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Cold persists through midweek behind wintry storm

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The current wintry storm arrived early Sunday morning as advertised, and I measured almost 8” on my deck by 2:30 pm this Sunday afternoon. Along with the snow, temperatures are currently in the low-teens, with little hope of warming until Monday afternoon when the storm ends and the sun returns. Bitterly cold morning temperatures likely below zero will start the week on Monday and Tuesday before temperatures moderate by Wednesday and warm further for the rest of the work week under dry skies.

The current amplified jet stream pattern highlights a ridge of high pressure off the West Coast and a deep and cold storm over the Great Basin and central Rocky Mountain states. We may see another few hours of enhanced snowfall heading toward sunset today, but snows should become lighter through the night before tapering off on Monday morning with another several inches falling.

Very cold low temperatures, likely below zero will occur tomorrow morning, and after the snowfall ends during the morning we should see periods of sunshine in the afternoon as the storm sinks into the Desert Southwest. But the new snow and cold air mass will limit the warming and keep highs below freezing.

As cold as Monday morning will be, if the skies clear Monday night as expected, Tuesday morning could be even colder. But we’ll see sun during the day, so the high temperature should rise to above freezing when combined with the warming air mass behind the departing storm.

A Pacific storm currently over the Bering Sea will partially flatten and move the ridge of high pressure off the West Coast eastward through the upcoming week, passing over the Rocky Mountains around Friday. Expect plenty of sun and gradually warming temperatures through the work week, with highs finally returning towards our average of 54 F on Friday.

But the ridge of high pressure keeps moving eastward, and a dry wave will pass through our area sometime during next weekend, with only a slight cool down expected. Warming temperatures and more sun should follow heading into the following work week, with a weak storm possibly bringing a chance of precipitation back to our area around midweek. I’ll know more about the possible cool front this coming weekend by my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Weather turns wintry on Sunday

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Steamboat Springs area is seeing brilliant sunny skies and steady temperatures in the mid-fifties late this Thursday afternoon. The dry cool front currently passing through our area will knock temperatures back a bit for Friday before they recover on Saturday. But enjoy the next two nice days as a winter-like storm is forecast to bring snow to all elevations on Sunday. While total accumulations are still uncertain, the cold air associated with the storm is not, with Sunday and Monday the coldest days of the upcoming week, and low temperatures on both Monday and Tuesday in the single digits.

The dry cool front moving through northern Colorado has battled the usual afternoon warming, leaving temperatures nearly steady in the mid-fifties. While there was once some light snow showers forecast for the higher elevations of north-central Colorado tonight, current weather forecast models now keep most of that in Wyoming.

Temperatures will warm under mostly sunny skies behind the front on Friday, though high temperatures look to remain five or so degrees below our average of 56 F. Ahead of the winter-like storm forecast for Sunday, we may see high temperatures closer to or a bit above average on Saturday, with increasing cloudiness and breezy to windy westerly winds; not a good forecast for the wildfires around the state. For us at least, the westerly winds should keep the closest Middle Fork fire and its smoke away from town.

Meanwhile, a storm currently off the Yukon coast will mix with some very cold air from around the North Pole and form a potent winter-like storm that is forecast to clip British Columbia on Friday and cross the Pacific Northwest on Saturday. An additional wave of energy will join the storm as it crosses the Great Basin later Saturday, causing the storm to split by Sunday morning even as light precipitation begins over our area as soon as Saturday night.

Any liquid precipitation overnight at the lower elevations will quickly turn to snow as the strong cold front moves through early Sunday morning. Light to moderate snowfall rates in town and moderate to heavy snowfall rates at pass level and above will make for difficult driving conditions during Sunday, especially with the rapidly falling temperatures. Travel should best be completed by Saturday night or postponed until Monday to avoid the worst of the storm.

The splitting storm creates uncertainty for the snowfall forecast from later Sunday and through Monday. Weather forecast models hint at an eddy forming over the Desert Southwest or Four Corners region, and whether and where it forms and how quickly it moves will affect our snowfall. Currently, my best guess is 4-8” in town and 8-16” at the higher elevations from the storm, and while snowfall looks to become more showery by Sunday night, it is not clear if the showers continue into Monday or the sun appears during the day. But what is clear are the very cold, possibly single digit low temperatures for Monday and Tuesday that are ten to twenty degrees below our average low of 25 F. Monday will likely be the coldest day of the week with temperatures struggling to rise much above freezing, though they will rise on Tuesday to around a more respectable 40 F.

While the evolution of the storm after Tuesday is very much up for debate, it likely won’t matter for our area as a flat ridge of high pressure is forecast to build behind the storm and bring warming temperatures by midweek. The warming trend may be interrupted on Thursday by a grazing storm to our northeast, but should return for Friday. Longer-range models do have another storm around next weekend, which at this point looks much drier and quicker-moving than this Sunday’s storm.

Stay tuned for my next weather forecast narrative on Sunday afternoon for the latest on this winter-like storm. which I hope to be writing as the snow is falling.

Precipitation chances finally appear near the end of the work week

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Similar to yesterday, the Steamboat Springs area is seeing temperatures in the mid-fifties under cloudy skies early this Sunday afternoon, with even a few drops of rain this morning. Breezy afternoons and warming temperatures will continue for most of the work week as we see more sun before some precipitation chances finally appear for the end of the work week. But the best news is a moderate winter-like storm is now possible for Sunday.

The weather pattern over North America is currently dominated by a strong vortex of cold air over Hudson Bay that extends southwestward into the central U.S. and a flat ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska. An active jet stream between the cold air to our northeast and the warm air to our southwest has been over or near our area this past week, and that looks to continue for most of the upcoming week.

As some warmer air is forecast to move overhead for the first half of the work week, we should see more sun than we have this weekend, though there may still be some clouds around as the driest air stays to our south. But look for temperatures to stay five to even fifteen degrees above our average high of 58 F, with Wednesday likely being the warmest and sunniest day of the week.

Meanwhile, a storm cut off from the jet stream near the dateline is forecast to merge with a strong eastward-moving storm currently over Japan by midweek and amplify the ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska. Pieces of energy ahead of and within this merged storm are forecast to travel over the ridge of high pressure and mix with the cold air over the Canadian Plains starting midweek.

While weather forecast models agree that these waves will produce a pattern change starting around Thursday, there is uncertainty with respect to their timing and strength and what eventually passes over our area. Right now, we have increasing chances of precipitation later on Thursday as the first storm passes mostly to our north. Precipitation amounts will likely be modest, but enhanced or diminished by the storm moving further south or north, respectively.

There may be another wave that brings precipitation to our area on Friday night, according to the American GFS, though the European ECMWF has that wave weaker and further south.

But there is agreement that a strong winter-like storm develops late in the work week as it slides down the North American west coast, and forecasts have this storm affecting our area as soon as later on Saturday. If current forecasts hold, this looks to be a snow event that should bring winter-like conditions to our area by Sunday morning.

The bulk of the snow looks to fall on Sunday, with the cold air staying put for Monday and possibly Tuesday as the precipitation becomes more showery. Considering the evolution of this mercurial storm in the past longer-range weather forecast models, I expect changes to the forecast as the event grows closer. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon for updates on our looming winter-like storm.

Breezy with mostly average temperatures this week

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Steamboat Springs area is seeing a sunny and brisk fall day with temperatures in the upper forties this Thursday afternoon. Temperatures will generally warm towards the mid-sixties as the winds remain stout for the upcoming week, except for several dry cold fronts that will bring below average temperatures for at least Sunday and Thursday.

The current weather pattern over North America is dominated by an expansive ridge of high pressure off the West Coast and a vortex of cold air centered near Hudson Bay and extending through the Midwest and Northeast. The cold air won’t be going anywhere for the upcoming week, and we will be susceptible to cold fronts from occasional waves of Pacific energy traveling over the West Coast ridge in northwest flow and mixing with the cold air from the Canadian Plains.

Until the first cold front arrives early on Sunday, we should see lots of sun and breezy northwest winds as the jet stream continues to move overhead. Temperatures should warm to five or so degrees above our average of 59 F for both Friday and Saturday.

Temperatures on Sunday will fall below average behind the front. There may be enough moisture for more clouds and some very light high-elevation showers, possibly before the front Saturday night and more likely later Sunday afternoon and overnight.

We’ll see some warming on Monday and cooling on Tuesday if the weakest cold front of the upcoming week grazes the area as currently forecast. And that pattern repeats starting on Wednesday as we should see warming temperatures again ahead of a stronger cold front advertised for Thursday.

A peek at the longer-range weather forecast models show a similar pattern through the following weekend, with some warming ahead of another likely dry cold front around mid-weekend. Earlier this week, the usually more-consistent European ECMWF had some sort of storm forecast in about a week, though that model has trended drier and weaker with that storm, similar to the American GFS. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon to see if there are any changes to our generally dry and breezy weather forecast.

Seasonable weather for the upcoming week

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Temperatures are currently around 40 F late this Sunday afternoon in Steamboat Springs, after dropping from 60 F at 9 am to freezing around noon thanks to a strong cold front that moved through. While the snowflakes that fell this morning did briefly coat the non-paved surfaces in town with snow that quickly melted this afternoon, current breaks in the clouds reveal a white top to Mt. Werner. There may be another round of showers as we head into the evening before we’ll see a cold start to Columbus Day. Temperatures will quickly warm tomorrow afternoon and remain seasonable, but breezy, through the upcoming week, with a cool down expected on Thursday as a dry cold front passes through later Wednesday.

The cold front this morning was impressive, especially for those unlucky enough to be caught unawares. After the possibility of another shower or two as we head into the evening, we’ll see a quite cold night with low temperatures around twenty. But temperatures will quickly warm toward our average of 61 F, even under breezy winds from the west or northwest.

In fact, the elevated winds from the northwest and west look to stick around for much of the upcoming week as an active jet stream takes up residence over most of the country. But temperatures will warm to the mid-sixties on Tuesday and stay that way for most of the upcoming week, except for Thursday when they will drop below average thanks to a quick-moving and dry cold front currently timed for later Wednesday.

While a ridge of high pressure tries to build just off the West Coast behind the cold front that will affect us on Wednesday, additional waves of Pacific energy traveling over the ridge and interacting with the cold air centered near Hudson Bay will keep the recent unseasonably warm temperatures away. And while weather forecast models disagree on the outcome of the battle between the nascent West Coast ridge and cold air from Hudson Bay, they agree that through next weekend, the weather is looking dry, breezy and seasonable. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon to see what weather we may expect after next weekend.

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7 July 2020

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