Snow Returns!

An upper level trough currently centered over central California will swing through Utah Thursday.  Temperatures aloft will cool, allowing for snow levels to drop down to about 6500′ by Thursday afternoon.  A band of snowfall will likely occur with the passage of a cold front, before snow turns more showery during the afternoon.

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IR Satellite Imagery across the Western U.S.

Snow showers will wind down Thursday night as skies clear out, leaving sunny skies on tap for Friday.  The freezing level by Friday afternoon will climb close to 9,000′.   Another storm will enter Utah Saturday.  Stay tuned!

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NAM Cross-section of Wind and Relative Humidity

Forecast Snowfall (valid Wed. night – Fri. morning)

  • Upper Cottonwoods 5-10″
  • PCMR & Deer Valley 4-7″
  • Northern Wasatch Front 5-10″

-Alex

Winter Returns!!

Hope y’all haven’t put the skis and heavy jackets away quite yet cuz winter’s coming back! After a 2 week + drought for snow in the Wasatch, the switch has finally been flipped and winter’s coming back with vengeance. The first of a series of storms (at least 3 – see below) to impact Northern Utah will begin late tonight/early tomorrow.

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Expect a couple inches of snow by the end of Wednesday at high elevations above 9000 feet. Otherwise temperatures will still be a little too warm for snow in areas like Park City below mid-mountain. The good news is that 700 mb temperatures will be cooling and the GFS has been trending a little colder (-7C, though NAM is warmer around -3C and European in the middle at -5C). Overall, it won’t be blower by any means but certainly colder temperatures than we’ve seen of late with fairly significant accumulations above 7500 feet. Right now I’m expecting 6-12 inches – though if the latest European model run were to verify then we’d probably hit the upper end of the range if not a little higher.

On Friday things will clear out for what should be a beautiful bluebird day. Then on Saturday storm #2 moves into Northern Utah producing a quicker hitting snowfall – however, totals still should be decent. Sunday will provide another brief break followed by storm #3 into Monday-Tuesday.

European model snowfall totals for the next 10 days
European model snowfall totals for the next 10 days

Summary

Wednesday – Dust on crust

Thursday – Storm day (could be getting good in the afternoon)

Friday – Bluebird

Saturday – Storm day

Sunday – Break in the action

Storm on the Way

It’s been a while since a nice, cold storm has come through. Instead it has been hot, sunny, and dry. The snowpack has taken a hit even in the Central Wasatch, which isn’t surprising considering it hasn’t dropped below 0°C at Alta-Collins in over a week (granted observations there are hourly, so a brief lapse could have occurred between an observation).

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Also there has been no real precipitation in the last week. This might change today as showers have been popping up over the valley and mountains this afternoon. The radar at the time of writing shows a bullseye over the Central Wasatch. The problem is that, if there isn’t a cold outflow from the storm, then this would be rain everywhere but the highest elevations.

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These afternoon showers should continue for the next three days. The thing is some of the storms will have lightning in them, so you will have to be very careful when going out. They can pop out of nowhere when you are in the mountains.

The next cold storm will pass through Thursday. It’s still too far out to go into specifics, but we’re looking at 5-10″ or so in the higher elevations. How far down the snow level will creep is very uncertain, but right now a good estimate is 7500′. Thursday’s storm won’t do much for our lower elevations, but the resorts should get a little refresher.

Hope on the Horizon

It’s been an extraordinary stretch of spring (summer) weather the past few days. We’ve set record highs at Salt Lake City on 3 days, and these highs are equal to the average highs for late May…pretty incredible.

From the Salt Lake City NWS office
From the Salt Lake City NWS office

We’ll stay well above average for the early part of the work week, but fortunately there is some hope on the horizon. Temperatures will begin to cool as a we transition to a colder and stormier pattern.

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Euro ensemble forecast precipitation at SLC. Looks like it will start stacking up late Tues/early Wed. models.weatherbell.com

Monday and Tuesday will be very warm with the chance of a shower or two. Then Wednesday into Thursday, accumulating snow looks likely at most resorts. Beyond that, the models keep us in a fairly active pattern, so hopefully more snow and no more of these ridiculously warm temps.

This morning finally saw a slight re-freeze at upper elevations as temperatures fell just below freezing above 9000ft. This was the first in a few days, with an overall unsupportive snowpack to contend with lately. The bottom line is while we’re not quite in the clear yet, the weak storm this weekend will help usher in a shift in the pattern towards cooler temperatures at upper levels, with a little more damage (via warmth and rain) before things start improving.

Temperature, Dew Point at Alta Baldy from the NAM 12km
NAM 12km – Temperature, Dew Point at Alta Baldy summit

Here’s the gist of it: Sunday morning will see a weak shortwave trough push through the region. Expect cloudy skies in most areas, with the chance for rain showers below 9,500 ft or so. Rain showers will likely be more persistent in the mountains than the valleys, with the chance for a trace to an inch or two of snow at the highest elevations.

GFS Time-Height RH/Theta-E at Alta, UT
GFS Time-Height RH/Theta-E at Alta, UT

The above model data indicates the freezing level (thick blue line) staying well above the Alta base elevation until Wednesday, falling with the incoming mid-week storm. Temperatures at 700 mb will finally fall below freezing by Wednesday morning, with precipitation falling as snow to most ski area base elevations.

Details are still fuzzy this far out, but we’ll update you as we’re able – at the moment, 6″ above 9000 ft in the central Wasatch seems to be a reasonable lower bound for snowfall totals by Thursday AM.

-Mike

Near Record Warmth Continues

Hot and dry weather will continue through Saturday before a weak system moves into Utah Sunday.  High temperatures in the valley will reach the low to mid-70s Friday, before making a run at 80F Saturday.  Even with a warm and dry March so far, the snow pack is still running above average, and is 130-150 percent of normal for this time of year.

 

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GFS Meteogram for the Upper Cottonwoods

A weak disturbance will brush by northern Utah Saturday night through Sunday morning, with a few snow showers being possible above 9000′.  Monday and Tuesday look to remain on the warmer side.  In the long range, models are beginning to hint at the possibility of a stronger storm arriving Wednesday next week.  Stay tuned!

Warm Weather Continues

Warm and dry weather will remain on tap through at least Sunday as an upper level ridge remains entrenched across the Western U.S. Temperatures will remain above freezing across mountain resorts, with base temperatures climbing into the low to mid-50s through Sunday.  In the valley, temperatures soared into the low-70s today!

 

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GFS Meteogram for the Upper Cottonwoods.

There is good news on the horizon though.  A pattern change will take place early next week, as a strong westerly pacific jet develops just off the coast of the CA, OR, and WA.  With a strong jet streaming into Utah, there will be increased odds for an active storm cycle next week.  In fact, the climate prediction center is giving Utah a 40-50 percent chance of seeing above average precipitation next week.  Let’s all across our fingers, and hope next week delivers!

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NOAA Climate Prediction Center 6-10 Precipitation Outlook

 

March Sadness

After an incredible ski season thus far, we’re likely in the midst of our longest dry spell, hence March sadness. Okay, that’s probably a little overly dramatic. To put things in perspective, if it were to stop snowing entirely we’d still finish well above average in terms of snowfall water equivalent for the season. Let’s hope that’s not the case – if anything this season’s made me greedier and hungrier for powder than ever.

As the others have alluded to in their forecast, I don’t expect much to change over the next week. For the most part expect awesome biking/running weather and spring skiing conditions. Highs in the valleys will eclipse 70F this week and mountain location should reach near 60! Be sure to bring the ‘screen too. A couple very weak disturbances will clip Utah, but they’re barely even worth mentioning. In terms of spring skiing this weekend, Saturday should be the best day with warmer and sunnier conditions than Sunday.

Looking ahead in the extended (beyond 7 days), models are beginning to hint that we’ll eventually see a more active period to close the month.

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Looking at the 700mb temperatures from the ECMWF model one can see the pattern we’re currently entrenched in on the left. Ridging across the west with a substantial Nor’easter on tap for New Englanders. It’s usually a pretty good bet that when there’s a big time storm on the east coast, we’ll see above average temperatures and ridging out West (and vice versa). This is because the pattern becomes amplified – over simplifying things this essentially means the ridges and troughs become stronger at their respective locations. The good news is that the GFS and Euro ensembles break us out of this blocking pattern by early next week.

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Will we return to stormy conditions? It’s too early to tell in my opinion but based on climatology alone I’d be surprised if things didn’t get at least somewhat colder and wetter to close the month. Additionally, looking at the ensembles (above) they’re in decent agreement that temperatures will lower. Unsurprisingly, we also have a pretty large spread that far out. Hopefully our posts next week will change from March sadness to March Madness. In the meantime, warm weather lovers – enjoy the next week because I can all but guarantee winter will be back at some point.

Spring Break Continues

The abrupt “spring break” in our weather pattern looks to continue well into the work week. It’s not great news if you are bent on skiing deep powder, but if you like sunny days and warm temps and soft snow, you should be pretty happy.

The models are in great agreement about the dry and warm pattern lasting for the next 5+ days. The storm track will stay well to our north, with a ridge of high pressure stubbornly locked in over the Intermountain West. This ridge will flatten at briefly on Thursday as a subtle shortwave trough moves over the top of it, bringing increasing clouds and perhaps some showers. The ridge then bounces right back Fri/Sat.

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The stubborn high pressure ridge anchored over the Intermountain West from the EC model forecast valid Fri evening. models.weatherbell.com

Looking out further into late weekend/early next week, there is some hope for lovers of fresh snow. There are some indications in the ensembles that we *may* enter an active pattern again.

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The precipitation forecast from the EC model ensembles for Salt Lake City. Note the chances for precip starting to show up into early next week. models.weatherbell.com

A Spring Break is Upon Us

More than one “spring break” has made an appearance.. One has a start and end date, the other we want to end before it even began.  Students and families will head to the mountains for vacation as many schools begin their week long spring break this coming weekend.  Unfortunately, the mountains are experiencing a spring break of their own, as winter seems to have exited the intermountain west.  For now that is.

Despite a snowy start to March with some epic powder days, the steamroller of storms has steered itself north.  According to the Climate Prediction Center’s most recent 6-10 day outlook, we’re gonna be warm.

6-10 day temperature outlook. cpc.noaa.gov
6-10 day temperature outlook. cpc.noaa.gov

The CPC gives all of Utah a 60-80% chance of above normal temperature through the 10-day forecast window. This is bad news for those traveling here in hopes of some fresh pow.

The only chance of precipitation in the near future occurs Friday night into Saturday as northern Utah will get brushed by the base of a weak shortwave.  Nothing to call home about, unfortunately.

Here’s to hoping for a pattern shift towards the end of the month, because lets be honest, great Utah skiing doesn’t end in March.