Steamboat could break cold, dry weather spell this weekend
January 23, 2013
Lowest January snowfall at midmountain
1. 11 inches (through Wednesday) in 2013
2. 17 inches in 1981
3. 21.5 inches in 1986
4. 33.5 inches in 1983
5. 39 inches in 2011
Source: Steamboat Ski Area in records dating to 1980
Steamboat Springs — After a cold, dry start to January, Steamboat Springs could see the return of snow going into the weekend.
A storm moving into western Colorado on Thursday is just the start.
"The one on Thursday looks like it will signal a shift to a more unsettled pattern through Wednesday of next week," said Jim Daniels, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
The first part of that system is the trough bringing Pacific moisture to the area. The system is expected to be fairly weak — with most of the moisture staying north of Colorado — but the cold air sitting in the Yampa Valley finally could prove useful.
The inversion layer that has trapped colder air closer to the valley floor could function as another source of lift, in addition to the mountains, and squeeze a little more snow from the storm.
The colder air is denser than the air coming with the storm, Daniels said, and it forms a ridge for the warmer storm to ride up and over.
"If it's a large pool of cold air, it can shift some snow out toward Hayden," he said, adding that he had not examined it closely enough to tell for sure whether that would be the case.
Either way, the inversion layer is unlikely to be cleared out in the near term.
Friday brings with it another system that looks to favor southern Colorado and the San Juans more than Steamboat.
Daniels said Northwest Colorado "probably wouldn't see it more till Saturday, when the flow becomes more westerly."
That system is bringing tropical moisture from Baja with it, but whether Steamboat will benefit from the warmer air still is debatable.
“There may be some rain depending on whether the storm is strong enough to break the valley inversions,” Steamboat-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, of http://www.snowalarm.com, wrote in an email.
On the tail end of the weekend, a third system will move into the area from the northwest, Daniels said.
It will bring with it a better chance of snow for Steamboat than the tropical moisture, he said, and it could carry with it a cold front to mix out some of the frigid air still sitting in the Yampa Valley.
“There is the possibility that a stationary front will lie over our area and contribute to sustained and significant snowfall, especially Monday,” Weissbluth wrote. “But the storm is showing signs of splitting, and the amounts of energy that is split between the northern and southern stream will ultimately determine the amounts and duration of the event.”
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com