Four more waves of snow this work week

Sunday, January 12, 2020

After 7” was reported this morning at the Steamboat Ski Resort, and 10” up top, snow showers have picked up again this Sunday afternoon ahead of the first in a total of four more storms expected this work week in Steamboat Springs. A second storm is forecast to move through our area on Monday with a break in the weather advertised for Tuesday. The third, and unfortunately weakening and north-trending storm is timed for Tuesday night into Wednesday before the fourth and final promising storm moves across later Thursday into Friday.

Three day snowfall totals range from 18” at mid-mountain and 21” up top as of Sunday morning, and these will be added to through our last storm in this series on Friday. All of the snow is courtesy of a strong and active Pacific jet stream from the northwest that is moving through and over a ridge of high pressure over Alaska. The moist Pacific air has been mixing with cold air from western Canada as it flows southward along the eastern periphery of the Alaska ridge.

And before I discuss what may be, I’ll briefly mention that the snows this past Friday morning were not predicted by the couple of shorter-range forecast models I look at. My guess is the moisture was under-forecast Thursday night, leading to a couple more inches than expected. But the big miss was the 6” on Friday morning that was likely due to eddies of moisture and energy that broke away from the splitting storm and moved over our area. While it may be tough to forecast, it is really not all that surprising as the Steamboat Springs area often overachieves in cold and moist northwest flow.

Moving on, I would expect 2-5” of snow for the Monday morning report, with snow continuing through the day that will accumulate an additional 3-6” to be reported Tuesday morning. Accompanying this wave will be stout westerly winds of up to 30 mph, gusting to as high as 60 mph during Monday, and this may affect snow quality on the predominantly west facing Mt. Werner, as well as lift operations. Additionally, travel over the passes will likely be difficult at times from at least mid-morning Monday through mid-afternoon as there will be blowing snow.

We should see a break in the snows during the day Tuesday, though it is not clear if they end or just significantly decrease in intensity, with similar winds to Monday. By Tuesday evening, a third storm travels over our area, though weather forecasts models have trended weaker and further north with this feature, forecasting snows Tuesday evening that end around midnight. Therefore I am less optimistic with snow amounts on this one than I have been for the last several day, and currently only expect 2-5” for a cold Wednesday morning ski report.

Thursday should be snow-free ahead of a quick-moving but good looking storm for Thursday night or Friday. This will be the last storm to mix with cold western Canadian air for at least several days as Pacific energy is forecast to undercut the ridge of high pressure over Alaska and introduce a milder and drier weather pattern to our area as the jet stream shifts a bit to the north. This Friday storm may also draw some moist subtropical air in from the southwest, creating a cold and wet storm that is looking to leave at least 6-12” of snow, and possibly more by the time it wraps up on Friday night.

Though we may see some snow showers mid-weekend, or not, quieter weather looks to last into the following work week.

Let the snows begin

Thursday, January 9, 2020

After four inches was reported this Thursday morning on the mid-mountain ski report at the Steamboat Ski Area, and five inches up top, clouds have increased this afternoon ahead of our next small storm for tonight into Friday. After a break Friday night into early Saturday, the start of a long-duration snow event begins Saturday afternoon and extends into Wednesday morning. Quite cold temperatures will accompany most of the snowfall which could total in the 15-30” range by midweek.

Currently, a storm sliding down the West Coast has mixed with some cold air from Western Canada and is forecast to split as it crosses the Great Basin tonight. Despite the split, we likely see another 1-4” from this storm after snow starts this afternoon, with some occurring after the Friday morning report. The air mass dries considerably after Friday morning as cold air from the northern branch of the split pours over our area, leaving mountain-top temperatures struggling to reach the mid-single digits during the day.

A quick-moving ridge of high pressure crosses over Friday night into Saturday morning, allowing temperatures to warm about ten degrees from Friday. But don’t be fooled if the sun briefly appears early in the morning as a storm that traveled across the Gulf of Alaska on Friday restarts snow showers by sometime between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. This is the beginning of a series of storms that will move over our area in generally brisk and favorable northwest flow through the weekend and the beginning of the next work week. This first storm should leave 4-8” of snow for the Sunday morning report.

Some ill-defined waves moves through the northwest to perhaps westerly flow on Sunday and Monday, keeping light to moderate snows going through both days. Timing of the waves and snowfall amounts are uncertain at this time, but right now 3-6” for each of Monday and Tuesday reports are preliminary guesses. And be aware that strong westerly winds, if they occur, may affect snow quality on the predominantly westerly facing ski area slopes.

It does appear there will be a short break during the day Tuesday before the last wave in this series moves over our area. At this point, the storm looks to bring 4-8” by Wednesday morning, though that will likely change as we get closer to the end of this impressive long-duration snowfall event.

I plan to publish my next weather narrative on Sunday afternoon and should have better guesses for the remaining snow amounts. Additionally, the atmosphere looks to undergo a pattern change after this event as a ridge of high pressure over the Bering Sea is undercut by a strong and active Pacific jet stream, and I hope to have some clarity on how that may affect us as well.

Cool and unsettled weather week ahead

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Steamboat Springs is currently seeing partly cloudy skies early this Sunday afternoon ahead of a quick moving storm for tonight into Monday. Dry weather is forecast for Tuesday and most of Wednesday followed by modest snows from Wednesday night through Friday and a break for Saturday.

A storm currently affecting the Pacific Northwest coast will cross the Great Basin today and bring a cool front through north-central Colorado this evening. The best snows look to occur this evening, and may make travel difficult at times as there will be some wind. I would expect 3-6” for the morning report, with an additional 1-4” during the day, mostly before noon as snows taper off.

A ridge of high pressure moves over our area behind the storm and ahead of our next one that starts later Wednesday. Moisture may hold on in the drying northwest flow through some of Tuesday, with the chances for some sun increasing as the day wears on.

Some sun for Wednesday morning will give way to increasing clouds ahead of our next weather-maker that should start snows by Wednesday night. The first part of the storm will bring a cool front in northwest flow through our area Wednesday night with 1-4” of snow expected for the Thursday morning report. A trailing wave of Pacific energy mixes with some cold Canadian air as it grudgingly passes over our area on Thursday and Friday, leading to cool and unsettled weather with low-intensity snowfall for most of the two days. It is difficult to isolate the best period for snowfall during this time, but I would generally expect around 1-4” for each of the three twelve hours periods between Thursday morning and Friday afternoon.

Friday and the start of Saturday will be chilly behind the last part of the storm, though we should see some higher elevation warming by Saturday afternoon.

Snow showers are forecast to restart around mid-weekend as a strong storm moves through the Gulf of Alaska on Friday and again mixes with some very cold air from western Canada. Weather forecast models agree on this beginning a cold and wet period that may extend into the middle of the following work week, though differ on the details. I hope to have further clarity on the evolution of this possibly significant event by by next regularly schedule weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

First storm of 2020 in progress

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The snow has started on New Years Day 2020 in Steamboat Springs as snowfall rates as high as an inch per hour were observed mid-morning. The storm looks to deliver as promised, or even over-achieve, with 8-16” of light and fluffy powder expected by the Thursday morning mid-mountain ski report and an additional 3-6” by Friday morning, leaving a storm total of almost one to two feet. While the snowfall from this storm will end on Friday, with even some sun possible for Saturday morning, cool and unsettled weather with at least light snow showers will be over our area from later Saturday though Tuesday morning. A bit of a break is advertised from later Tuesday into Wednesday ahead of our next possible storm for later in the work week.

Three inches are shown on the powdercam as of 10:30 am this Wednesday, and though the snowfall has currently waned, it should pick up again later this morning for several hours. And after another decrease in intensity for the early afternoon, moderate to heavy snow showers should occur late in the afternoon and continue through most of the night. Snowfall rates of one to two inches per hour along with some wind will make travel quite difficult at times, especially at pass level, but even in town.

Though the heaviest snowfall will be over by around report time on Thursday morning, an additional 3-6” of light and fluffy powder is expected by the Friday morning report as showers continue, with shower intensity greatest from mid-afternoon through mid-evening on Thursday, and daytime temperatures hovering around 5 F at the top of Mt. Werner.

Light snow showers are forecast to hang on through Friday morning, with minimal additional accumulations expected.

Dry air briefly works into our area on Saturday, with at least some sun in the morning, as a ridge of high pressure traverses the Rocky Mountains. But waves of Pacific energy and moisture in generally favorable northwest flow will restart light snow showers as early as Saturday night. We may see some sun again on Sunday morning, but showers are expected from later Sunday through Tuesday morning.

As is often the case in fast and energetic flow off the Pacific, the timing, track and strength of waves of energy and moisture are difficult to forecast too far in advance, and weather forecast model disagreement emerges by later Sunday as the European ECMWF is more optimistic with a storm around then. My next weather narrative on Sunday should offer some clarity on the the eventual strength of this storm.

In any case, there is agreement that the snows will stop for most of Tuesday and Wednesday before a healthy but quick-moving storm is advertised for around the end of the work week, followed by a longer lasting storm around the weekend that may persist into the following work week.

Continued cold ahead of promising New Years Day storm

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The cold temperatures in Steamboat Springs continue this Sunday afternoon, with a high temperature of -2 F at the summit already observed at 12:40 pm and the current 14 F in town likely at our high for the day. Lingering snow showers will end today, though the cold will stick around ahead of a promising storm that begins on New Years Day.

Currently, our early weekend storm has moved into Minnesota and strengthened, and the cold northerly flow on the backside of the storm is keeping our temperatures cold, with the 14 F in town twelve degrees below our average of 26 F. The light and barely-accumulating snow showers seen today will end by midnight as we are between the storm in Minnesota and another one currently dropping southward along the West Coast that will not affect our area.

There will be some clearing of the clouds overnight and through Monday, and this is important to the low temperature forecasts for town as any clouds insulate the surface of the earth like a blanket. Though it will be cold in town tomorrow morning, with temperatures at least five degrees below our average of 3 F, clearing skies would allow temperatures in town to fall to ten or even fifteen degrees below average.

There should be more sun for Monday, in spite of the possibility of high clouds, and though mountain temperatures will warm by five degrees or so from Sunday, they will remain cold as the cold northerly or northwesterly flow persists.

Drier air invades our area later Monday, and the fresh snow cover, light winds and clear skies will allow the valley temperatures to plummet into the negative teens for Tuesday morning. This will create a temperature inversion, where temperatures increase with elevation. While the mountain temperatures will still start cold near 0 F, they will still be warmer than the temperature at the base.

But along with sunny skies on Tuesday, the atmosphere will warm through the afternoon, allowing temperatures to move into the teens both on the hill and in town for a gorgeous mid-winter day.

Clouds increase New Years Eve ahead of a promising storm out of the northwest slated to begin snows over our area during New Years Day. There is a lot to like about this storm; it’s cold, it’s moist and it’s northwest trajectory is favorable for snow over Steamboat. I mentioned to some of the nice ticket-checking folks at the base of the gondola building yesterday that the storm looks too good to be true, but if it evolves as currently predicted, light snow early on Wednesday should turn moderate to heavy by the afternoon and continue overnight as first a cold front passes through and is then followed by orographic, or terrain-driven, snows.

Though there are some indications in the weather forecast models of the storm undergoing a minor split as it passes over our area, 6-12” of light and fluffy snow could be reported on the Thursday morning mid-mountain report, with light to sometimes moderate snow showers continuing through the day and into Friday morning leaving another 3-6” by the Friday morning report.

Another wave in northwest flow will keep snow showers going during the day Friday and into Saturday morning, though the atmosphere warms and stabilizes and limits the accumulations.

There is forecast uncertainty with respect to a ridge of high pressure that may briefly build over our area for part of the weekend, though weather forecast models agree on another northwesterly storm by later in the weekend or early the next week.

As an administrative note, while I normally publish these weather narratives on Sunday and Thursday afternoons, I do adjust this schedule based upon storms, so there may be a Wednesday afternoon discussion.

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1 July 2021

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