Steamboat Springs After a wet conclusion to May, Steamboat Springs has gone 20 straight days without any measurable precipitation, and there’s no sign of relief in the forecast.
“The last measurable precipitation was May 30,” Steamboat weather observer Art Judson wrote in an email Thursday. “We've had two (trace amounts) for all of June thus far. The outlook for the remainder of June looks dry.”
The National Weather Service is forecasting sunny skies through June 26 with a high of 83 degrees Friday followed by a gradual warming trend that could see a high near 90 on Wednesday.
Weather Service meteorologist Ellen Heffernan said a low pressure system with unusually strong counterclockwise flow that is parked over western Montana and northern Idaho is pulling very dry air into western Colorado from Southern California and Arizona. The same low pressure system is contributing to afternoon wind gusts here.
“The low pressure system is staying up there and there are impulses that keep rotating around it,” Heffernan said.
The impulses tighten the pressure gradient in western Colorado and increase wind speeds similarly to the way pressure builds up in a garden hose with a temporary kink in it, she said.
All of those factors are contributing to the persistent forecast of fire weather conditions in Northwest Colorado that include relative humidity readings of less than 15 percent.
“The air pulling into this area is very dry,” Heffernan said. “The relative humidity is in the single digits, not in Steamboat where things are green, but in the lower valleys near Craig and Grand Junction and around Douglas Mountain.”
Steamboat’s last significant moisture arrived on back-to-back days May 29 with 0.15 inches of rain followed by 0.34 inches May 30. Those showers put the final touches on an above-average May that saw 2.52 inches of precipitation. That compares to the May average of 2.24 inches.
June is one of the driest months of the year in Steamboat, with average precipitation of 1.52 inches, but the current forecast suggests the weather pattern would have to change significantly in the final five days of the month to come near that mark.
Routt County Extension Agent Todd Hagenbuch said the ample moisture and cool temperatures of May got the area hay crop off to a good start.
“It look likes the river is going to hold up well enough to get (the fields) irrigated and the hay is going to be in decent shape,” Hagenbuch said.
Livestock grazing pastures also are doing well after soil moisture was severely depleted in 2012.
“I was out looking at some pasture and it’s coming back from last year a little better than I thought it would,” Hagenbuch said.
But even that good news has a downside.
“I’m worried about that good pasture drying out and increasing fire danger,” he said.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com