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Light snow on Wednesday followed by Christmas storm

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Steamboat Springs area will see some warming on Tuesday that will be most pronounced at higher elevations as a temperature inversion at the lower elevations (where temperatures increase rather than decrease with height) keeps the valley cool. An unimpressive wave in fast westerly flow traverses the northern Rockies by Wednesday and drags the southern end of a cool front through northern Colorado around Wednesday morning. I expect there will be some snow, though amounts will likely be less than an inch or two through the day.

The sun will return for Thursday before an intensifying storm moving through the Gulf of Alaska forces a closed low currently west of Baja eastward, with forecasts keeping the storm track south of Colorado and bringing precipitation to Arizona and New Mexico Thursday and Friday.

The moisture from the southern storm is forecast to stay mostly south of our area on Friday for another mostly sunny day before windy southwesterly flow ahead of the incoming Gulf of Alaska storm drags some lingering high-level moisture from the old Baja storm northeastward, bringing clouds and noticeably warmer temperatures by later Friday and Saturday.

There is uncertainty with the timing, but according to the faster American GFS, the Gulf of Alaska storm makes landfall around California late Friday and crosses the Great Basin early Saturday,  bringing a strong cold front with rapidly falling temperatures through Colorado around Christmas Eve. Though details are likely to change this week, it looks like a 6-12” of snow may fall by the Christmas Day morning report, with additional lighter accumulations during Sunday in the cold, moist and unstable northwest flow behind the storm.

Snow showers may linger for the rest of Christmas Day night before ending on Monday, followed by drying and warming that will last through Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

Significant storm on track with precipitation starting tonight

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Warm air ahead of a large Gulf of Alaska storm will further increase temperatures in the Steamboat Springs area through Friday morning or afternoon. Some energy is currently being ejected from the storm in still warm west-southwest flow and will carry copious Pacific moisture and wind, beginning moderate to sometimes heavy precipitation by Thursday evening, with a rain or a rain/snow mix likely below 8000′.

The Steamboat ski area does not usually fair well with windy conditions predominantly from the west as the wind blows directly up many ski slopes, and the 3-6” that falls by Friday morning will be heavy and possibly wind affected.

But a large mass of arctic air moving southward from western Canada phases with the main part of the Gulf of Alaska storm, with both moving over our area later Friday. The arctic front from Canada is expected through the region later on Friday (though timing at this point is uncertain), changing rain to snow in the valley and increasing snowfall rates even further on Mt. Werner as the snow becomes lighter and fluffier and travel becomes difficult or impossible for a time.

Snows will quickly moderate behind the front late Friday night in very cold air, with snow showers persisting through Saturday morning before ending by Saturday afternoon with highs in the single digits. Snow accumulations on the hill are likely to be impressive by Saturday morning with an additional 8-16” possible on the morning report, making for outstanding skiing as the light fluffy snow from the end of the storm overlays the heavier denser snow from earlier in the storm.

Cold and dry temperatures will occur through the rest of the weekend with moderating temperatures into the midweek, with the American GFS bringing sun to the area for the first part of the work week.

There is disagreement as to the next storm, with the American GFS phasing some leftover energy from the big storm off the southern California coast with another storm from the Gulf of Alaska by Thursday. The European ECMWF does not phase these systems, but waits for the next wave and brings the storm across our area over the next weekend. The American GFS has this wave moving across our area over the weekend as well, just without the leftover energy that may bring some precipitation to our area around Thursday.

Small storm later Wednesday and another monster for Friday

Monday, December 12, 2016

While a storm in the Gulf of Alaska spins in place early this week, some energy moving around the west side of a large eastward moving vortex in south central Canada will keep light snow showers over the Steamboat Springs area overnight.

Tuesday should be precipitation-free before the Gulf of Alaska storm begins moving towards the West Coast. Some energy ejecting from the storm will bring a warm front through the Intermountain West on Wednesday, beginning snow showers by Wednesday afternoon and continuing overnight. The last forecast wrongly minimized the snow amounts from this type of event, and with that in mind I expect 4-8” of dense snowfall by the Thursday morning report.

Temperatures will continue to warm on Thursday as the Gulf of Alaska storm approaches the West Coast, with a large piece of energy crossing central California on Thursday followed by the main storm on Friday. This first piece of energy will carry a lot of Pacific moisture and wind, and begin moderate to sometimes heavy precipitation by Thursday night, with a rain/snow mix possible at the lower elevations.

Concurrently, a large mass of arctic air once again makes its way south across western Canada and partially phases with the main part of the Gulf of Alaska storm, eventually beginning another battle between the airmasses from the Pacific and arctic. The arctic front is expected through the region later on Friday (though timing at this point is uncertain) increasing snowfall rates even further as the snow becomes lighter and fluffier and travel becomes difficult or impossible for a time,  before snows end on Saturday.

There are a lot of moving pieces that will likely change in future forecasts, but I expect another round of very significant accumulations possible by Saturday morning, followed by dry and cold temperatures through the rest of the weekend and lasting into early next week.

Incoming Pacific jet stream to battle the arctic airmass

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The arctic airmass currently entrenched over most of the US will be pushed eastward on Friday as a moist Pacific jet stream slams into the West Coast.

A persistent ridge over the Bering Sea is largely responsible for our current and future weather.  Very cold air from Siberia has been shunted over the North Pole by the ridge, bringing the sub-zero temperatures observed this week. Additionally, a moist Pacific jet stream has undercut the Bering Sea ridge and is currently bringing precipitation to the northern half of the West Coast. A battle will ensue between the warm Pacific jet and frigid arctic airmass, with temperatures first warming aloft tonight before the warming makes it’s way to the lower elevations on Friday.

This is a difficult short-term forecast since there will be a lot of moisture around, but Steamboat Springs usually does not do so well when there is warming aloft. In fact, we had our notorious freezing rain event around this time two years ago that also involved warming aloft, and I can’t discount the possibility that there may be some of that again. However, it is relatively rare so I won’t include it in the forecast, but I do expect that snow amounts will be tempered from tonight through Saturday morning while this is occurring. I would expect 2-4” overnight with another 1-3” during the day Friday.

Snow on the mountain and a possible rain-snow mix in the valley will taper off during the day Friday but likely not completely stop before they pick up again by Saturday afternoon as an embedded cool wave in the west-northwest flow moves over northern Colorado by Saturday night.

Snowfall will become moderate to heavy by midnight and continue through the morning hours before substantially decreasing by later in the day and overnight. I would expect 6-12” by the Sunday morning report with another 3-6” during the day, likely making travel conditions quite difficult or even impossible for a time.

Meanwhile, another wave traveling down the east side of the Bering Sea ridge will send more cold air south and west Sunday night, though the still strong Pacific jet stream will keep the coldest air to our north and eventually east. While the westward moving air will invigorate another storm in the Gulf of Alaska, the re-introduction of the relatively dry arctic airmass over our area will keep lighter snow showers off and on from Monday through Wednesday.

There are a lot of moving pieces that will likely change in future forecasts, but by Wednesday night, a piece of the Gulf of Alaska storm is forecast to be carried over our area by the Pacific jet stream and could make Thursday a snowy day with possibly significant accumulations as another round in the battle of the airmasses begins.

 

 

 

Big Blue visits this week before our snow machine cranks up

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cold air sourced from the North Pole, euphemistically referred to as Big Blue, will invade our area over the next few days making Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning the coldest days of the season so far. A wave in northwest flow is currently crossing the Pacific Northwest coast and will bring bitter cold, wind and some moisture to begin snow again starting Tuesday afternoon and lasting through some of the day Wednesday. Even though the moisture content of the air is modest due to the cold temperatures, 4-8” of very light fluffy snow may be reported on the Wednesday morning mid-mountain ski report.

But temperature may reach as low as the minus teens for Wednesday and Thursday mornings with highs in the single digits for Wednesday.  The light snows will end by Wednesday afternoon after another inch or two possible, with peaks of sun in the valley making it feel slightly less cold.

A transient flat ridge follows for Thursday and Friday, bringing welcomed warming and enough wind to scour out the valley inversions and bring temperatures back closer to normal.  Though there will be sun during the first part of the day Thursday, there will be enough moisture embedded in the brisk northwest flow to bring the threat of light snow showers back to the region later Thursday.

Hard to define and time waves in a proximate jet stream oriented west-northwest are forecast to pass around or north of the Steamboat Springs area for Friday and Saturday, bringing periods of moderate to heavy snowfall at times and likely leaving significant accumulations over the 2 days.

A break in snowfall is currently timed for Sunday before another grazing wave begins snowfall again by late in the day. In fact, current model simulations have the jet stream close enough to keep the threat of snowfall going for most of the following week. However, small variations in the location of the jet as well as the moisture contained within it make for a rather uncertain forecast with large variations in predicted snowfall likely until a model consensus emerges.

 

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