Sunny skies forecast in Steamboat through Monday |

Sunny skies forecast in Steamboat through Monday

— The sun is expected to keep shining through the weekend before a cold blast enters the Yampa Valley, creating the potential for snow midweek.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday released its winter outlook, which confirms the expected return of La Niña, a climate phenomenon that typically results in above-average snowfall for Northwest Colorado.

La Niña occurs when there is cool water in the central and east-central Pacific near the equator.

By contrast, El Niño is the result of warmer ocean water, typically resulting in lower moisture levels for this region. Joe Ramey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the ocean temperatures are the strongest indicator used when making the seasonal outlook.

A NOAA map shows the predicted affects of La Niña across the country. Drier weather is predicted for the south, including drought-stricken Texas, and wetter weather is forecast for the Northwest. Steamboat is on the border between areas that show greater than 33 to 40 percent chances of above-average precipitation from December through February.

The winter outlook shows there are equal chances of temperatures that are higher and lower than typical.

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According to NOAA, "The 'wild-card' is the lesser-known and less predictable arctic oscillation that could produce dramatic short-term swings in temperatures this winter." The negative phase of the oscillation can last a few weeks and pushes cold air into the United States from Canada.

The Madden-Julian oscillation also can affect the strength of storms, Ramey said. That phenomenon was responsible for the recent wet and snowy spring.

Both oscillations can be predicted only a week or two in advance, Ramey said.

Until signs of winter arrive again, the Steamboat area should see high temperatures in the upper 50s or low 60s through Monday.

Pacific low pressure will move into the area beginning Monday night, ushering in cooler weather. High temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to get into the 40s with a low in the teens Wednesday night.

"You'll get some snow in the Park Range and perhaps a little accumulation in Steamboat," Ramey said.

Precipitation is expected to be more concentrated on the east side of the Continental Divide.

By Wednesday night, high pressure is expected to begin building again.

"By Friday, it should be beautiful," Ramey said.

The forecast for Halloween is uncertain at this point.

— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email

By the numbers

Steamboat’s deepest winters:

  1. 2007-08: 489 inches*
  2. 1996-97: 448 inches
  3. 1983-84: 448 inches
  4. 1995-96: 441 inches*
  5. 2010-11: 433 inches*
  6. 2005-06: 432 inches
  7. 1992-93: 416 inches
  8. 2008-09: 405 inches

*La Niña winters

Source: Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

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