October has been unusually mild in the Rocky Mountains of the Intermountain West
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs residents, by this date in October, have typically awakened at least once to the sight of fresh snow above 9,700 feet on Storm Peak. It hasn’t happened in 2015 as of Monday, but the situation could change this week.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction is forecasting a variable 30 to 50 percent chance for showers this week in the valley and rain mixed with snow at the Storm Peak Observatory above 10,000 feet.
If snow arrives high in the Park Range, it’s likely to be on Thursday, continuing into Friday, according to the Weather Service.
A dry spell, which persisted from Oct. 1 to 18 with only the .13 inches of rain that fell Oct. 7 providing moisture, was broken over the weekend. Rain gauges close to Steamboat Springs reporting anywhere from .02 to .08 inches of precipitation in the preceding 24 hours as of Monday morning.
Any snow that falls even at high elevations this week is unlikely to stick around.
Daily high temperatures in Steamboat are expected to break 60 degrees most days this week. While high temperatures on Storm Peak are forecast by the Weather Service to range only into the mid- to high-40s, overnight lows aren’t expected to dip below freezing.
And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Oct. 15 included Northwest Colorado on a map of areas of the Intermountain West where average daily high temperatures are double-digits above the norm. The agency reports that much of Wyoming, virtually all of Idaho, Eastern Oregon and northern Nevada and Utah were also in the range of 10 to 14 degrees above average daily temperature readings.
October has been so dry and mild, and only a faint trace of snow has fallen at the highest elevations of Mount Werner thus far. It’s a far cry from October 2013 when the Steamboat Ski Area recorded 40 inches of snowfall at mid-mountain, helped along by the 14 inches that fell on Oct. 5 that year.
Average daily highs through Monday in Steamboat were 71.7 degrees compared to the “normal” 57.7 degrees for November. Average daily lows were 33.2 degrees compared to the normal 26.1 degrees. Daily temperatures are averaging 52.4 degrees in October, which is 10.5 degrees above average.
The coldest overnight lows in Steamboat this month have been two nights when it dipped to 28 degrees. There have been three nights in October where it got as cold as 29 degrees.
Steamboat-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth of the snowalarm.com blog, said Monday that despite the pattern of rain showers that entered Western Colorado over the weekend, the same dominant ridge of high pressure that has produced the mild weather in the region all month, continues to dominant the forecast beyond the weekend.
“Models are struggling with the forecast over the next few weeks as it is unclear whether a more active fall jet stream moves over our area, or a ridge rebuilds for the last week of the month,” Weissbluth said.
Senior forecaster Jeff Coulton in the Weather Service’s Grand Junction office, doesn’t see significant snow in the long-range forecast for the end of this week but does expect the second wave that will reach Colorado from a low pressure system in the Southwestern U.S. to be colder, “driving the snow level down to below-pass levels” but with limited moisture.
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