Early week storm trending slower and weaker ahead of a break later Wednesday

Sunday, January 1, 2023

The snows have temporarily stopped over a cloudy Steamboat Springs this Sunday mid-afternoon with temperatures in the upper thirties in town and upper twenties near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort. A storm currently near Las Vegas is forecast to move through our area starting tonight and eventually restart the snow showers that will likely last into Wednesday morning, though it is currently unclear if they start late tonight or Monday night. Colder temperatures will accompany the storm which should wind down on Wednesday morning and be followed by a break later Wednesday lasting into Friday ahead of the next modest storm for the beginning of next weekend.

Steamboat Springs is digging out of the latest round of snows that started on Friday afternoon and left two day totals of 16” at mid-mountain and 22” up top as of the New Years Day ski report. Snowfall has temporarily stopped ahead of the next storm, which has formed into a difficult-to-forecast eddy currently near Las Vegas, and is forecast to move into northeastern Colorado on Monday night.

Earlier forecasts had significant snows over our area from later tonight through Monday, though the latest weather forecast model trends have weakened the storm and moved it further north. While the slower storm means only an inch or two at best on the Monday morning ski report at mid-mountain, conflicting guidance means a low confidence forecast for snowfall during the day, ranging from as little as 3” to as many as 14” for the Tuesday morning ski report.

While the precipitation forecast is uncertain, the colder temperatures are not, as cold air associated with the storm overspreads our area starting tonight. Look for high temperatures in town dropping to the low to mid-twenties, below our average of 27 F, and temperatures up top dropping toward 20 F on Monday and the low to mid-teens on Tuesday and Wednesday as reinforcing surges of cold air moves through on Monday night and Tuesday.

Snows should pick up with each of these reinforcements as favorable cool, moist and unstable northwest flow picks up behind the impulses. I’ve already pointed to the unpleasant uncertainty for snowfall during the day Monday, but there is more confidence in snow showers, moderate to heavy at times, occurring from Monday night through Tuesday night before they taper off around Wednesday morning, leaving 3-6” for the Wednesday morning report.

So we should see a break in the active weather starting Wednesday afternoon as a transient ridge of high pressure passes overhead on Thursday and brings a rare appearance of the sun. But the next modest storm keeps the ridge moving, with the possibility of more snow starting later Friday and lasting into Saturday. Be sure to check back to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon when I’ll have more details on the storm to start next weekend.

Another wall of water restarts snows on Friday

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Temperatures are in the mid-teens with cloudy skies in the town of Steamboat Springs this Thursday morning while they are in the mid-single digits with light snow falling near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort. The upper elevation snow showers should reluctantly taper off this afternoon and overnight before snows restart at all elevations by Friday afternoon as the next wall of water washes through the Yampa Valley and brings heavy snowfall rates and dense snow through New Years Eve.

Snowfall totals at the Steamboat Ski Resort were impressive as the remnants of an atmospheric river moved over our area starting Tuesday night. Two day totals are up to 18” at mid-mountain after 7” was reported this morning and 23” up top after 10” was reported this morning, and light snow is still falling on the hill.

We should see a break in the snowfall tonight before snows restart on Friday as another atmospheric river, currently approaching the West Coast, moves overhead later Friday. Snows should increase in intensity by Friday afternoon and reach rates exceeding an inch per hour at times from Friday night into New Years Eve, making travel difficult at best over Rabbit Ears Pass.

We could see 6-12” of snow by the Saturday morning ski report at mid-mountain and that again by Sunday morning with most of the snow on the Sunday report falling during the last day of 2022. Unfortunately, temperatures will also rise as the warmer air associated with the tropically-sourced atmospheric river moves overhead, with temperatures up top starting under 10 F on Friday morning and rising to around 20 F on Saturday morning and 25 F by the afternoon. This may hamper late night New Years Eve plans for some as I expect a lot of tired people in town after the round of relatively dense snowfall during the day!

Earlier iterations of the weather forecast models had snow continuing on Sunday ahead of another significant storm for Monday that will also be driven by the remnants of another atmospheric river. This storm, however, is forecast to mix with some cold air from a massive low pressure area spanning the northern Pacific ocean and intensify as it crosses the West Coast on New Years Eve and enters the Great Basin later on New Years Day. There is disagreement on the eventual strength and track of the storm, and we may see a break in the snowfall later on New Years Day, or not.

But the weather forecast models agree that another significant storm is likely on Monday, with snowfall amounts dependent upon the eventual strength and track of the storm. Have a safe and happy New Years weekend, and I’ll be back Sunday afternoon with more details on the Monday storm in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative.

Snowfall continues with a short break around Tuesday

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Temperatures are around thirty degrees under cloudy skies this noon on Christmas Day in the Steamboat Springs area. Snow showers will continue through Monday, especially at the higher elevations, before the precipitation briefly stops from Monday night into Tuesday afternoon. The sun may may make a brief appearance for the first half of Tuesday before another significant storm cycle begins Tuesday night and lasts through Thursday.

A large and complex area of low pressure is currently extending southward from the Gulf of Alaska toward Hawaii and westward toward the Kamchatka Peninsula. Additionally, a very moist ribbon of air from the tropics and subtropics, called an atmospheric river, is being carried toward the West Coast along the southern periphery of the low pressure area.

A shallow ridge of high pressure ahead of the low pressure area has built over the West Coast, and waves of Pacific energy traveling down the east side of the ridge have brought the small amounts of snowfall to our area since Friday. The last wave is timed to traverse the area tonight, with the best chance of accumulating snowfall occurring in the few-degrees-cooler air behind the wave. I would expect 1-4” of snowfall to be reported on the Monday morning mid-mountain ski report.

I will note that I experienced some freezing precipitation yesterday afternoon near the top of the hill as the relatively shallow moist layer and warming atmosphere ahead of the ridge of high pressure conspired to keep snowflakes from forming. This left liquid cloud drops with temperatures below freezing, or super-cooled water, to instantly freeze on any surface it contacted, like goggles, trees and the snow surface. While we may still see some of that this afternoon, likely mixed in with some snow, it should change to all snow tonight as a weak cool front is dragged through our area by the passing wave.

In any event, snowfall should briefly end from Monday night through most of Tuesday as the ridge of high pressure is pushed eastward and over our area by the incoming Pacific storm, with even some sunshine possible Tuesday morning. But the break in snowfall will be brief as the low pressure system begins to move over our area in pieces through the work week and next weekend.

The storm will start warm, with even some rain possible in town Tuesday afternoon and night, so snow densities will be high on the mountain, and we could see 2-5” of relatively heavy dense snow by the Wednesday morning ski report. One piece of the low pressure area over the Pacific is forecast to move overhead later Wednesday, and the cooler air associated with that wave should allow for 4-8” of somewhat less dense snowfall in favorable northwest flow by the Thursday morning report.

Snowfall is forecast to taper off on Thursday with an additional 1-4”, but unfortunately before the coldest air of the storm arrives on Thursday night. It’s not very cold, but we could see the mountain-top high temperatures drop from the high twenties on Wednesday into the teens by Friday.

Another brief break in snowfall is expected from Thursday night into Friday before additional waves  of energy and moisture ejecting out of the the still-evolving Pacific low pressure area are forecast to continue snowfall into and possibly through New Years weekend. Be sure to check back Thursday afternoon when I’ll have more details about that in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative.

Warming temperatures with a chance for more snow this weekend

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The frigid temperatures today in the Steamboat Springs area have reached 3 F in town and -10 F near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort this Thursday mid-afternoon under sunny skies. After a bitterly cold Friday morning at all elevations, temperatures will warm through the Christmas weekend and the beginning of the following week as the arctic air vacates our area and follows the departing storm eastward across the country. Despite the warming, we will see chances for light snow from Friday night into possibly Monday.

Though the cold air did not disappoint with this arctic outbreak, snowfall ended up being on the light side with only four inches recorded at mid-mountain and up top for the morning ski report, in addition to the 3” at mid-mountain and 4” up top reported Wednesday morning.

The narrow ridge of high pressure currently extending from the eastern Pacific across Alaska and into the Arctic Circle, which directed the arctic air southward over our area last night, is in the process of being undercut by Pacific energy. This will not only direct the arctic air eastward to torment the rest of the country, but will also allow for warming temperatures for our area through the beginning of next week.

Between the departing storm and a huge area of low pressure currently centered over the Aleutian Islands, a ridge of high pressure tries to build over the West, though energy and moisture ejecting out of the Aleutian storm will travel through the ridge from later Friday into Monday. Ahead of snow showers starting as early as Friday afternoon or evening, look for a brutally cold night tonight, with low temperatures up top similar to this morning and temperatures in town in the minus teens, and colder than that in the favored low lying areas, especially if clear skies stick around overnight.

But these cold temperatures will quickly moderate on Friday, with high temperatures in the teens in town, which is still around ten degrees below our average of 27 F, and near 10 F up top as the ridge of high pressure approaches our area. But at least three waves of energy will move through the ridge and cross our area in the northwest flow ahead of the ridge between later Friday and Christmas Day, with weather forecast models disagreeing on the strength, moisture content and proximity of all three of these waves.

Generally light snowfall of 1-4” might be expected from any of them between Friday night and Sunday night, with the best snowfall likely during the day Saturday. The moisture embedded in the favorable northwest flow only slowly erodes after Christmas Day, with continued snow showers into Monday and the best chance for clearer skies from later Monday through Tuesday morning.

But the snows are expected to return by midweek, perhaps in a big way, as a chunk of that Aleutian storm is dislodged and finds its way over our area. So enjoy the wintry Christmas weekend, and I’ll be back with more details on the midweek storm in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

Storms for midweek and Christmas weekend

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Temperatures have warmed into the mid-single digits this Sunday mid-morning in the Steamboat Springs area under bluebird skies. Sunny skies today and Monday with continued brisk temperatures will give way to increasing clouds and light snow showers on Tuesday and Tuesday night. Another arctic front follows later Wednesday with significant accumulations expected by Thursday morning along with bitterly cold temperatures. A short break to end the work week will be followed by another round of snows starting later Friday and lasting into Christmas Eve.

My weather station near the base of the Steamboat Ski Resort recorded an astonishing -18 F around 8:30 am to start this Sunday, while the temperature near the top of the resort at the Storm Peak Lab was a more reasonable 6 F. Clear skies, fresh snow and light winds allowed the cold air to pool in the Yampa Valley, forming a temperature inversion where the temperature increases with elevation, a relatively common occurrence in high mountain valleys, especially after winter storms.

Temperatures in town will likely stay several degrees below our average high of 27 F despite the sunny skies today and Monday as the low sun angle around the winter solstice, which occurs at 2:47 pm on Wednesday, December 21, conspires with a highly reflective snow surface to limit daytime heating.

After another cold below zero morning on a mostly sunny Monday, increasing clouds Monday night ahead of our next storm system may bring some flurries and keep overnight lows much warmer than the past two days, likely above our average of 4 F, as the clouds insulate the surface like a blanket.

This next storm is currently rounding a sharp ridge of high pressure extending from the east-central Pacific through the Bering Sea and past the Arctic Circle. Bitterly cold air from western Canada will mix with the storm as it travels southward along the eastern side of the ridge of high pressure. Light snow showers in advance of the storm should start later Tuesday and last into Wednesday, bringing 1-4” of snow to mid-mountain for the Wednesday morning ski report.

By later Wednesday, the arctic front associated with the storm will be on our doorstep along with increasing winds, with moderate to heavy snowfall forecast into Thursday morning along with difficult travel over Rabbit Ears Pass at times. There is some weather forecast model uncertainty with respect to how cold and how much snow we may see, though I am inclined to side with the colder and snowier model solutions and would expect 6-12” of light and dry powder along with high temperatures at the top of the hill below zero, and near zero in town.

We should see a break in the snowfall by Thursday afternoon and into Friday ahead of our next storm currently timed for later Friday into Christmas Eve day. Early indications are that this storm may also be significant and will be accompanied by warmer temperatures as Pacific energy undercuts the Bering Sea ridge of high pressure and severs or at least partially interrupts the arctic tap of cold air.

There is additional weather forecast model uncertainty around the weekend storm, but I’ll have more details about that in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

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24 March 2018

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