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Precipitation above average so far in July, but only slightly

On the edge of significant monsoonal weather, the Yampa Valley will continue to see good rain chances this week

A smoky haze filled the Yampa Valley on Sunday, making Mount Werner barely visible from downtown Steamboat Springs. Local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth said he expected much of the smoke to be pushed out of the area by Monday. (Photo by Dylan Anderson)

Steamboat Springs has seen slightly above average precipitation so far in July, as the Yampa Valley has been on the edge of well-defined monsoonal moisture bringing much-needed rain to the Western Slope.

The 0.95 inches of rain seen in Steamboat through July 18 has outpaced the expected average of 0.86 inches, but it isn’t enough to dig the valley out of the precipitation hole it has seen this year, as the area remains in the highest level of drought recorded by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Steamboat has seen almost 4 inches less of precipitation in 2021 than the average for the area, according to climate data from the National Weather Service. Still, the recent near-average precipitation this month is a positive sign.



“With how dry things feel, anything close to average is a good thing for sure,” said Mike Weissbluth, a local meteorologist who runs the forecasting website SnowAlarm.com.

MonthAverage (Inches)Actual (inches)Difference (+/-)
July (through the 18th) .86.95+0.09
June1.581.42– 0.16
May2.651.30– 1.35
April2.541.04– 1.50
March1.581.06– 0.52
February1.922.84+0.92
January2.461.16– 1.30
2021 total13.599.77– 3.82

Recent rain is due to a well-established monsoonal pattern that is bringing rain to Arizona, Utah and southwestern Colorado. This has stretched up to bring heavy rains at times to Glenwood Canyon, frequently closing Interstate 70 and rerouting traffic through downtown Steamboat.

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The Yampa Valley is on the edge of this pattern both to the south and west. Weissbluth said while the moisture is in the air, very subtle things can change chances of precipitation significantly.

“We have that monsoonal moisture that’s more or less over us, but there is no good trigger,” Weissbluth said. “I’m looking for these subtle upper level features that may sort of provide triggers or enhanced areas of precipitation.”

A potential trigger will likely make its way to the Yampa Valley early this week. A high-pressure system is expected to build over the area to start the week and move eastward Tuesday, allowing moisture to make its way north.

“With that, we are going to be on the backside of that area of high pressure, so we’re going to have that clockwise flow around it. So we’re going to have some better moisture wrapped around that high into the northern zone,” said Megan Stackhouse, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Stackhouse said there is a lot of residual moisture in the air, which was evident by relative humidity around noon Sunday approaching 30%. Weissbluth said this time of year, that would typically be in the teens and drop into the single digits in the late afternoon.

“This is one of the things that we see from the monsoon is higher humidity,” Weissbluth said. “For most of the Coloradans who are not used to humidity, it feels humid.”

Weissbluth said meteorologists can see the monsoonal plume coming up from the Mexican plateau on satellite images. As it moves north, it shifts east and west, which changes how much moisture makes it to Northwest Colorado.

“It looks like it’s going to be pushed to the west on Monday and Tuesday, and then back towards our area midweek,” Weissbluth said.

Stackhouse said this would boost precipitation chances to about 50% each day toward the end of the week with thunderstorms and showers that are expected to have broader coverage of the area.

“We are really just in this unsettled pattern for the foreseeable future,” Stackhouse said.

High temperatures are expected to be in the mid- to upper-80s for most of the week, with lows in the upper-40s. Stackhouse said this could vary, as cloud cover through the week could keep parts of the valley cooler.

There are additional chances for rain Friday night into Saturday, later in the weekend and to start the month of August, Stackhouse said. Heavier rain is currently forecast for Saturday night and could stick around to start next week.

“That moisture plume does seem to then want to hang around there for a couple of days, so we can keep our fingers crossed that maybe we’ll see some more frequent precipitation, starting mid-weekend for a couple of days,” Weissbluth said.


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