Snows possible through the weekend

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The partly cloudy skies over the Steamboat Springs area have turned cloudy with light snow showers observed around the Yampa Valley this Thursday noon. Snow showers will continue today and tonight before decreasing for Friday. But they pick up again on Saturday with the possibility of persistent and moderate to heavy snowfall by Saturday night and Sunday, though uncertainty is high. A short break is advertised for part of Monday before a colder storm may move through later in the day or Tuesday.

A large and powerful storm currently located in the southwest corner of the U.S. is forecast to slowly move across the Desert Southwest on Friday and eventually Colorado on Saturday and Sunday. The storm is large enough to draw moisture from the Gulf of Mexico northward over the next three days and provide the fuel for heavy to excessive snowfall over the Front Range by Saturday afternoon and overnight.

Ahead of the storm, though, we will continue to see periods of snow showers and sun during the day today, with the snow showers lingering into the night. Only 1-4” is expected for the Friday morning report.

As the storm crosses the Desert Southwest and southern Great Basin on Friday, some dry air looks to move over our area for a less showery day than today. Weather forecast models still disagree on how quickly the storm approaches our area, so we may see snow showers redevelop by Friday night, though accumulations by Saturday morning look quite light.

The storm is forecast to be near the Four Corners region around Saturday morning, and this is the time when the ingredients come together for heavy snowfall rates to inundate the Front Range and foothills. Travel will become difficult to impossible down there by Saturday afternoon and overnight, especially in the foothills.

For those lucky enough to live or already be in the mountains on Saturday, snow showers are forecast to increase during the day Saturday with winds from the east developing. While the Steamboat area usually sees dry and windy weather when easterly winds downslope off the Park Range to our east, strong storms can sometimes produce moderate to heavy snows over our area as moisture-rich air moves first over Continental Divide and then over the cold air near the surface that is associated with the storm.

The current forecast has this situation developing, with the snow showers later Saturday becoming moderate to heavy and more persistent by Saturday night and Sunday. There is a high boom or bust potential with this storm for our area, with a reasonable forecast of 4-8” by Sunday morning and an additional 3-6” during the day and overnight Sunday.

There will be a short break in the action on Monday before another colder storm that is currently over the Gulf of Alaska crosses the Pacific Northwest coast and moves by either later Monday, as forecast by the European ECMWF or Tuesday as forecast by the American GFS. The uncertainty is related to how much the storm splits and how much cold air from the Yukon mixes into the storm.

We have a lot of weather to get through before a more certain forecast emerges for the early work week storm, so look for more details in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon. This one may be several hours late depending on how the weekend storm storm affects our area on Sunday.

Springlike weather turns cooler and unsettled by midweek

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Temperatures are 36 F at the Bob Adams airport and 34 F at the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort late this sunny Sunday morning on their way toward fifty in town. More warm temperatures are forecast for the beginning of the work week before a pattern change turns our weather unsettled by Wednesday which persists into next weekend.

Southwest flow ahead of a large storm currently in the Gulf of Alaska has brought dry air, sunny skies and warm temperatures to the Steamboat Springs area this weekend. The storm is forecast to drop southward along the West Coast early in the work week after mixing with some cold air sourced from Baffin Bay west of Greenland.

Our temperatures will stay ten to fifteen degrees above our average of 39 F from today through Tuesday, with the sunny skies briefly interrupted during the first half of Monday as a weak and moisture-starved wave south of the Gulf of Alaska storm is quickly escorted past our area by brisk winds from the southwest.

Enjoy the beautiful springlike weather preview as a wave of energy and moisture is forecast to eject out of the southward-moving main storm and move over our area Tuesday night, beginning a stretch of cooler and unsettled weather with temperatures closer to average.

The leading wave is relatively weak with only light snow showers expected Tuesday night and Wednesday, with perhaps an inch reported Wednesday morning at mid-mountain and another several inches reported during the day.

The main storm is forecast to continue to move southward along the West Coast on Wednesday before turning inland and entering the Desert Southwest on Thursday. The weather forecast becomes more nebulous by the end of the work week as additional hard-to-time and hard-to-place waves of energy and moisture eject out of the main storm. There is loose weather forecast model agreement that we may pick up an additional several inches of snow around Thursday and Thursday night, but significant accumulations look unlikely.

Weather forecast model disagree about how fast the main storm traverses the Desert Southwest, with the American GFS quite a bit faster than the slower and more plodding European ECMWF. While additional minor accumulations of an inch or two are likely on Friday, our snowfall potential for the weekend will depend on how quickly the main storm moves across the Desert Southwest.

So we may see an additional inch or two over the weekend if the storm moves faster, or just cloudy and cool weather before a slower-moving storm brings that light snowfall to our area early in the following work week. And for those traveling to the Front Range late in the work week or during the weekend, it does look they will be in store for a significant precipitation event as easterly winds carry moisture-rich air first over the Eastern Plains incline and eventually over the foothills.

Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I’ll discuss the evolution of that Desert Southwest storm and another possible storm for our area during the next work week.

Warmer weather returns after Thursday storm

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A beautiful springlike day was over the Steamboat Springs area this Wednesday, with observed high temperatures of 43 F at the Bob Adams airport and 34 F atop Walton Peak. Infrastructure maintenance has briefly interrupted my access to the Storm Peak Lab observations, but nearby observations, like Walton Peak, Buffalo Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass are easily accessible through the Want other local weather? menu in the Current Weather box Want Other Local Weather? - Current weather box on the Snowalarm home page on the SnowAlarm home page, as shown in the image to the right.

I’m posting this late in the day Wednesday, a day earlier than usual, since the storm I thought would stay to our south will be close enough to write about as we will see some good snowfall during the day Thursday. Springlike weather returns for Friday and hangs around through at least part of Monday, though it may be briefly interrupted by some cooler air and clouds on Sunday.

An eddy that was left behind by storm that approached the West Coast on Monday has just crossed the California - Baja coast as it it makes it way across the southern Great Basin tonight and Colorado on Thursday. The storm is warm and wet thanks to its vacation off the Baja coast and is forecast to bring precipitation to all of Colorado. While lower elevations around the state will likely see rain or a rain-snow mix, we should see an all-snow event with showers beginning Thursday morning, likely after the morning report. Snowfall rates should quickly pick up in the morning and continue through the day, reaching around 1”/hour or more at times as the storm center passes just to our south.

Short-term weather forecast models have the highest snowfall rates from about 8 am through late afternoon or early evening, and we could see 4-8” of relatively dense snowfall at mid-mountain that becomes a bit less dense later in the day as cooler air within and behind the storm passes through, with a bit more up top.

Though moisture may linger early on Friday, weather forecasts have sun returning during the day and temperatures warming to around five degrees above our average of 38 F. More sun and even warmer temperatures, possibly in the low-fifties, are on tap for Saturday before we see a slight cool-down toward average on Sunday as a storm looks to graze our area to the north. There is still some forecast uncertainty with respect to the southern extent of the storm, with the European ECMWF still insisting on a a closer storm that will bring more cooling and perhaps even some light snow early in the day.

A series of Pacific storms then take aim on the West and bring an extended period of unsettled weather that begins around Tuesday or Wednesday, with some storms possibly being significant. Ahead of that pattern change, a ridge of high pressure in advance of the first storm will bring another beautiful springlike day on Monday with more sunny skies and temperatures once again in the lower fifties.

I plan on posting my next weather narrative during its regularly scheduled time slot on Sunday afternoon. Enjoy the snowfall tomorrow and the following springlike weather ahead of what looks to be a stormy March.

Warming temperatures and dry until possible storm for the end of the work week

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Snow showers on this cold Sunday morning have given way to patches of blue sky by noon in Steamboat Springs. Skies will continue to clear through the day as dry weather invades our area and lasts through most of the work week. While Monday and Tuesday mornings will start cold, afternoon temperatures will dramatically rise ahead of a possible warm and moist storm that may be near our area near the end of the work week, though precipitation will likely be minimal at best.

We are closing out a snowy and cold February with 9” of snowfall reported at both mid-mountain and the top of the Steamboat Ski Area this morning, almost all of which fell between 7 am and 9 am Saturday morning. The forecast from Thursday called for sometimes heavy snowfall after midnight on Friday, though the heaviest snowfall ended up falling just after report time as a storm cell produced 3.5”/hour snowfall rates for 2 hours! This reminds me of the much larger and very localized President’s Day storm in 2012 where a record-breaking 27” accumulated at mid-mountain during a 24-hour period thanks to two separate storm cells overnight that each produced 6”/hour snowfall rates for two hours!

Currently, we are in the grips of the arctic air mass behind the departing storm, though temperatures at the top of Mt. Werner have already warmed to 10 F, substantially above the high temperature of 3.5 F yesterday afternoon. We’ll stay about ten degrees below our average of 36 F in town today before a ridge of high pressure ahead of a storm currently just off the West Coast moves overhead for sunny skies and dramatically warming afternoon temperatures during most of the work week. However, expect chilly mornings for a couple of days as the new snow, clearing skies and light winds allow temperatures to plummet to well-below zero tonight and closer to zero tomorrow night.

Plenty of sunshine will allow afternoon temperatures to recover to near average on Monday and five to ten degrees above average for Tuesday through Thursday as the weather begins to feel springlike.

Concurrently, that storm off the West Coast is forecast to split tomorrow with the northern part racing across the northern Rockies and the southern part forming an eddy that vacations off the northern Baja coast for a few days before eventually being forced eastward across the Desert Southwest on Thursday by another incoming Pacific storm. Eventually by later Thursday, that warm eddy may be close enough to our area to bring increasing clouds and a chance of precipitation, though currently it looks like the bulk of the storm will stay south of our area.

The warming is forecast to resume for later Friday and Saturday as the next ridge of high pressure moves overhead, with temperatures approaching the fifty degree mark under sunny skies. There is a fair bit of weather forecast model disagreement for later in the weekend as the European ECMWF splits that next Pacific storm and brings the southern piece across our area while the American GFS has the storm deflected to our north by a more resilient ridge of high pressure.

Enjoy the upcoming springlike weather, and I’ll discuss the possible Thursday storm as well as the weather for next weekend in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon.

Modest storm for the weekend

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Skies are clearing in Steamboat Springs this Thursday noon after 2” was reported at mid-mountain by the Steamboat Ski Area this morning and 3” up top. After a mostly sunny afternoon, clouds increase overnight and snow showers begin on a windy Friday and become heaviest overnight before tapering off late Saturday. A cold and dry Sunday and Monday morning will yield to warming temperatures into Tuesday. Another storm is forecast sometime after that, though it is unclear if it will be earlier or later in the work week.

A storm currently moving through the Gulf of Alaska is mixing with a reservoir of cold air stretched between Greenland and Alaska and is bringing precipitation to the Pacific Northwest. The storm is comprised of a windy and dry leading wave that will pass through our area Friday morning, followed by snow showers developing during the windy day ahead of the main storm which is forecast to split as it moves through the Great Basin later Saturday.

Before this split, however, enough of the storm will move through our area to produce moderate to even briefly heavy snowfall after midnight on Friday in the favorable and less windy flow from the northwest. Between some of the snow that will fall during the day Friday and most of the snow that will fall Friday night, we could see 4-8” of snowfall at mid-mountain by Saturday morning, followed by an additional 1-4” during the day Saturday.

Weather forecast models disagree on exactly how the storm will split and whether the snow showers will hang on Saturday night or not, but there could be additional dry and fluffy accumulations Saturday night in the cold, unstable but drying air mass.

Sunday should be cold and dry, with another cold morning forecast for Monday. Ahead of the next storm crossing the Gulf of Alaska on Monday, a ridge of high pressure moves overhead for sunny weather and temperatures warming toward our average of 35 F on Monday, with even more warming forecast for Tuesday. It’s probably too early to call it springlike, but after such a cold and snowy February, March will be arriving like a lamb.

Weather model forecasts differ substantially by Tuesday afternoon as the American GFS splits the incoming storm along the West Coast while the European ECMWF keeps the storm in one piece. While I would guess some sort of compromise solution will eventually verify, we could see a modest storm begin as early as Tuesday night, or the nice weather might persist through midweek before the storm passes through around Thursday.

An even more pronounced ridge of high pressure is advertised to move overhead after the storm, and if the early week’s weather did not feel springlike, then the late-week weather certainly should. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll have the snow totals from this weekend as well as a better idea of the timing of the next storm.

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