A couple of storms to bring significant snowfall through early Sunday

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Steamboat Springs area saw snow showers this morning along with some peeks of sun as temperatures climbed into the mid-thirties by this Thursday noon. A warm and breezy storm will pass through our area from tonight through Saturday morning followed by a short break around midday. A much colder storm then quickly follows for Saturday night.

A frigid vortex of cold air is stretched across southern Canada and has brought bitterly cold temperatures to the northern Midwest and East. The current storm track is along the boundary that separates that cold air from much warmer air to the south and southwest, and fortuitously is over our area. A storm currently just off the northern West Coast will move inland tonight and bring snows to our area from tonight through Friday night.

Similar to last Friday, the storm is warm and has a lot of moisture, so expect snowfall to pick up tonight and become moderate to heavy on Friday as the winds turn to be first from the west and eventually from the west-northwest later in the day. I would expect 3-6” to be reported at mid-mountain by the Friday morning report with an additional 4-8” falling during the day, with higher amounts at higher elevations likely. Another 5-10” is forecast for Friday night for a 9-18” Saturday morning report.

Some energy ejecting out of a strong storm near the Aleutian Islands is forecast to move across the Gulf of Alaska and mix with some of that bitterly cold air over western Canada and cross the northern West Coast Saturday morning. We’ll see a break between storms for the first part of Saturday, though the snowfall may not stop but only become lighter in intensity.

But snowfall will again become moderate to heavy later Saturday and overnight when the much colder storm moves by. While the center of the storm eventually digs into the Desert Southwest, additional cold air mixes with the system as it moves across the Great Basin, and it is not clear if our winds will turn to be from the favorable northwest or not. At this point, we could see as little as 3-6” by the Sunday morning mid-mountain report, or as much as 6-12” under the more favorable scenario. Additionally, the winds will die down and temperatures will be fifteen to twenty degrees colder than Saturday, with the temperatures falling during the day and creating low-density, fluffy powder.

Much lighter and more showery snowfall is forecast to continue through the day Sunday and overnight as the storm moves eastward to our south. It appears this storm will be strong enough to displace the cold vortex of air over Canada to the east, though there are indications that more cold air from the northern latitudes returns, but not quite as cold.

Another piece of that Aleutian storm is forecast to eject eastward on Sunday and take a similar path to the previous storm. We won’t see the heavy snowfall we will likely see on Saturday night as we will already be in the cold air, but snowfall is currently indicated to start up again after a brief break on Monday and last through most of the work week. The persistent low-density snowfall may quickly pile up, though I won’t venture a snowfall guess at this point as my attention is focused on this weekend.

I’d like to mention that I added the live Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s (CAIC) threat map to the SnowAlarm home page, so I encourage all backcountry and sidecountry users to check this valuable and easily accessible resource before beginning their journey.

Additionally, I’d like to mention to new users that the home page has all of the information needed for a safe and comfortable day on the slopes. Right at the top I show the town and mountain-top temperatures and wind so I know how to dress. I’d like to mention that you cannot trust the mountain-top wind and temperatures from the Steamboat website or phone report since their sensors are hung off the Patrol Headquarters building, and the location shadows westerly winds and inflates afternoon temperatures as the sun heats the deck. I grab my data from the Desert Research Institute weather station at the top of the Morningside lift and the Bob Adams airport. New snowfall as well as the Powdercam movie are also easily accessible so you can inspect the goods.

My next weather narrative will be issued Sunday afternoon, likely late Sunday afternoon as I hope to be skiing powder all morning! I’ll post the storm totals and have more details about the snowy week ahead.

Snow restarts on Tuesday after a short break

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The sun has returned late this Sunday morning to Steamboat Springs with breezy winds from the west and temperatures of 35 F at the Bob Adams airport and 13 F at the top of Mt. Werner. We’ll have a couple of days of dry weather to dig out from our recent storm cycle before a storm is forecast for Tuesday. Another short break is advertised for later Wednesday and early Thursday before the snow machine restarts later Thursday and possibly lasts through the weekend.

Snowfall totals for the Steamboat Ski Area were impressive, with 25.5” of desperately needed snow falling at mid-mountain between last Wednesday night and this Sunday morning and 47” up top. The large totals were due to the moisture-rich storm track that is currently riding over a ridge of high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska and separating the cold air over the eastern two thirds of the country and the warm air over the Desert Southwest.

The storm track is expected to waver over our area over the next week, with the warm air to our southwest currently winning the battle of the air masses and pushing the storm track just to the north of our area. So expect dry skies with ample sunshine today and tomorrow as the cold and moist air is relegated to our north and east.

Some moisture and energy currently moving underneath the ridge of high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska will move through our area on Tuesday. As this wave originates in the data-sparse Pacific, there is uncertainty with respect to the amount of moisture than eventually travels over our area, and best guess right now is that we could see around 4-8” of relatively dense and possibly wind-affected snow at mid-mountain by the Wednesday morning report.

A lobe of energy spinning around a vortex of cold air over the central Canadian Plains is forecast to bring another surge of arctic air into the northern U.S. Wednesday night. Ahead of that surge, snows should end later Wednesday with Wednesday night and the first part of Thursday expected to be dry. But that surge of arctic air will eventually push the storm track back south and over our area by later Thursday as a stationary front takes up residence in our proximity.

The result is another long-duration snowfall event that begins Thursday night and lasts through the weekend. Waves of Pacific energy and moisture, in concert with a westward surge of arctic from western Canada, are forecast to weaken and undercut the ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska. The Pacific waves are then forecast to move over the stationary front near our area, creating periods of moderate to heavy snowfall.

Right now, Friday into Friday night is looking likely for the heaviest accumulations, with another Pacific wave timed for Sunday. There is substantial forecast uncertainty with respect to how far south that wave will eventually travel, so it is not clear if it will snow as hard on Sunday as it probably will on Friday.

And the good news for our snowy February continues through the following week as additional storms are in the weather forecast. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon as snowfall totals for the long-duration event come into focus. And I’d like to welcome new readers and mention that by clicking on the Amazon banner embedded within this forecast when viewed from the website, or on the home page, within the 24 hours before making a purchase directly supports this site. While private forecasts have been proliferating over the years, know that it is unusual for a forecaster to concentrate all of their resources on such a localized area. I do this as a community service, and hope that you can support my efforts either through my affiliates or by subscribing to a paid product.

Snowy week ahead

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The first in a series of advertised storms arrived this afternoon, courtesy of a snow squall, and Steamboat Springs is currently seeing light to moderate snow late this Thursday afternoon. Snows are possible for every day during the upcoming week, with the heaviest and most persistent snow forecast for Friday and to a lesser extent Friday night.

The main part of the storm today is still back in Utah, so snow will continue through the night. The storm is about 6 hours slower than I originally thought in the last weather narrative, so the expected snowfall for the Thursday morning report is now in the 4-8” range.

As the storm departs our area on Thursday, we will be left with persistent northwest flow between a ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska and a deep and cold area of low pressure over the East and the Midwest. The Park mountain range just east of Steamboat Springs is favored under this regime, which is forecast to last through upcoming week, so expect some snowfall for most of the days as the air is forced up the slope of the mountains and orographic, or terrain-driven, snowfall ensues.

Waves of energy and moisture will periodically pass overhead and increase snowfall rates, with one potent wave passing overhead on Friday and Friday night. We may see several more inches during the day Thursday before snows pick up Thursday night followed by periods of moderate to heavy snow on Friday and Friday night, likely most intense on Friday afternoon.

If weather model forecasts hold, we could see 3-6” of snow on the Friday morning report and 8-16” by Saturday morning, with more than half of that falling during the day Friday. Snow will continue at lesser rates Saturday morning before tapering off in the afternoon and overnight.

Though we will see a break on Sunday between waves, it is not clear if snows will stop or just become very light. And another couple of waves may move overhead or nearby on Monday and possibly Wednesday, though that may change as these impulses are hard to time since they are embedded in fast flow from the sparsely observed Pacific.

The setup for this upcoming week is ideal for our area, though our eventual snowfall will be determined by how long we can stay in the moist northwest flow. Though weather forecast models agree on the wave for around Monday, they disagree on whether the ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska moves toward our area by midweek and deflects the storm track to our northeast, like the European ECMWF, or the ridge stays put and allows another wave to pass overhead in northwest flow, like the American GFS.

The storm track will be determined by the outcome of the battle between the warm air under the ridge of high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska and the very cold air over the Midwest and East. Eventually, both weather models do have the ridge moving inland late in the work week or the following weekend, though it is accompanied by fast westerly flow from the Pacific moving through the ridge, and this weather pattern can also be productive for the Rockies, especially if low-level cold air can hang around.

My next scheduled weather narrative is on Sunday afternoon, and I’ll have some hopefully impressive storm totals to talk about as well as discuss the additional snowfall expected during the following work week.

Dry weather ahead of storm cycle that starts midweek

Sunday, January 31, 2021

A temperature of 23 F at the Bob Adams airport, 17 F at the top of Mt. Werner and bluebird skies are over the Steamboat Springs area this Sunday noon. Warm and dry weather with lots of sun the next few days will be followed by a wet and very cold winter storm cycle that starts later Wednesday and continues into the weekend.

The Steamboat Ski Area is reporting 4.5” at mid-mountain and 11” up top from the storm that started early Saturday morning and ended in the afternoon. Though the updated phone reports during the day yesterday and the Steamboat Powdercam indicated otherwise, somehow the upper mountain totals this morning are correct and consistent with the excellent powder skiing yesterday afternoon.

A ridge of high pressure has built over the West behind the storm and ahead of our next one currently spinning in the Gulf of Alaska. The storm is in the process of mixing with some very cold air sourced from the North Pole and is bringing precipitation to the Pacific Northwest and northern California.

The evolution of the storm is still uncertain, as weather forecast models have been disagreeing with both themselves and each other. It now appears that the storm will undergo some sort of split early in the work week as it elongates along the West Coast, and contrary to most splitting storms, this split might actually be good for our area as it might divert some of the moisture from the storm around the Sierra Nevada mountain range and leave more for us.

Furthermore, it appears the majority of the storm energy will be in the northern branch, with the southern branch possibly forming an eddy that may get dragged along with the northern branch, similar to the American GFS, or get left behind for a few days west of the Baja coast as indicated in the latest European ECMWF Eventually, the southern branch does appear to bring some moisture into our area, though it is not clear if it is early or late in the storm cycle.

Current forecasts indicate moderate to heavy snowfall when the cold front associated with the northern branch of the split moves through our area later Wednesday. We may see lighter snowfall ahead of the cold front, and it does looks like we will see a windy period with winds from the west when the front moves through before it subsides a bit as the winds turn to be from the northwest behind the front.

By Thursday morning, we could be looking at 6-12” of snowfall, though making a snowfall forecast with such an uncertain evolution of the storm may be hazardous to my credibility!

Though we are forecast to be in favorable northwest flow through the weekend, there is dry air lurking to the southwest as a ridge of high pressure builds over the West Coast. Our area will be in the battle zone between warm and dry weather to the southwest, depending on what happens if that Baja eddy develops, and very cold air to our north. Ripples in the northwest flow will allow storms to track overhead, with breaks in the snow likely between the waves of energy and moisture.

Current forecasts have a short break in the snows around Thursday before a Pacific storm traveling through the Gulf of Alaska and over the top of the West Coast ridge mixes with some very cold air from western Canada and moves over our area around Friday. This has the potential to generate another round of significant snows as we head into the weekend.

I’ll stop talking about uncertainty for now, and caution to be prepared for a cold and wet storm cycle starting midweek and lasting into the weekend. Travel will almost certainly be difficult, or even impossible at times, so stay tuned to my next weather narrative, which I may publish on Wednesday, a day earlier than usual, as the weather pattern becomes clearer.

Modest storm on Saturday with major storm possible midweek

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Temperatures have warmed considerably in Steamboat Springs late this Thursday morning compared to the last few days with 33 F reported at the Bob Adams Airport and 28 F at the top of Mt. Werner. Warm and dry weather is expected for today and tomorrow before a quick-moving storm brings 4-8” of snow from Friday night though Saturday night. Warm and dry weather returns for Sunday and lasts until a possibly large, cold, wet and complex storm affects our area starting around midweek.

Some eye-popping totals have been reported by the California resorts this morning, with a standout of 45” in the past 24 hours at Mammoth Mountain! That storm is being forced eastward by another storm currently over the Aleutian Islands, with the remnants crossing the southern Great Basin and moving over our area from Friday night through Saturday night. Winds from the southwest ahead of the storm have brought much warmer temperatures to our area today and will for tomorrow as well.

While we will see a mix of sun and clouds over the next two days, winds from the southwest will become breezy and clouds will increase in earnest later Friday before snowfall begins Friday night. Depending on the eventual timing, We may see an inch or two for the Saturday morning report with 3-6” of continued snowfall during the day as winds shift to be from our favored northwest direction and temperatures cool, with snowfall tapering off during Saturday evening.

The sun returns on Sunday with warm temperatures as a ridge of high pressure builds over the West ahead of the developing Aleutian storm. That storm is forecast to mix with some very cold air from the North Pole as it traverses the Gulf of Alaska late in the weekend and will bring heavy precipitation first to the Pacific Northwest and then California by Tuesday.

While weather forecast models agree on that storm eventually moving inland and affecting our area around Wednesday or Thursday, there are differences in the evolution and timing of the storm that need to be worked out over the coming days. Generally, this looks to be a cold and wet storm that will be followed by additional impulses of energy, moisture and cold air. This is likely to be the best storm cycle of our season so far, and I’ll have a more specific forecast in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

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