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Here comes the North American Monsoon

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The warm, dry and sunny weather we are currently experiencing in Steamboat Springs this Thursday afternoon will give way to increasing moisture starting Friday. Clouds will increase along with increasing precipitation chances that will persist through the weekend and into the next work week.

An expansive ridge of high pressure is currently covering the western two thirds of the country, with Tropical Storm Barry threatening the Louisiana coast on the southeastern side of the ridge and continued storminess in the Gulf of Alaska on the northeastern side of the ridge.

Contributing to the strength of the ridge is the strong summer heating of the elevated Mexican Plateau, and the on-time appearance of the North American Monsoon is due to moisture originally from the Caribbean being pulled first westward and then northward around the ridge of high pressure. While we do not see the intensity and persistence of precipitation associated with the Indian Monsoon (which is much stronger due to the higher and broader Tibetan Plateau), our area will see increased clouds with a greater likelihood of locally moderate to heavy precipitation, due to not only the increased moisture but also the relatively slow storm movement thanks to the light winds under the ridge. Another hallmark of the North American Monsoon is warmer overnight temperatures as the increased moisture acts like an earth-blanket, and possibly slightly cooler afternoon temperatures if the clouds are persistent and thick enough to block some of the sun.

And its not certain we will see any precipitation as these monsoonal surges of moisture produce relatively spotty coverage, but there will be some chance on Friday, with more of a chance on Saturday and better chances on Sunday and Monday.

By Tuesday, the Gulf of Alaska storminess is forecast to move inland well north of our area, but the increased westerly flow will not only flatten the ridge of high pressure over the west, but sever our fetch of moisture from the south. The end result is decreasing precipitation chances for Tuesday and Wednesday, along with some breezy westerly afternoon winds.

Subtle changes in the strength and position of the ridge of high pressure can drastically affect the northward extent of monsoonal moisture and the resultant forecast, but right now moisture may begin to increase again for the end of the work week before a more robust surge of monsoonal moisture may occur around the following weekend or soon thereafter.

Best shower chances this Sunday and Monday

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The sunny skies this Sunday morning in Steamboat Springs have given way to increasing clouds as moisture moves over our area in southwest flow. Showers will be possible later today and again tomorrow before drying occurs on Tuesday. The dry air will stick around through the workweek along with our warmest temperatures of the summer so far, before moisture returns around the weekend.

Currently, we are seeing increased moisture in the southwest flow ahead of a cold storm near Vancouver. There will be a chance of afternoon and evening showers today and again Monday before the Vancouver storm travels across Montana on Tuesday and drags a weak cool front through our area. The air will cool and dry as we see breezy westerly winds, keeping high temperatures on Tuesday comfortably below our average of 81 F.

But as the storm travels eastward across the northern U.S. border through the workweek, a ridge of high pressure will build over the Rocky Mountains starting on Wednesday. Temperatures will be the warmest of the summer so far, with high temperatures around five degrees or so above average and almost no chance of rain through Thursday.

By Friday, additional incoming Pacific energy flattens the ridge of high pressure over the Rockies, and this is important for our area as subtle changes in the position and strength of the ridge influence the fetch of moisture from the south associated with the North American Monsoon. But these subtle differences make for a tough forecast as relatively minor changes in the upper level flow may mean the difference between a wet and dry prediction.

With that said, shower chances are currently advertised to return around Friday. Though a ribbon of dry air is forecast to be just to our north through the following weekend, if that stays to our north as currently forecast by some weather prediction models, then the chance for showers will continue through the weekend and into the following workweek.

Warm and dry until moisture returns near the end of the weekend

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Steamboat Springs area is currently experiencing a beautiful warm, dry and sunny Independence Day. More of the same is expected through most of the long Fourth of July weekend before precipitation chances increase for later Sunday and Monday. The chances decrease for a couple of days before increasing again toward the end of the workweek and heading into the following weekend.

Counterclockwise flow around a strong and cold storm centered near Vancouver has brought warm and dry southwest flow to our area. While cold air from western Canada and additional incoming Pacific energy will periodically energize the storm over the next few days, a ridge of high pressure building northwestward from the Louisiana coast into Texas and the Rocky Mountains will keep any weather associated with the storm at bay. So the warm and dry days and cool nights will continue through the first half of the weekend.

By later Sunday, clockwise flow around the Texas ridge of high pressure will carry some moisture from the Mexican Plateau northward as the light winds turn to be more from the south. This pattern is representative of the beginnings of the North American Monsoon, and there will be increasing chances for showers from later Sunday through Monday.

Meanwhile, part of the Vancouver storm will move eastward across the northern Rockies early in the workweek and suppresses the Texas ridge of high pressure southward. Drier air will return for Tuesday and Wednesday as the winds turn back to southwesterly or even westerly.

The old Vancouver storm is then forecast to travel east of the northern Rocky Mountains around midweek, allowing the Texas ridge to rebuild to the west and northwest. The strong summer sun will allow the ridge of high pressure to prevail over any storminess to our northwest, and the North American monsoon looks to become better established over mostly New Mexico and Colorado. The forecast moisture over our area will increase precipitation chances for the end of the work week and the following weekend, with a stronger and wetter monsoon signature forecast by some weather forecast models for the following workweek.

Shower chances decrease midweek ahead of Independence Day

Sunday, June 30, 2019

A seasonably warm and sunny Sunday morning in Steamboat Springs will give way to the chance of afternoon and evening showers today through Tuesday. Drier air moves in midweek in time for Independence Day on Thursday and will stick around through the long holiday weekend.

Southwest flow ahead of a disturbance off the Pacific Northwest coast has allowed the remnants of former hurricane Alvin to move across the Desert Southwest yesterday and towards our area today. We should see a good chance of afternoon and evening showers as the once-tropical disturbance moves just to our northwest today.

Meanwhile, more incoming Pacific energy and cold air from western Canada will continue to mix with the Pacific Northwest disturbance, keeping it spinning off the coast early in the work week. Combined with a ridge of high pressure building northwestward from the south-central U.S., our area will see relatively moist southwesterly to southerly flow that will keep the threat of afternoon and evening storms going on Monday and Tuesday, with Monday likely the driest of the three day period.

The Pacific Northwest disturbance is then forecast to move eastward midweek, and our winds will turn to be more from the west as the air mass dries. Several weak cool fronts will be on our doorstep during the second half of the workweek, but summer will win this the battle and keep most of the cool air and almost all of the precipitation to our north. So mostly sunny skies and seasonable temperatures around or up to five or so degrees above our average of 79 F are expected starting Wednesday and continuing into the long Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Rain showers likely from Sunday through Tuesday

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Only several days removed from our last snowfall in Steamboat Springs on this past Sunday, I can finally talk about summer weather! A disturbance from the south will increase the chances of rainfall starting later Sunday and Monday, while a disturbance to our north will continue those increased chances on Tuesday. Drier air should be around for Wednesday and Thursday, the Fourth of July, before rainfall chances increase again as we head into the long holiday weekend, courtesy of the North American Monsoon.

A large and cold storm currently in the Pacific Northwest will split into several pieces over the next several days thanks to incoming Pacific energy and cold air moving southward from just south of the Arctic Circle. The storm will undergo a complicated evolution, but our area will be spared most of the forecast uncertainty as a sprawling ridge of high pressure encompassing much of the U.S. shunts most of the storm to our north. Unlike last week, this is representative of average summer weather.

Ahead of the storm, we should see mostly sunny and dry weather with breezy southwest winds for the rest of today and Friday. On Saturday, the remnants of Alvin, the first subtropical storm of the season that originated off the western coast of Mexico, will travel along the western periphery of the ridge of high pressure and increase moisture over our area.

There may be some chance of showers Saturday afternoon and evening as the remnants of Alvin approach, but much better chances emerge on Sunday and Monday as the subtropical disturbance passes overhead.

Winds will decrease and swing to be more from the west on Monday and northwest on Tuesday as a piece of the old Pacific Northwest storm mixes with the cold air originally from the Arctic Circle and treks across the Canadian Plains. A weak cool front is forecast to move across our area later Tuesday or early Wednesday, and good shower chances will continue ahead of and along the front.

Drier air moves in from the west behind the front on Wednesday and Thursday, Independence Day, before moisture is again forecast to increase heading into the holiday weekend, this time from the south as the North American Monsoon develops. After three major snowstorms that contained inch per hour snowfall rates at the higher elevations for about twenty hours or so around May 22, May 29 and June 21, it appears the atmosphere is returning to some sort of normalcy with the on-time arrival of the monsoon.

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