Mild but still fairly snowy week

Posted Monday, February 25th, 2019 by Pete Saunders

TLDR: Mild and breezy conditions will continue through Wednesday with some snow shower activity producing modest amounts of snow in the mountains, especially north of SLC. By Thursday, though, an incoming cold front looks like it could produce a good amount of snow in the Utah mountains, with another system right behind it for central Utah (Brian Head area).

View from Snowbasin Resort this afternoon. Mostly cloudy with the sun peaking through. Courtesy: snowbasin.com
View from Snowbasin Resort this afternoon. Mostly cloudy with the sun peaking through. Courtesy: snowbasin.com

Monday and Tuesday:

Today has been pretty nice up in the mountains with relatively warm conditions and a fair amount of sunshine in response to a low pressure system to our northwest aiding in the slight amplification of a short wave ridge over Utah. In the below chart you can see temperatures soaring to near 40 degrees Fahrenheit at the Solitude base this afternoon! It has been a bit breezy as well; some mountain locations have received sustained winds averaging in the 15-20 mph range out of the southwest, with gusts up to 30+ mph at times.

Observation time series of temperature, dew point and relative humidity at Solitude Resort today. Courtesy: mesowest.utah.edu

Observations time series of (top) temperature (red), dew point (blue) and relative humidity (green) at Solitude Resort base and (bottom) sustained wind (red), today. Courtesy: mesowest.utah.edu
Observation time series today of (top) temperature (red line), dew point (blue line) and relative humidity (green line) at Solitude Resort base and (bottom) sustained wind (red line), wind gusts (blue dots) and wind direction (green “plus signs”) at the top of Solitude’s Powderhorn lift. Courtesy: mesowest.utah.edu

Winds should remain a bit on the breezy side through Tuesday as we lie just to the south of the polar jet stream. In the meantime, a weak short wave trough looks like it will pass through the far northern portion of Utah this evening, giving the region some increased cloud cover and some light snow with decent accumulations for Beaver Mountain in the 3-6″ range. Powder Mountain may also see up to a few inches, but otherwise all other ski locations should expect not much more than a dusting to an inch.

On Tuesday, conditions should remain pretty quiet through most northern Utah ski locations with a chance for some off-and-on passing snow showers and little to no accumulation. The only exception to this is, again, Beaver Mountain, which can expect an additional 2-5″ of snow during the day tomorrow as that trough exits that region. Snow should be ending by around 2PM there tomorrow.

Wednesday and Thursday:

Wednesday looks to be pretty quiet in the early morning hours. However, by late morning, we can expect a weakening and “filling” short wave trough making its way in from northern California to brush by with an increased chance for snow above ~5,500 ft in northern Utah ski locations. A general 1-3″ can be expected during the day on Wednesday before that dying trough exits our area early in the evening.

On Thursday, the early morning hours should be quiet again with a chance for a light mountain snow shower or two. However, a fast moving cold front associated with an approaching upper level low pressure system out of the Pacific NW will impact northern and central Utah. Exact timing of this system is still a little bit unclear, but as of now I would expect snow shower activity to increase in the late morning hours through northern Utah mountains. In the early evening (after day skiing is over), the cold front should begin making its way through northern Utah, and into central Utah by the late evening. 700 hPa temperatures accompanying this front will be plenty cold, so all mountain elevations should receive snow. Snow should be heaviest while the baroclinic zone (area where cold/dense air separates and is pushing away warmer/less dense air) is moving through in the early to mid evening. During and just after frontal passage, valley floors should get snow too! By early Friday morning, that system should be about done. It’s too early to say how much we’ll get out of this system, but as of now it looks pretty good!

GFS 700 hPa forecast temperatures from Thursday evening through Saturday morning. Cold air will advance through our area, and along with moisture. This will allow for heavier snowfall in the mountains. Courtesy: tropicaltidbits.com
GFS 700 hPa forecast temperatures from Thursday evening through Saturday morning. Cold air will advance through our area with a cold front moving in. Precipitation that falls should be all snow for the mountains. Even the valleys should see some snow (briefly heavy) during and after frontal passage This will allow for heavier snowfall in the mountains. Courtesy: tropicaltidbits.com

Long Term:

Things don’t look terribly exciting for the foreseeable future after Thursday/Friday for northern Utah, but Brian Head could see a decent storm this weekend. Overall, Utah will be in a relatively zonal/slightly “trough-like” pattern with a chance for another storm midway through next week. That is a LONG way off in the forecasting world, though, so we’ll just have to enjoy the upcoming system this week!

GFS 500 hPa forecast anomalies for the week after this coming Thursday. Courtesy: tropicaltidbits.com
GFS 500 hPa forecast anomalies for the week after this coming Thursday. Courtesy: tropicaltidbits.com

For now, enjoy the warm-ish temperatures, and stay tuned for more updates on forecast storm totals for this week’s event!

-Pete

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