Yampa Valley expected to warm up ahead of incoming Sunday storm
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Break out the shorts for a sunny Saturday with a forecast high of 37 degrees. The above-freezing temperature should feel downright balmy after a chilly start to the new year in Northwest Colorado.
Temperatures dipped to minus 22 in Steamboat Springs early Thursday morning, the coldest night of the winter so far, according to the National Weather Service. The temperature wasn’t even close to setting a record for the date, which was reached in 1952 when the low hit minus 36.
Hayden and Craig saw their coldest nights on Wednesday, with lows of minus 21 and minus 20, respectively.
Low temperatures recorded across Northwest Colorado:
Jan. 1: -10
Jan. 2: -21
Jan. 3: -22
Jan. 4: -13
Jan. 1: -14
Jan. 2: -21
Jan. 3: -10
Jan. 4: 10
Jan. 1: -11
Jan. 2: -20
Jan. 3: -19
Jan. 4: -7
Source: National Weather Service
“That was a storm that sucked in some air from the North Pole and Siberia, so that was a cold system out in the Pacific, and it stayed cold,” said Mike Weissbluth, who runs SnowAlarm.com.
Despite the frigid lows in the Yampa Valley, inversions led to warmer temperatures up in the mountains. The base of Steamboat Resort was 12 degrees in the early afternoon Thursday while the midmountain temperature was 27, he wrote in a blog post.
An inversion is when the air temperature increases as you go higher. Inversions are caused by several factors, including fresh snow, clear skies, low humidity and a low sun angle, he said.
“What happens is the cold air is heavier than warmer air — it’s denser — so it falls down the mountainside and collects in low-lying areas,” he said. “And the Yampa Valley is a low-lying area.”
The low sun angle this time of year means the sun doesn’t heat the surface as much as when it’s higher in the sky, he said, and the fresh snow reflects the sun’s energy during the day and radiates it at night, causing cooling.
Inversions also can affect air quality in the valley because particulates and other pollutants are trapped under warm layers of air.
A sensor on top of the Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat showed elevated levels of pollutants on Wednesday and Thursday, but the daily averages were still deemed “acceptable.”
Temperatures in the valley were already starting to warm up Friday but weren’t expected to get above freezing. Temperatures are forecast to continue to climb ahead of an incoming storm that is expected to arrive early Sunday.
“I think Saturday should be a nice day,” he said. “We’ll have some clouds, but it should be another warm one.”
Weissbluth expects snow to start falling at about sunrise Sunday morning. He said the system is very wet and will start out warmer, but it should snow in the valley, which can expect 1 to 4 inches through Monday.
“This is not going to be a very cold storm, so it’s not going to be anything like what we just experienced,” he said.
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At Steamboat Resort, Weissbluth is calling for 5 to 10 inches by Monday morning.
Michael Charnick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Grand Junction, agreed with the forecast of 5 to 10 inches on the mountain and said he expects a couple of inches in the valley. He said he couldn’t say much more because of the government shutdown.
“Snowfall will be a little bit denser than what we’ve grown accustomed to, but it should be good skiing,” Weissbluth said about Monday’s conditions.
A few more snow showers could move through the area Monday afternoon but won’t drop much snow, he said.
Things are expected to warm up “significantly” by midweek, he said. The next chance for snow is Thursday.
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