Snowy work week ahead

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Bluebird skies and warm temperatures in the upper thirties at the Bob Adams airport and upper twenties near the top of Mt. Werner are over the Steamboat Springs area this Sunday mid-afternoon. Soak up all the sun you can today as a large and complex storm forecast to develop over the western U.S. will bring winter weather back to our area starting on Washington’s Birthday and lasting through the work week.

Currently, an expansive ridge of high pressure sits over the Gulf of Alaska while a deep vortex of cold air remains anchored over Hudson Bay and extends westward across most of Canada. The storm of interest has already traveled over the top of the ridge and is currently moving south along the Pacific Northwest coast. A large chunk of arctic air that is currently splitting away from the vortex over Hudson Bay is forecast to mix with the storm and move across the Great Basin on Monday even as the area of low pressure over the West is reinforced by additional Pacific energy traveling over the top of the ridge.

The end result is a complex storm system that includes several moving pieces, with small differences in timing or strength of these pieces possibly leading to large differences in snowfall, even though much colder weather with periods of snow are almost certain this work week.

With that disclaimer in mind, the latest forecast has the arctic front on our Wyoming doorstep by Monday morning with pieces of the leading storm moving over the arctic boundary to our north where moderate to sometimes heavy snowfall will be focused. Winds will be quite breezy from the southwest ahead of the front tonight into Monday, with the winds forecast to decrease as the arctic front passes around midnight on Monday.

Weather forecast models have generally slowed the front over the past few cycles as the storm to our west intensified, with snowfall now expected by Monday afternoon. The southward progress of the front may be stalled or even reversed later Monday depending upon the strength of the southwest winds ahead of the storm, so there is a possibility of the afternoon snow ending for a short time Monday evening before markedly increasing again after midnight.

Temperatures will plummet behind the front by early Tuesday morning, with low temperatures in the single digits below zero at all elevations and 6-12” of snow expected on the morning mid-mountain report at the Steamboat Ski Resort. Snowfall rates should markedly decrease on Tuesday as the leading storm passes and the area of low pressure to our west is reinvigorated by another wave of Pacific energy that will take the same path as the first into the Great Basin.

Energy is forecast to eject out of the new Great Basin storm later Tuesday and Wednesday before it elongates to the south and passes over Colorado by Thursday morning. While the central and especially the southern mountains are forecast to see the greatest accumulations from this part of the storm, snowfall amounts over our area are more uncertain, with weather forecast models wavering on the northward extent of the snowfall. We could see another 6-12” of snowfall between Tuesday and Wednesday nights if the storm pieces align.

While snow is forecast to briefly end on Thursday, a final wave of Pacific energy is forecast to travel over the ridge of high pressure to our west and bring another round of snowfall on Friday. However, this storm will differ from the earlier week storms as the ridge of high pressure is forecast to move east by Thursday, directing the storm over our area from the northwest rather than the southwest. We often do quite well in this favorable northwest flow, but there is a lot of weather to get through between now and then. So stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon to see how this final storm in the series is looking.

Nice weekend ahead of stormy weather

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Temperatures of 25 F at the Bob Adams airport and 6 F near the top of Mt Werner are over the Steamboat Springs area this Thursday mid-afternoon. While the low elevations see some sun behind the storm yesterday, clouds dominate the upper reaches of the Steamboat Ski Resort. Temperatures will be warmer on Friday with some clouds and even some showers at the higher elevations and periods of sun in the valley. More warming and sunny skies are forecast for Saturday with a similarly warm Sunday marking the transition to a stormy weather pattern starting around George Washington’s Birthday.

The Steamboat Ski Area reported 9” at mid-mountain and 13” up top on the morning ski report, with all but 1” at mid and 5” up top occurring during a stormy Wednesday. There is still some moisture around behind the storm in the northwest flow that is funneled between a broad ridge of high pressure centered over the Gulf of Alaska and a trough of low pressure extending from a vortex of cold air centered over Hudson Bay southwestward to Baja, so our area will be susceptible to clouds and showers, especially at the higher elevations, for tonight and Friday.

A storm by the Dateline is forecast to briefly flatten the Gulf of Alaska ridge of high pressure and cross the Vancouver coast late in the weekend. Part of that ridge of high pressure will move overhead on Saturday and the beginning of Sunday ahead of the storm, bringing sunny skies and warmer temperatures, with high temperatures in the valley around 5 degrees above our average of 33 F.

But behind the transient ridge, the Vancouver storm is forecast to mix with a lobe of cold air spinning around the Hudson Bay vortex and move into the western Great Basin by Sunday night. The details are vague at this point, but the large and cold storm looks to be reinforced by waves of energy ejecting out of a developing storm currently off the coast of Japan. The end result is a possibly long lasting period of winter weather that is currently forecast to start around George Washington’s Birthday and last through at least some of the work week.

There are a lot of details that need to be ironed out by the various weather forecast models in the coming days, so stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll discuss the evolving storm and have some snowfall guesses.

Some snow likely midweek

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Temperatures have warmed into the mid-teens at the Bob Adams airport and 21 F near the top of Mt. Werner under bluebird skies this Sunday noon. Monday will be another gorgeous day while Tuesday will see increasing clouds and breezes ahead of a complex storm system that should be close enough to bring a good chance of light to possibly moderate snow on Wednesday. Snow may hang on for Thursday, or not, before the weather clears heading into the long Washington’s Birthday weekend.

Currently, a compact storm is located just off the coast of British Columbia while a much broader storm is located near the Dateline. The first storm is forecast to cross the Pacific Northwest coast on Monday and mix with some cold air over western Canada as it moves southward along the Seirra Nevada mountain range, and be quickly followed by some energy that had earlier been ejected from the Dateline storm.

So we have two storms that will interact to some degree, with both incorporating some cold air from western Canada. The amount of cold air mixed into each storm and their interaction will determine the precipitation chances over our area, with forecast uncertainty high due these factors.

Ahead of the storms, expect another beautiful day on Monday with high temperatures in town a bit above our average of 31 F. Tuesday will be another relatively warm day that should be mostly sunny with increasing clouds late in the day and increasing breezes first from the west and then the southwest as the first storm moves southeastward into southern Nevada.

The latest weather forecast model have trended lower with our snow amounts, but right now I would guess accumulating snow starts sometime around or before noon on Wednesday, when the bulk of the first storm passes south of our area, and Wednesday night when the bulk of the second storm passes first to our west and then our south. Total accumulations might be in the 3-6” range by the Thursday morning ski report, though they could less or more depending upon the eventual track of the two storms.

Warming and drying commences sometime on Thursday and continues into the start of the long Washington’s Birthday weekend. However, an unsettled weather pattern may begin around the end of the weekend or soon after as that large storm by the Dateline moves east and possibly vanquishes the persistent ridge of high pressure around the West Coast, opening the door to a much wetter pattern. Weather forecast models always struggle with large-scale pattern changes, and they are currently waffling around that scenario, so stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon to see if we can end the month with a snowy period.

Snow chances last through Friday night ahead of clearing and warming

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Temperatures are in the mid-thirties at the Bob Adams airport and around twenty degrees near the top of Mt. Werner under cloudy skies this Thursday afternoon in Steamboat Springs. A small weather system currently moving southward across Wyoming will increase the chances of some snow from this afternoon through Friday night under breezy conditions, though accumulations look unimpressive. Skies should turn mostly sunny on Saturday with seasonably cool temperatures, with continued sun and warming temperatures on Sunday that are forecast to last into the following work week. Our next chance for snowfall looks to wait until around midweek.

Our area is currently located between a persistent-since-early-January ridge of high pressure over the West Coast and a vortex of very cold air centered over Hudson Bay. Waves of Pacific energy have been topping the ridge and mixing to some degree with the cold and dry air from the vortex as they move over our area in northwest flow. The third wave this work week will pass through on Friday, and looks to be moister and further west than the last two waves that passed through on Tuesday and Wednesday.

However, accumulations between this afternoon and Saturday morning will be modest at best under breezy conditions, with 1-4” expected at mid-mountain, as there just is not a lot of moisture associated with the storm. There is enough cold air for the top of the hill to be near zero very early Saturday morning, though temperatures up top are quickly forecast to rebound into the low to mid teens by the afternoon as the western ridge of high pressure moves eastward towards our area and mostly sunny skies return.

More warming and sunny skies are expected on Sunday, with more of the same forecast for the beginning of the work week. Weather forecast models are currently tracking a couple of disturbances off the coast of Japan that look to bring a significant pattern change to our area around midweek, though the details are currently a bit vague. They should hopefully be in better focus by my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

Warming temperatures this week with a couple of grazing cold fronts

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-twenties at the Bob Adams airport and 10 F near the top of Mt Werner this Sunday noon have overtaken the brief round of productive snowfall last night in Steamboat Springs which left 1.5” on my deck near the base of the Steamboat Ski Resort, 2.5” at mid-mountain and 5” up top. Expect warming temperatures despite a couple of grazing cold fronts this work week ahead of some possible snow heading into next weekend.

Better moisture and a stronger storm than forecast in my last weather narrative under favorable cold northwest flow produced the snowfall last night. The weather forecast models often struggle with the humidity, westward extend and strength of these storms as they travel along the eastern periphery of a western ridge of high pressure, and last night was one such example.

That western ridge of high pressure is forecast to begin to move eastward toward our area on Monday, leading to mostly sunny skies and warming temperatures around or just above our average of 30 F, but three waves of Pacific energy are forecast to round the ridge of high pressure and mix with some cool Canadian air this work week.

This is a similar setup to what we just experienced last night, so there is room for the forecast to change over the coming days depending on how far west these storm travel, but right now the forecast is for a dry cool front to graze our area on Tuesday with a slightly moister one later Wednesday. There may be just some clouds associated with the Tuesday front, with a better chance of some snow showers later Wednesday, though weather forecast models have trended weaker and further east with the midweek front. As was the case last night, there is still time for this to change!

The third cold front heading into next weekend looks more promising though, with this morning’s model runs bringing a modest event overhead, even as one model run last night kept all the weather action to our east. So stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I should have a better idea of the potential for more snow heading into next weekend.

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1 July 2021

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