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Largely snowless week ahead for Yampa Valley

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Yampa Valley is expected to have a largely snowless week, underscoring a winter season that has seen far less powder than average.

Since October, a cooperative observer in Steamboat Springs for the National Weather Service has measured 65 inches of snowfall, about 20% below average through the end of December.

January, normally the area’s snowiest month averaging almost 42 inches, has had just 9 inches so far. It seems the area will likely fall far short of the average 112 inches of snow through the end of January, but there is still a chance to rebound.



A strong ridge of high pressure has parked itself over the state, which will prevent most opportunities of snow over the next week.

A small “disturbance” will pass over the Steamboat area on Wednesday night into Thursday, which could bring some snow, but it won’t be much, according to Megan Stackhouse, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.



“Maybe some light, half-inch or less, barely anything kind of accumulations on Wednesday night into Thursday,” Stackhouse said. “That high is just kind of blocking everything over our area.”

Mike Weissbluth, a local meteorologist who runs the forecasting website snowalarm.com, is more optimistic on the storm, forecasting 1 to 4 inches.

“Last Thursday, it looked like we would get that maybe half-inch, but it has trended toward a stronger storm over more of our area,” Weissbluth said. “I think there is a possibility that it could be a little more productive.”

When the storm passes, the high-pressure system will likely rebuild, Stackhouse said, preventing much chance for snow over the weekend. The system will bring warmer temperatures, both during the day and over night.

The week will start with temperatures in the upper 20s, but are forecasted to warm into the middle- to upper 30s by the end of the week. While the next two nights will dip below zero, later in the week, overnight temps will warm up to between 10 and 20 degrees, Stackhouse said.

Weissbluth said there is the potential for a storm next weekend, but forecasting models disagree on what the storm could be at this point. One model has the storm moving over the high-pressure ridge, bringing a more organized storm and decent snowfall, while the other has the storm splitting around the ridge, bringing a much weaker storm.

“Unfortunately, that is still very much up in the air,” Weissbluth added.

On average, the Yampa Valley gets about 112 inches of snow by the end of January, putting this year about 50 inches short of that mark with three weeks left in the month. Weissbluth said there is still a chance the area could make up that difference this month.

“I don’t want to say easily, but it has happened before where we get 40 or 50 or 60 inches or so in a storm cycle with two or three storms,” Weissbluth said. “I’d say there is a possibility that we can do a lot of catching up in the second half of January.”

He said there could be a change in weather patterns coming up that could move the storm track over the area, giving it a much more active weather pattern.

Still, Stackhouse said snowfall is down across the state, as it often is in La Nina years, with many of the storms passing by the region just clipping the state or lacking enough moisture to bring significant snowfall.

La Nina and El Nino are opposite phases of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation Cycle, a fluctuation in ocean and atmospheric temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. La Nina has lower than average surface water temperatures in the east-central Pacific, while El Nino is when surface water temperatures in this area are above average.

“That just affects where for example this bridge of high pressure builds overhead,” Stackhouse said. “Typically with El Nino years, the southern and central mountains tend to be better because they are more so in the storm track, but with the high La Nina years, that tends to just give us these clippers, which brings snow to the northern mountains more than anything else.”

But Weissbluth said the Yampa Valley and much of Colorado north of Interstate 70 does not strongly correlate with the El Nino cycle.

“It’s been shown very clearly that north-central Colorado is not correlated with La Nina or El Nino,” Weissbluth said.

He said the high-pressure ridge that typically develops on the West Coast during a La Nina phase of the cycle could move east or west, which can severely change the weather of this area. If the ridge is located over the area, as it is now, then chances for snow are low. But if the La Nina ridge is further west over the coast, the northwest flow can bring a lot of snow to the area, he said.

“Other areas of the state, and certainly the country, are more correlated with that ridge,” Weissbluth said. “Do to the fact that we can do well or not depending on its position, we are not well-correlated.”


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