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.

Out like a Lamb?

Things sure have quieted down here in northern Utah. March certainly came in like a lion with several storms in the first week. First there was the February 28th storm that left well over a foot at many of the resorts and ushered in very cold and windy conditions. The cold persisted until the weekend and then the winds came ripping across the state. The March 5th storm dropped another foot plus in the mountains, but then things settled. This week has been sunny, and temperatures have been warming rapidly. The high on Monday at Alta-Collins was 13°F, and today the spot reached up to 36°F.

Sunshine was almost unlimited for the first half of the week with barely a cirrus cloud to break the blue. That is going to change for the last half, however. More clouds are possible around the mountains on Thursday, and an area of high clouds may cross the region Friday. Coverage won’t be complete, but it’ll be something different from the blue of today.

Modeled cloud cover Friday morning
Modeled cloud cover Friday morning

Towards the weekend the forecast gets more uncertain. There is a chance for showers in the afternoons Saturday and especially Sunday, but, if it does happen, it won’t be more than a refresher. No big storm is on the horizon. Really, the pattern has calmed down quite a bit. There’s not much hope for anything but scattered showers until the end of next week. However, as Trey mentioned yesterday, the lower elevations are starting to really open up to more uses. The 60°F heat today has destroyed much of the snow below 7000′, and the warmth for the rest of the week should finish off the job (the average high this time of month by the way is in the low 50s, but averages don’t mean too much in spring). It’s too early to say whether this will continue through to the end of the month and March will go out like a lamb, but at the very least the lamb is visiting for next week.

Warming Temperatures

After yet another classic Utah storm that provided multiple powder days, it looks like we’ll enter into a more quiet period for the next 5-7+ days. We’re beginning to get to that time of year where the days are getting longer sun angle is rapidly increasing. This means that with clearing conditions over the next several days we’ll also see a significant warming trend. Expect temperatures into the 60s for valley locations and 40s in the mountains – the start of some spring skiing and possibility for multi-sport (bike/ski) days. A couple very weak disturbances will clip Northern Utah through the next 5 days, but these likely won’t provide much more than some brief cloud cover and breezy conditions at times.

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ECMWF precipitation forecast for the next 7 days

Intense Frontal Passage Tonight

Winds are currently cranking from the south across the entire state ahead if an approaching cold front.  Winds will remain strong as the cold front approaches.  It should make it to the northern Wasatch by 4-5PM, central Wasatch around 6-7PM and then southern Wasatch around 8-9PM.

Accompanying the front will be a period of very heavy snow/graupel all the way down to the valley floor.  Thunder will also be likely as the front moves through.  Below is the simulated radar reflectivity output from the HRRR and forecasted winds for Mt. Baldy from the NAM-12km.

HRRR reflectivity
HRRR reflectivity
Forecasted winds for Mt. Baldy from NAM-12km
Forecasted winds for Mt. Baldy from NAM-12km

As you can winds will be extremely strong…approaching 100MPH as the front comes through.  You do not want to be out in the backcountry when this thing comes through.

The main period of precipitation associated with the front will only last till about midnight.  After that instability/lake-effect snow showers will continue through tomorrow.  For totals I expect a general 8-14 inches with 12-20 in the Cottonwoods.  The NCAR Ensemble shows the intensity of the precipitation at the onset of the event.

NCAR Ensemble for Alta
NCAR Ensemble for Alta

Beyond tomorrow I expect a storm free middle and end of the week with moderating temperatures.  Active weather possible returns next weekend.

Looking good

If you got out today, especially in the alpine, it was hard to miss the headlining story: winds were brutal. Sun-baked snow from yesterday remained frozen despite some solar gain through thin high clouds as winds worked to cool the surface. Impressive forecast wind numbers are showing up in the models tonight, with gusts pushing 80 mph for the 11,000 ft ridgelines as a strong low level jet develops tonight on the leading edge of the incoming trough.

Winds on Baldy began increasing Friday evening, gusting as high as 65 mph today.
Winds at Alta Baldy Summit began increasing Friday evening, gusting as high as 65 mph today.
Baldy Summit Forecast Winds (~700 hPa winds)
Baldy Summit NAM 12km Forecast Winds (~700 hPa). Expect to see wind speeds relax (somewhat) behind the front on Sunday night. A forecast pushing 90+ mph gusts is always impressive to see!

It’s great to see the strong dynamical support – it’s likely that this one will be quick, but a decent producer of snowfall. A strong front will push towards the region late Sunday. Expect increasing clouds in the morning and light intermittent snow showers to develop midday. A deep layer of instability may even allow for the development of some strong convective cells with the possibility of lightning in the evening. Sunday night into early Monday is the main event with cold temps, ample moisture. The snow should continue through Monday, becoming more showery in nature throughout the day, with a chance of a heavier period of snowfall Monday evening. We expect to see snow levels down to the valley floor for most of this event, along with low snow densities.

Strong mid-level jet, deep instability along the front, and lingering post-frontal moisture should contribute to a great refresh of snow to start the week.
Alta NAM 12-km Time-Height: Strong mid-level jet, deep instability along the front, and lingering post-frontal moisture should contribute to a great refresh of snow to start the week.

Storm snowfall totals (by Monday PM):
Upper Cottonwoods: 18-24″
Park City Area: 12-18″
Northern Wasatch: 14-22″

If moisture lingers on the NW flow, don’t be surprised to see the orographic snowfall machine continue to crank out a few more inches in the upper Cottonwoods through Tuesday morning.

Get it while it’s good – temps look to warm quickly mid-week. For what it’s worth, the GFS continues to drive an unsettled, stormy pattern for the foreseeable future.

 

 

 

Time to Batten Down the Hatches!

The next storm to impact Utah is currently spinning of the Pacific Northwest coast.  Winds are expected to start increasing ahead of this storm tomorrow afternoon, with wind gusts up to 35 mph across ridge lines.  By Sunday morning, the storm will be on Utah’s doorstep with strong winds expected across mountain and valley locales.  700 mb (~11,000′) winds will become sustained at 60 mph Sunday morning ahead of a strong cold front.  Wind gusts approaching 100 mph from the SW will be possible over the highest Wasatch Peaks and could lead to some lift closures Sunday.

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GOES-WEST IR Imagery over the Western U.S.

A strong cold front will move across the Wasatch Front Sunday evening.  A line of thunderstorms will likely develop along the leading edge of the cold front.  Heavy snow (1-3+”/hour rates) will fall for several hours across mountain resorts during this time.  Right-side up snowfall can be expected as 700 mb temperatures will drop down to -14 C by Monday morning, with 20:1 ratios expected.  Snow showers will continue through Monday afternoon with fantastic powder conditions expected!

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GFS 6-hour Forecast Precipitation Rate across the Western U.S.

Forecast (Sunday –  Monday evening)

  • LCC/BCC Resorts: 12-18″
  • Northern Wasatch Resorts: 12-18″
  • PCMR & Deer Valley: 6-12″