Meteorologist: La Niña hints at abundant snow for Steamboat
Last visit from strong weather pattern left ski area with 489 inches at mid-mountain
September 1, 2010
Steamboat Springs — The calendar flipped over to September in the middle of the night and fall weather isn't far behind.
There's even climate data that supports optimism for a snowy winter.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction forecasts subfreezing temperatures for Steamboat Springs, Clark, Milner, Hayden, Craig and even Maybell overnight Thursday into Friday.
"There are so many microclimates up there, some people may have seen frozen dew already" in August, meteorologist Joe Ramey said Tuesday. "But I think this will be more widespread than those local events."
A warming trend is expected to return Friday with daytime highs in the 80s for the holiday weekend, Ramey said, but he looked further into the future to winter weather patterns that are setting up to favor Northwest Colorado.
"We're expecting a strong La Niña, and the last strong La Niña treated Steamboat pretty well," Ramey said.
That was the winter of 2007-08, when the Steamboat Ski Area recorded 489 inches of snow at mid-mountain.
La Niña's influence on weather patterns in North America is driven by cooling of ocean temperatures at the surface in the east-central Pacific.
Ramey said La Niña weather patterns tend to favor the Northern Rockies with winter precipitation. Steamboat and the Park Range are just far enough north to catch the southern end of the La Niña storm track, he said.
It would be typical for Storm Peak to get its first dusting of snow within two days on either side of Sept. 15.
But the more seasonal weather news is that a heavy rain event that spanned Aug. 20 and 21 pushed Steamboat well above its average precipitation for the month.
Official weather observer Art Judson said August finished with 2.33 inches of moisture compared to the average 1.63 inches.
"It was nothing special except for one 24-hour period of 1.14 inches that spanned two days but did occur in 24 hours," Judson said.
That single rainstorm recorded at his weather station on an elevated bench between downtown Steamboat and the ski area came within 1/100th of an inch of matching the 24-hour August record of 1.15 inches.
The August record for precipitation was 5.36 inches in 1914, Judson said, and the record low rainfall for August was 0.17 inches in 1944.