National Weather Service raises chances for La Niña winter | SteamboatToday.com

National Weather Service raises chances for La Niña winter

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A Steamboat Springs meteorologist is questioning what impact a La-Niña winter might have on snowfall in the area.

Last week, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center determined the chances of La Niña occurring were 55 to 65 percent.

La Niña occurs when there is a cooling of the waters in the southern Pacific.

While some forecasters believe this is beneficial to Northwest Colorado in terms of snowfall, meteorologist Mike Weissbluth is not convinced.

Weissbluth, who runs the snowalarm.com website, said Monday there is not convincing evidence to indicate regional weather can be predicted by La Niña or its counterpart El Niño.

"While some weather forecasters insist that all of Colorado is affected by El Niño or La Niña, the fact is that northern Colorado is not well correlated with either," Weissbluth said. "During El Niño years, the location and amplitude of the ridge of high pressure in the Pacific is critical, and the Steamboat Ski Area may be in favorable northwest flow if the ridge is far enough west, or benign weather if the ridge is further east and closer to our area."

He said the absence of the ridge during La Niña winters means storms moving across the Pacific are not influenced by a relatively stationary weather pattern.

"This tends to keep the storms moving, and long stretches of either quiet or stormy weather are less likely," Weissbluth said. "In my view, an accurate seasonal forecast for northern Colorado based upon the slightly-better-than-chance probability of a La Niña event, combined with the absence of strong correlations in our area to that event, is impossible."

In the short term, Weissbluth is calling for beautiful fall weather this week until there is a possibility of some light showers Thursday night.

Showers are more likely Friday as a cold front moves through the area.

"Showers will stay as rain in the Yampa Valley ahead of the front before changing over to snow by overnight Friday," Weissbluth said. "Like the last Saturday storm, this one will also be quick moving, bringing a cool start to the weekend with showers ending early in the day."

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

Indian summer making a return to Yampa Valley

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After a shot of snow Saturday and cooler weather, the Indian summer was expected to return to the Yampa Valley this week.

"A warm and very dry air mass settles over the West, promoting the return of Indian summer through at least midweek," wrote Steamboat Springs meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs the snowalarm.com website.

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area opened for the season Friday, and Steamboat Ski Area is expected to begin making snow in a couple weeks.

"This is fall in Colorado," wrote Joel Gratz, a Colorado meteorologist who runs opensnow.com. "Snowstorms one week, gorgeous sunshine and warmth the next."

For this week, Gratz wrote that most of the snow will stay to the northwest part of the country.

"The next chance for snow in Colorado will be next weekend," Gratz said. "It’s likely that we will see snow during this time, but the odds are trending toward a weaker or moderate storm rather than a strong storm."

According to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, a high pressure system was building that will allow temperatures to quickly rebound to above normal by midweek.

"We can expect dry conditions under this benign weather pattern until southwesterly flow increases on Friday as our next storm moves into the Great Basin," the National Weather Service wrote. "So, our chances are increasing that we will see a return to cooler and more unsettled weather next weekend.

By Tuesday, the high temperature is expected to reach 66 degrees.

Low overnight temperatures are expected to be at or below freezing.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

After cold Monday morning in Steamboat Springs, ‘spectacular’ fall weather on tap

Forecast provided by snowalarm.com.

The unseasonably cold storm discussed in Thursday’s forecast moved in about 12 hours faster than originally forecast, arriving in the Steamboat Springs area around sunset Sunday and leaving by noon Monday. Temperatures fell to 14 degrees at the top of Mount Werner Sunday night and mountain-top winds were mostly from the east, limiting precipitation as the easterly winds moved down the slopes of the Park Range and dried the airmass.

Drier air has moved in behind the storm, and after the coldest morning of the season Tuesday, temperatures will warm through midweek yielding some more spectacular fall weather.

Several waves of energy and cool air will rotate through the Gulf of Alaska and move along the northern U.S. border from Thursday through the weekend. While most of the weather will stay to our north, temperatures may be knocked back a bit and winds will become breezy as the cool air grazes our area each day.

Some uncertainty in the forecast appears for the weekend, as some of the Gulf of Alaska energy takes a more southern track through the Great Basin. Models are still struggling with how much energy splits southward early in the weekend and whether the bulk of the energy moves across our area in one piece or two over the weekend. Whether we see a cooler Saturday afternoon with some showers or a warmer Saturday with showers holding off until later Saturday or Sunday is yet to be determined.

Warm and sunny weekend ahead, with possibility of snow returning Monday

Forecast provided by snowalarm.com.

A dry cool front for Friday will precede a nice weekend ahead of another snow event on Columbus Day in Steamboat Springs. The rest of Thursday will feature a brilliant fall day with warm temperatures and sunny skies.

A dry storm currently located in Nevada and discussed in Monday’s forecast will move across northern Colorado on Friday. Temperature will fall from above average today to below average tomorrow, and there may be some afternoon showers as the atmosphere destabilizes.

After a cool start to Saturday, dry weather with mostly sunny skies and above average temperatures will grace our area through the weekend.

However, like the last storm, another storm that forms in the Gulf of Alaska during the weekend mixes with some cold air from western Canada and the polar region, and travels through the Great Basin on Monday. The southwest flow ahead of the storm will battle the cold air north of the storm, with dry, warm and possibly breezy conditions ahead of the cold front. Numerical weather models have struggled with the timing of this storm, but current forecasts bring the front through sometime on Monday. At this point it is uncertain during what part of the day the front arrives, so we may sneak in another nice day, or not.

The air will be quite cold, and it may be an all-snow event in the Yampa Valley that will extend through Monday night. Any precipitation that falls as rain should quickly change over to snow as temperatures plummet, and accumulations are again expected in the valley, with more significant accumulations at the higher elevations.

Clouds may linger on Tuesday as the storm moves east of our area, with another cool day expected. Cold morning temperatures behind the front will be experienced on Tuesday, and again Wednesday if skies clear Tuesday night.

As was the case this week, warmer and drier air washes over our area for most of the rest of the work week.

Lots of uncertainty emerges for next weekend as another storm forms in the Gulf of Alaska and splits as approaches the Pacific Northwest coast around the end of the work week. Numerical weather models disagree on the amount of splitting and whether the southern part of the split loiters offshore or moves inland, with one solution keeping us warm and dry and the other bringing at least unsettled weather into Great Basin and eventually our area for next weekend.

Wildfire season not over yet in Routt County

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Despite recent snowfall, a wildfire Wednesday showed that the fire season is not over yet.

Shortly before 2 p.m., Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters were called to a report of a wildfire on Routt County Road 44 west of Steamboat Springs.

Firefighters were told that a bonfire had gotten out of control.

Fire Chief Mel Stewart said the wind came up and blew some debris from the bonfire into tall grass. The fire grew, and there were buildings in the area.

It burned a total of about two acres before it was put out.

Stewart said the bonfire was illegal.

Steamboat has a burn season, but it does not start until Nov. 1 and goes through April 15.

Even during the burn season, there has to be at least six inches of snow on the ground before people can burn.

"We've had a few people start to burn," Stewart said.

People need to get a permit from Routt County Environmental Health before conducting a burn.

Stewart said some people are falsely thinking it is safe to burn.

With temperatures in the 60s Wednesday, the snow on the ground in the valley began to disappear.

"The ground is still wet," Stewart said. "It doesn't mean that moisture is in the vegetation.”

With Wednesday's winds, Stewart said it just takes hours for vegetation to dry out even if there is still some snow on the ground.

The snow has had a positive impact on the large wildfires that burned this summer in Routt County.

Stewart said a plane flew over the Deep Creek fire northeast of Hayden and did not detect any hot spots.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

Snow piles up in Steamboat Springs

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As of Monday morning, the early October storm had dumped 17 inches of snow at the top of Steamboat Ski Area.

"I would assume our webcams are blowing up because the Powder Cam is impressive," ski area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said.

The camera at 10,384 feet on the top of Sunshine Peak on Monday afternoon was showing 40-degree temperatures and a storm snow total of about 20 inches.

"Right now we're happy," Kasten said. "We're excited to get the snow message out."

To get that message out the ski area was distributing photos to media, sending emails to potential customers and posting to social media.

At mid-mountain, the ski area had received 10 inches of snow by Monday morning.

"And obviously that number will keep growing because it's still snowing," Kasten said.

The ski area begins tracking its season snowfall on Oct. 1 of every year.

The storm created some issues though.

Homes and businesses were experiencing blinking lights and power outages caused by heavy, wet snow, which was loading up power lines and trees.

"As the trees shed their snow load or limbs break and fall into the power lines, they cause the power issues we are experiencing today," Yampa Valley Electric Association member outreach supervisor Jim Jennings said.

Throughout the YVEA system, there were 338 members without power.

"Crews are currently working on these outages to restore power,” Jennings said. “We are handling these outages one by one, restoring power to those affected."

The snow was also creating issues on the roads.

A chain law was enacted Sunday night for commercial vehicles on U.S. Highway 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass.

On Monday morning, Rabbit Ears was closed after a semi jackknifed. It was about two hours before the road was reopened.

Also in the area, a car crashed into the back of a semi. Minor damage was reported.

"People really need to slow down on snowy, icy roads," Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Scott Elliott said.

Elliott said it is a good time of year to put on snow tires for the winter.

By mid-afternoon Monday, the roads were wet and snow had mostly cleared on Rabbit Ears giving way to snow-covered fall foliage.

On Monday night, temperatures were expected to drop to the lowest so far this season.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction was calling for a low temperature of 20 degrees.
"Below normal temperatures will persist into Wednesday as the sun’s energy goes into melting the snow rather than warming the atmosphere," said local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs snowalarm.com.

The high Tuesday is expected to be 48 degrees.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

UPDATE: Winter cometh to the Yampa Valley

1:00 p.m. Rabbit Ears Pass has reopened to traffic.

Noon From YVEA: Currently, we are experiencing intermittent blinking lights and power outages caused by heavy, wet snow loading up on the power lines and trees. As the trees shed their snow load or limbs break and fall into the power lines, they cause the power issues we are experiencing today. We have 338 members without power across our entire system (this number fluctuates as we more regain power and the issues above continue to occur due to the snow). Crews are currently working on these outages to restore power. We are handing these outages one-by-one, restoring power to those affected. With this weather pattern expected to continue throughout the day, our YVEA crews are preparing to effectively manage these issues. The intermittent and scattered blinks and outages will continue until it warms up enough for the snow to shed off everything.

11:30 a.m. CDOT is now closing Colo. Highway 134.

11 a.m. Rabbit Ears Pass is closed because of a jack-knifed moving van.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The month of October came in like a lion Sunday with fat flakes of snow accumulating in the Yampa Valley.

"It's what we were expecting," said Matthew Aleksa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. "The models have been showing the last few days a low pressure system and stronger jet stream."

The storm prompted a winter storm warning for the mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs through Monday night.
Late Sunday afternoon, the webcam at the top of Steamboat Ski Area was showing about 12 inches of snow, and the snow was still falling.

Webcams from Rabbit Ears Pass showed wet, slushy roads, but colder weather was expected with snow accumulating on the roads.

"I expect high-elevation passes to become snow-covered and potentially close due to accidents," wrote Joel Gratz, who runs opensnow.com. "The best chance for this to happen will be on Sunday night and maybe Monday night and during times of heaviest snowfall."

Between 3 to 5 inches of snow was expected in the Yampa Valley by 6 p.m. Monday.

"Enjoy the storm and the amazing views of snow-covered mountains and golden aspen leaves," Gratz wrote.

Aleksa said it was expected to begin getting drier Monday night with a dry flow from the southwest.

That would also likely come with breezy conditions through the end of the week.

Another storm system is expected to move across Wyoming and clip Northwest Colorado by Thursday and going into Friday.

With the high temperature expected to be 38 degrees Monday, it will definitely begin to feel like winter.

The low temperature Monday night is expected to be 24 degrees before a gradual warming trend descends on Steamboat for the rest of the week.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

More cool, unsettled weather on tap for Steamboat Springs area, with snow levels dropping Sunday

Forecast provided by snowalarm.com

This forecast sounds like a broken record, but several more storms will impact the Steamboat Springs area through at least early next week, with a possible break around midweek.

Currently, a compact storm in central Utah has brought a round of precipitation to the Yampa Valley earlier today as waves of energy and moisture from the south rotated through our area. Though moisture decreases, there will still be a chance of showers later today before ending in the evening.

Friday will be another unsettled day as the storm in central Utah lifts to the northeast and clips northwestern Colorado, with showers starting as soon as noon.

We will have a brief break in the weather Friday night and Saturday behind the departing storm and in advance of another stronger and much colder storm from the Pacific Northwest that is forecast to arrive later Saturday or early Sunday.

This storm has mixed with some cold air from the North Pole and will bring a series of cold fronts through the region. Showers will become numerous and increase in strength later Saturday and last through the night as the first cold front approaches. Much cooler temperatures and continued showery weather is expected for Sunday as snow levels fall to around 8000 – 9000 feet.

As is often the case with these large storms, reinforcing waves of cold air will follow behind the initial front. Numerical weather models had this cold air washing directly over northern Colorado in my Monday forecast, but now the cold air is forecast to elongate the storm to the southwest, keeping the coldest air to our north and west as southwest flow develops over Colorado. Cool and showery weather is expected for Monday, with snowflakes still possible down to the valley floor, though models have trended this weather further north in recent runs, reducing the confidence in that forecast.

There will be a battle between the cool air to our northwest and warmer air to our southwest, and numerical weather models now have the cold front retreating northward by Tuesday as the warmer air briefly wins the battle. This retreat will create the break in the cool and showery weather for Tuesday and Wednesday before remnants of the storm move eastward over our area later in the work week. Details will have to wait until there is better model agreement as to exactly how that might happen.

Cooler weather, showers starting Friday, continuing through weekend

Forecast provided by snowalarm.com.

An anomalously large trough of low pressure stretching from the central Canadian plains southwestward to almost Baja will affect our weather over the next week. Ahead of the trough, strong southwesterly flow has brought above average temperatures, sunny skies and wind to the Steamboat Springs area today.

There will be many moving pieces to the forecast as upstream Pacific energy contributes to several centers of circulation forming within the trough, with some of them being reabsorbed as they travel to the northeast, while others further stretch the trough to the southwest while reluctantly moving it eastward toward the Rockies.

Temperatures should stay warm through tomorrow morning ahead of gradually cooling temperatures through the weekend and into next week. The very slow movement of the trough will preclude any distinct cold front, but the slow cooling of the atmosphere combined with waves of energy moving over our area will contribute to an extended period of cool and showery weather.

There may be some showers Friday, though the heavier and more persistent precipitation will wait until Saturday and Saturday night when the trough is closer to our area and ejecting pieces of energy travel over Colorado.

There may be some dry air that mixes with the trough, possibly allowing for a break in the unsettled weather for a time on Sunday, before an unconsolidated center of circulation moves northeastward across Colorado later Sunday and Monday and brings another push of cooler air and storms.

Additional upstream Pacific energy crossing the West Coast regenerates the southern end of the trough early in the week, and though the coolest temperatures of the storm will occur over our area then, precipitation looks to become much lighter as the week progresses.

Right now, numerical models have the last push of cool air occurring around the end of the work week, and this finally moves the storm complex east of our area. A ridge of high pressure is advertised to bring much warmer and drier conditions for the following weekend.

Find more weather information at steamboattoday.com/news/weather.

Mother Nature takes center stage for colorful show in Colorado mountains

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The fall colors are just starting to show on the mountain slopes surrounding Steamboat Springs, but the phones at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association started ringing several months ago.

"I think it's huge," said Maren McCutchan, public relations manager at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said of visitors coming the valley to explore in the fall. "The colors are a big portion of our fall visitation, and the unique thing here it that you can wrap in different activities with leaf peeping.

“Even when you are just driving up to Strawberry Park, you can get a spectacular view of the fall colors looking back at the valley,” McCutchan continued. “If you are biking, you can ride your bike down the trail right among the aspen trees on Flash of Gold. If you go hiking, you can get up to a really great spot and then see a huge range of colors from a number of different places close to Steamboat."

Traditionally, leaves start changing about mid- to late-September and the colors can last for several weeks. Prime viewing spots include Rabbit Ears Pass, Buffalo Pass, the Zirkel Wilderness Area, the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, Rabbit Ears and just about everywhere in the Yampa Valley.

But this year, that fall window may be short lived.

Matt Makens, metrologist with Channel 2 KDVR in Denver, is encouraging folks to get out this weekend and enjoy the color while it lasts. He warns that the longterm forecast may put an end to those colors.

Makens predicts color will peak in the Steamboat Springs area sometime next week.

"I've been encouraging people to go this weekend to find color," Makens said. "It's going to be great, but late next week there is snow that will be coming in, particularly in your area . . . that could have a minor or significant impact on the leaves depending on the heaviness of that snow."

But even if the leaves survive that brush with winter weather, many experts and locals feel that this may not be a banner year.

"The Aspen got hit with Marssonina blight this year, and that produces little black spots all over the leaves,” said Karen Vail, senior naturalist at Yampatika. “We tend to get that in really wet springs, and it makes the leaves turn a little blackish. Most of the stands that I've seen have been affected by that. I don't see that we are going to get a lot of color from those.

“Plus, the dry has really stressed the leaves, and I see a lot of curling brown edges from drought stress,” Vail explained. “So far I have not seen much color at all — maybe a tree or two that may have been a little more protected."

She predicts there will be more color south of Steamboat this fall, particularly in the Flat Tops.

Steamboat Springs photographer Jim Steinberg loves to photograph aspens and has built a reputation of creating amazing images of fall colors in the Yampa Valley.

Some of his favorite spots for taking pictures of fall color include the ridge near the top of Buffalo Pass, the Muddy Lake area and the Indian Creek area just off of Colorado 14 toward Walden.

"I think some of the things that make Routt County really nice is that it is a very different perspective," Steinberg said. "We have some wonderful areas of cottonwoods, for instance, along the Yampa. As you come out of the Ghost Creek Canyon coming back from Hayden, there are some really nice areas of cottonwoods there and also down at the Nature Conservancy Preserve (Carpenter Ranch) you have a wonderful mix of red dogwood osier,  cottonwood and willow, so you get the orange of the willows, the red of the red dogwood osier and the bright colors of the cottonwood. It's just beautiful down there."

And even if the fall colors aren’t expected to be as bright as usual, Kellie Gorman, Yampatika program director, encourages people to still get out there and enjoy fall in Routt County.

"Mother Nature gives us a show every year,” Gorman said. “Sometimes it is more spectacular, and sometimes it's less than what we anticipate and hope for. It's so worth it to get out no matter what the colors are doing."

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.