The news is filled with stories about weather...let's discuss what is going on.
Numerous wildfires are burning, mostly over the northwestern US. These fires are pumping a lot of smoke into the atmosphere, and the wind from the northwest is carrying this smoke toward Colorado.
The graphic above is a forecast for the smoke between Thursday morning and Friday morning. Washington State and Idaho are almost entirely covered in smoke, while much of Colorado will see a smoky haze as well.
If you look closely, you can see red areas in northern Colorado, which shows thicker smoke coming from the Big Red fire in Routt County, well north of Steamboat.
This webcam from Abasin on Thursday morning shows the haze due to the smoke.
I do not know when the smoke will move away. The weather pattern looks like it will remain rather stagnant over the western US, so the smoke may hang around for the better part of the next 7 days, but it will ebb and flow, so not every day will be the same.
There are three active hurricanes in the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean, but the big story is Irma, a Category 5 beast that is chugging toward the southeastern US.
The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center, created on Thursday morning, shows that Irma should move very close to or over Florida and then track north into Georgia and/or South Carolina.
Something to keep in mind is that the average forecast error for the hurricane's track 4-5 days away is about 200 miles, so it's unlikely that the eye of the storm will perfectly follow the black dots on the graphic above (hence the white shading of the 'cone of uncertainty').
Something else to keep in mind is that the eyewall, the most intense part of the storm, extends to either side of the eye. So even if the center of the storm tracks 30-50 miles away from a location, that location could still get the worst of the winds.
For example, here is one model's forecast for the wind speed of Irma on Sunday morning. Notice that the eye is offshore to the east of Florida, but the east coast of Florida is still forecasted to see sustained winds over 75mph with gusts likely in the triple digits. This is only one forecast from one model, so don't pay attention to the details. I only show this to make the point that the hurricane can bring strong winds even if the center of the storm remains just offshore.
The eyewall of a category 4 or category 5 storm is not a place you want to be. Many people in the southeastern US will experience Hurricane Irma from outside the eyewall, and they will think that this storm is bad but not too bad. However, for anyone that experiences the ferocious winds within the eyewall, they will think nothing on earth could be as bad as what they are enduring. It looks likely that Irma will cause catastrophic damage somewhere along the east coast, but the exact location remains to be seen. I am hoping for the best, but I also worked in hurricane insurance before starting OpenSnow, and I know that storms like Irma can create massive devastation.
Chances for snow in Colorado
Back here at home, I do not see any chances for widespread snow in the next week. According to the American GFS model, the southern and central mountains may see above-average amounts of precipitation through September 14th, which will likely mean afternoon showers each day.
The longer-range outlooks forecast that a cold front could move close to Colorado next weekend, around September 16th plus or minus a day, and this front could bring cooler temperatures and some snow. About half of the 51 versions of the European model show some snow around the 16th, so there's a chance, but I have low confidence at this point.
Forecast for the upcoming season
I just wrote two longer articles about 3-6 month forecasts.
First, this article shows that last season's forecasts were mostly incorrect:
And for fun, here is NOAA's forecast for the upcoming season. Remember though, that based on the accuracy of seasonal forecasts in general, we shouldn't rely on these long-term predictions.
I'll check back with you this weekend.
Thanks for reading!
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