Mild and unsettled weather to continue through the work week

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Temperatures are right around freezing this Sunday mid afternoon with occasional snow flurries. The clouds and mild temperatures will be with us through the work week thanks to a series of relatively warm and disorganized Pacific weather systems. While we may see flurries through this period, we should see some meager accumulations for the Monday, possibly Thursday, and Friday morning ski reports.

A mild Pacific jet stream extending from the Dateline across the West has displaced the arctic air mass that was over our area last week. Pieces of a storm currently over the Aleutian Islands will combine with the Pacific jet stream to bring several disorganized waves of energy and moisture over the West through the work week. While we may see flurries throughout the entire period, the best chance for some accumulating snowfall on the mid mountain ski report at the Steamboat Ski Resort will be Monday, possibly Thursday, and Friday mornings.

The first wave moving overhead now and a second one currently moving through southern Utah should keep very light snows over the mountain through Monday morning, leaving 1-4” for the morning mid mountain ski report.

Though there may be an occasional flurry, mostly dry weather under cloudy skies is likely for Tuesday and Wednesday. A third wave looks to take a more southern route through the Desert Southwest on Wednesday, with some trailing energy later Wednesday bringing weak winds from our favorable northwest direction, which may be enough to leave an inch or two for the Thursday morning report.

A fourth wave is then forecast to move more directly through our area between Thursday and Friday afternoons and will likely produce the best accumulations of the week, perhaps in the 3-6” range. But that is currently a tenuous forecast, and I hope to have more certainty by my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

And for those looking for a prolonged period of sunny weather, a ridge of high pressure is currently advertised to build over the West and bring those mostly sunny skies and warm temperatures starting around next weekend and continuing through the end of the month.

Unsettled weather takes a break before restarting on Sunday

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Temperatures are just above freezing under cloudy skies in Steamboat Springs this Thursday noon. After receiving eighty inches of snowfall at midmountain at the Steamboat Ski Resort in the last two weeks, the snows will stop through the first part of the weekend before chances for snow restart on Saturday night and continue into the following work week.

Snow Water Equivalent in the Yampa-White-Little Snake drainage basin as of 18 January 2024 as compared to averageOur last storm, which accumulated nine inches on the Thursday morning report at the Steamboat Ski Resort, has brought much warmer temperatures to our area as the arctic air mass was pushed to the east. Those eighty inches helped boost the snow water equivalent for the Yampa, White and Little Snake basin to right around average after 4.5” of water accumulated since January 4th, compared to an average accumulation of 2” during this period. The associated graph shows the current snow water equivalent in black, the median between 1991 and 2020 in yellow and the maximum and minimum measured since the 1985-1986 season.

An approaching ridge of high pressure will keep the snow away through Saturday, but there is a lot of moisture moving through the ridge which will keep clouds around through much of this period, with the best chance of seeing some sun on Saturday.

The ridge of high pressure will be kept moving eastward by a series of relatively mild storm storms moving through the central Pacific. These storms are forecast to move through the West and weaken in a rather disorganized pattern that will bring unsettled weather back to the forecast by Saturday night.

The storms are relatively warm compared to the just-departed arctic outbreak, and will bring chances for only modest snowfall accumulations. We could see 1-4” by the Sunday morning ski report at midmountain, with light snow for much of Sunday contributing another 2-5” by the Monday morning report. And temperatures will be quite mild compared to our recent cold, with high temperatures in the mid thirties in town, around five degrees above our average of 29 F, and mid twenties at the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort.

There should be additional chances for some accumulations at times during the next work week, but the weather forecast models are struggling with the speed and position of the incoming impulses of Pacific moisture and energy. So be sure to check back to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where some of those details should be clearer.

Frigid temperatures on Tuesday behind Monday snow and ahead of midweek snow

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Temperatures are in the low twenties this Sunday mid afternoon in Steamboat Springs as light snow showers continue. Snows should pick up again tonight and last through Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an arctic front sweeps through the area during the day. Frigid temperatures follow on Tuesday with lows in the negative teens at all elevations, though the appearance of the sun will help make a cold day feel warmer. The break in the weather will be brief as another storm similar to the one last night restarts snow showers on Wednesday that last into Thursday.

The overall weather pattern has changed little in the last week with ridges of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska and Greenland still sandwiching a deep and very cold vortex of air that extends across Canada and covers most of the United States. The strong temperature difference between the warm air in the Gulf of Alaska and bitterly cold air associated with the vortex has fueled a strong jet stream that brought high winds to our area starting on Friday.

And though wind speeds have decreased after Saturday morning, they are still strong with Storm Peak Lab near the top of the Steamboat recording winds of 28 mph gusting to 38 mph this afternoon. Unfortunately, as experienced by those who were in the snow today, these winds adversely affected the approximately 16” of snow that fell between last night and this noon.

These winds will also be here tonight as a lobe of energy and moisture rotates around the vortex of cold air, eventually bringing an arctic front through our area starting Monday morning. High temperatures of the day will likely occur at midnight tonight and fall through the day, and winds look to peak very early in the morning with speeds as high as 30 mph and gusts twice that.

These winds will start increasing this evening as snow showers restart thanks to the approaching arctic front, and become moderate to heavy at times overnight before tapering off during the day. Including the 4” that fell this morning after the ski report, expect between 8-16” of new snow on the Monday morning report, with another 2-5” during the day in which mountaintop temperatures fall from around ten degrees in the early morning to zero by noon and -10 F by 6 pm, on their way to around -15 F by Tuesday morning.

Those minus teens look to also be over the town as skies clear overnight, though the mostly sunny skies on Tuesday will make the chilly day feel warmer. The break in the weather will be short lived as a piece of a storm currently over the Aleutian Islands breaks under the ridge of high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska and incorporates some subtropical moisture in another atmospheric river event similar to the storm over our area last night.

The timing of the storm is still changing a bit, but right now snow showers are forecast to start during the day Wednesday, perhaps early in the day. Snowfall should peak Wednesday afternoon and overnight, leaving 8-16” by the Thursday morning report, with light snow showers tapering off in the morning.

A ridge of high pressure looks to move overhead for the end of the work week and the beginning of the weekend, though more unsettled weather is advertised for later in the weekend as the ridge keeps moving east. I’ll have more details about that in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon,

Snow and cold to continue through the weekend

Thursday, January 11, 2024

The sun has appeared briefly this Thursday mid afternoon in Steamboat Springs and takes the edge off the current temperatures in the mid teens, which are almost fifteen degrees below our average high of 29 F. Say goodbye to the sun until next Tuesday as four more waves of snow move overhead starting tonight and lasting into Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And very strong winds accompanying the second wave will make travel difficult to impossible at times from Friday morning through most of the night due to blowing snow.

A sharp ridge of high pressure still extends from Alaska to the North Pole while a deep and cold trough of low pressure just downstream spans from the North Pole across Canada and most of the U.S. Additionally, and what will lead to heavy snowfall rates from Saturday night through Sunday noon, a storm currently extends from the Aleutian Islands southward to Hawaii and has incorporated a stream of tropical and subtropical moisture in a so-called atmospheric river.

The low pressure area over most of North America is anchored by a vortex of bitterly cold air over the Northwest Territories of Canada that currently contains surface temperatures around -40 F, which incidentally is also the same in Celsius. This bitterly cold air is on the move as energy spins counterclockwise around the vortex and drags a chunk of that cold air toward our area by Friday night.

The jet stream ahead of that cold air, which is quite strong thanks to the temperature difference between the West Coast and northern Rockies, is forecast to bring very strong winds overhead from the west and hopefully the northwest on Friday, peaking around noon with sustained mountain top winds as high as 40 mph and gusts nearly twice that.

Ahead of that, snowfall should redevelop tonight with the first wave, and including the several inches that fell this morning we should see a 4-8” mid mountain report on Friday morning. Increasing winds through the morning could create a problem for lift operations at the Steamboat Ski Resort as the afternoon approaches. Travel will also be problematic thanks to blowing snow, becoming difficult to impossible at times over Rabbit Ears Pass from late morning Friday through most of the night.

The cold front associated with the second wave should move through later Friday accompanied by moderate to heavy snow. Another 5-10” is possible for the Saturday morning report at mid mountain, with snow quality likely suffering thanks to the overnight winds. Snows will continue through the day with 2-5” expected.

But the main event begins later Saturday as the southern part of that Aleutian storm breaks away and moves underneath the Alaskan ridge of high pressure on Friday night. This storm and the associated atmospheric river should lead to consistently high snowfall rates starting Saturday night and continuing through Sunday morning, with an 8-16” Sunday morning report and another 4-8” falling during the day.

But more energy rotating around the Northwest Territories in the fourth wave will combine with the tail end of the Aleutian storm later Sunday and the associated leftover moisture to create another period of moderate to heavy snowfall that will last through most of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We could wake up to another 8-16” on Monday morning with more snow falling during the day.

There are a lot of moving pieces which are meteorologically interesting, but the main message is a long duration winter storm that starts tonight and lasts through the weekend. Total accumulations should be in the 10-20” range in town and twice that at the Steamboat Ski Resort, with hazardous travel on Friday. We will be right on the edge of the coldest air as the jet stream overlays a somewhat stationary front extending from northern Nevada across northern Utah and northern Colorado, and though we may see some relative warming as distinct waves of energy approach, cold temperatures will be the general rule.

In fact, the coldest temperatures are forecast for Tuesday in the wake of this event if skies clear, with low temperatures below zero, and likely well below. Enjoy what should be a monster weekend of snow, the wind on Friday notwithstanding, and I’ll be back with a refined snowfall guess for Monday morning in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

More snow and cold on the way

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Temperatures are approaching twenty degrees under partly sunny skies in Steamboat Springs early this Sunday afternoon after over thirty inches of snow fell near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort between Friday and Saturday afternoons. The unsettled weather pattern that brought this snow looks to continue through at least next weekend with frequent chances for snow and cold.

A sharp ridge of high pressure currently extends from Alaska to the North Pole while a deep and cold trough of low pressure just downstream spans from the North Pole across Canada and most of the U.S. A storm that was over the Pacific Northwest yesterday is forecast to enlarge and travel south into the Great Basin before moving over the Four Corners tonight. Due to the southern track of the storm, the best snows will be limited to our southern neighbors, but snow showers will be possible this afternoon and evening as they move overhead from the southwest.

But the storm is forecast to form an eddy that will turn our winds to be from the east tonight, and an easterly wind usually dooms our precipitation as the air mass dries as it downslopes off the Park Range. Forecast snow amounts are currently unimpressive with 1-4” possible by the Monday morning report.

As the eddy moves to the east, our winds turn to be from the north around Monday afternoon which keeps the cold air over our area. Snow showers leaving minor accumulations should restart with high temperatures in town relegated to around twenty degrees, almost ten degrees below our average of 29 F.

Meanwhile, a storm currently located over the Aleutian Islands is forecast to eject a couple of waves of energy and moisture on Monday that will undercut the ridge of high pressure. These waves are forecast to eventually move over the entrenched arctic air mass in our area on Wednesday and Thursday and bring the chances for moderate to even heavy snowfall along with stout winds first from the northwest and then the west.

But winds from the northwest are the most favorable for Steamboat as the air is lifted up the slopes of the Park Range. So expect snow showers to become moderate to even heavy at times as each wave approaches the area and moves overhead, with 4-8” forecast for both Wednesday and Thursday mornings at mid mountain. And while westerly winds also create beneficial upslope up the Park Range, the ski area faces mostly west and is more exposed to those winds.

Weather forecast models are struggling with the position of the arctic air mass to our north after midweek. It is not yet clear how cold and snowy the weekend will be, but it does look like there will be at least some snow and cold, maybe a lot. So be sure to check back to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I’ll have more details on the weather for the weekend.

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11 April 2018

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