Saturday, January 19, 2013
Steamboat Springs The 100 inches of snow that fell at Steamboat Ski Area during December made for a powdery holiday season, but it’s also partially to blame for the two weeks of frigid cold air that settled over the Yampa Valley.
As of Saturday, the average January temperature this year in Steamboat Springs is 4.2 measly degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
Forecaster Dennis Phillips said there were two nights (Jan. 14 and 15) when minus 27 degrees was recorded in town.
If the cold sticks around, this could be the coldest January on record.
The current record holder is 1924, when the average January temperature was 5.6 degrees. The average January temperature throughout 30 years is 15.7 degrees.
Phillips said the reason for the lingering cold snap is the snow cover.
“We get cold air that settles on top of that snow pack,” he said. “All the warm air that is potentially there just rides over it. It’s created this dome of cold air.”
The cold spell started as a trough of cool, dry air settling over Colorado. A warm air mass pushed through this week, but that air never touched the skin of Steamboat residents.
Phillips said that at lower elevations, cold air will stick to the surface of the snow, an effect that’s more pronounced the deeper the snowpack is.
Historically, high temperatures this time of year average in the mid-20s and lows average at about 3 degrees, Phillips said. Through Wednesday, that’s about what the Weather Service’s forecast looks like.
“Then we have a system coming through on Thursday,” he said. “Right now, it doesn’t look like a big snowmaker, but it might be enough to mix up the atmosphere.”
He said a temporary ridge will build behind that system, and then the question marks start to pile up.
When will it snow again? Phillips knows that it will, but the “when” is up in the cold, cold air.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com