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Snow and cold for the work week ahead

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The cold temperatures in downtown Steamboat Springs this Sunday morning are warming nicely under bluebird skies, with noontime temperatures of 18 F at the Bob Adams airport and 33 F at the top of Mt. Werner. A big change comes tomorrow as a strong and complex storm moves across the area, bringing a sharp cold front and snow for a time. Bitterly cold but drier arctic air settles into our area for Tuesday and Wednesday before the snow machine cranks up for Thursday and Friday. We may see a break on Saturday before more unsettled weather may approach as soon as the end of next weekend.

A cold and strong storm is forecast to move across the Great Basin tonight. The storm is forecast to elongate and eventually stretch from Hudson Bay to Baja by midweek, which makes for a difficult forecast as there is no strong center of circulation to force definitive weather. It appears the cold air will arrive in several waves starting Monday, with colder temperatures and some snow arriving within a few hours of noon. Additional waves of cold air and snow look to occur during the afternoon and evening as an ill-defined storm center passes nearby. While we will see snow around the surges of cold air, we never get into favorable northwest flow, so I am not that optimistic on snow amounts. With further changes in the evolution of the storm likely, I would guess only 1-4” of snow during the day Monday with another 1-4” during the evening, and I hope that I’m wrong. Travel may be difficult at times during the heaviest showers from Monday afternoon through the evening.

What is more certain are the bitterly cold temperatures, with falling temperatures through Wednesday morning. Mountain-top high temperatures will be around zero on Tuesday and struggle to reach that mark on Wednesday, with cold valley high temperatures in the low teens or single digits. And if skies clear Tuesday night, Wednesday morning will bring low temperatures well below zero for the coldest night in a while.

Behind the storm, a ridge of high pressure builds over the West, bringing warming temperatures by Thursday at all elevations. However, Pacific moisture and energy is forecast to deform the ridge and bring a period of very favorable northwest flow for Thursday and likely Friday. Snows are likely to be heavy to moderate and persistent for at least Thursday, and likely Friday, where weather forecast models disagree. With mountain-top temperatures in the teens, we could see 6-12” by the time the snows get going early Thursday through Friday morning, with another 6-12” possible by Saturday morning according the more optimistic ECMWF before the snows end for at least the first half of the weekend.

However, our next storm is forecast to move southward along the West Coast during that weekend, forming an eddy in the Desert Southwest area by early in the work week. While me may see some light snows late in the weekend, the best weather looks to affect our area around the middle of the next work week.

Note that I may push by next regular Thursday afternoon weather narrative to Wednesday as details on the end-of-work-week storm evolve.

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