonal easterly Santa Anna winds have fueled extreme wildfire behavior in California. This weather pattern will bring a cold front through Colorado later today with another windy day in California before incoming Pacific energy forces the ridge of high pressure eastward.

The cold front means a quite cold Monday with both low and high temperature around twenty degrees below our average low of 18 F and average high of 46 F, despite the presence of sun. A clear Monday night will once again keep similar low temperatures around for Tuesday morning before the flattening ridge of high pressure moves towards our area, with some warming at low elevations during the day but more at higher elevations.

Continued sun and warmer temperatures with both highs and lows around average are advertised for Wednesday before some energy traveling over the top of the ridge mixes with some cold air from the Canadian Plains and clips northern Colorado on Thursday. This probably will not affect temperatures much, but we may see some clouds and breezy northwest winds.

The ridge briefly rebounds over the west for Friday before we are similarly clipped again by a passing storm for Saturday. And again, the ridge briefly rebounds for Sunday for more nice weather.

Meanwhile, another round of incoming Pacific energy approaches the West Coast mid-weekend and the interaction of this energy and the ridge of high pressure is uncertain. Weather forecast models indicate that some energy is likely to penetrate inland and move across the Great Basin early in the next work week, though any storms carried along look to be relatively warm and weak heading into Thanksgiving.

Cold fronts today and Sunday followed by warmer and drier weather

Thursday, November 8, 2018

A couple more cold fronts for this Thursday and Sunday will cross the Steamboat Springs area before significant warming and drying occurs during the upcoming work week.

Behind the first cold front today that is leaving several inches of snow at the Steamboat Ski area, the skies should clear and the sun will reappear for Friday and the first part of Saturday. The lack of clouds tonight and the cold airmass will make for a cold start to Friday morning with temperatures falling below our average low of 20 F. The ever-lowering sun angle will make it difficult for temperatures to recover to our average high of 46 F on Friday.

We’ll see another chilly morning Saturday, but we should be much closer to our average high as a warmer airmass briefly settles over our area, even as high clouds begin to ovespread northern Colorado ahead of the next cold front.

Timed for Veterans Day on Sunday, the cold front will contain some very cold western Canadian air, but limited moisture, so only several inches of snow are expected through the likely raw day.

A ridge of high pressure will build eastward starting early in the work week and is forecast to reside over the Rockies by midweek. Temperatures will be slow to recover on Monday in the cold airmass, but there should be some warming, especially at the higher elevations on Tuesday, and warming at all elevations, along with more sun, by Wednesday.

A cool front that is currently forecast to be quite weak may brush northern Colorado around Thursday, and briefly interrupt the pleasant and seasonable weather that looks to continue into the following weekend. Since the opening of the Steamboat Ski area follows that weekend, I’ll mention, with the usual uncertainty disclaimer, that long-range forecasts indicate another storm may approach the West Coast around the end of the weekend.

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