A storm, if you can call it that

I went for a run in the foothills this morning, and I took a completely snow-free route that I did in May 2014, when I was dodging snow patches. What is already the warmest winter on record at Salt Lake City continues to become more and more of an outlier…at least we can say we’ve all now witnessed a truly extraordinary weather event, right? I’ll take that as a consolation prize for surviving this ski season.

The weather will be warm and gorgeous again tomorrow (Saturday), with mostly sunny skies and lights winds. Sunday will be slightly cooler, with a few clouds around, so I’m gonna call Saturday the best day to ski. It looks like we’ll get brushed by a “storm” beginning late Monday and lasting into Wednesday, but don’t hold your breath on this one. There is a decent chance that most of the lift and moisture associated with the shortwave troughs will stay to our north, leaving us with nothing but a dusting. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on the details as it gets closer. Unless this storm starts to look particularly juicy (which I don’t anticipate), the best skiing in the next 5 days will be Saturday…temps will cool down on Monday and things will be pretty icy.

The long range looks great of you love sun and warmth! Not so much if you still want to be skiing in a month. Confidence is fairly high that beginning late next week we will be very warm once again. I don’t know about you, but I plan to bust out the spring skiing costume fairly soon…if you see a giraffe skiing in the Cottonwoods, come say hi!

Breaking Records

We’re breaking records, on pace to break more, and unfortunately they’re not the kind of records we want to be breaking. I’m talking record highs earlier this week & last weekend. Alta and several other regional observing sites are also on pace for a record low snowfall season. Does this mean that those records will be broken? Not necessarily…it’s still too early to say, but unless things pick up big time this one could go down in the record books.

The forecast for the next week or so continues to look bleak for the Wasatch. The streak of above average temperatures looks to continue through the weekend. Fortunately, though, it looks like we’ll at least “cool” down a bit and maybe get into a good corn cycle. A trough looks to move across the region around Tuesday, but models are consistently showing a “brush by” to the north with not much in the way of precipitation for the Wasatch. The GFS and some Ensembles, however, are showing a much different evolution with the trough (strongly influenced by less predictable, at least the far out, shortwave troughs).The EC and Ensembles show next to nill. I’m not optimistic, but it’s all we got. On the bright side, it’s been nice busting out the shorts in March!

A lovely May weekend

Not much to add to what Trey said yesterday; it’s gonna be downright toasty this weekend, and no doubt the warm weather activities will be calling to all of us. I’m gonna go up and do a little skiing though, and I’ve got a nice little multi-sport weekend put together. I’m thinking skiing for at least a half day, hopefully a little rock climbing outside, and a trail run in the foothills. It’s that time of year!

As for the forecast specifics, Saturday will be even warmer than today, with Sunday even warmer than Saturday. Skies will be bluebird on Saturday, with some high clouds moving through on Sunday. Temperatures will likely top 50 degrees at most mid-moiuntain sites on Sunday, so this would be a great occasion to bust out your spring skiing outfit. USW forecaster Jeff Massey is extremely white and prone to sunburn, so I’m excited to see how bad his goggle burn will be in the office on Monday.

Extremely warm temps will continue into early next week. The models are depicting a weak, elongated area of clouds and precipitation setting up over the Great Basin in the mid-week timeframe. This would cool things down a tad, but it likely wouldn’t produce more than a few showers.

Desert Season

I’ve all but given up on what has been about as bad of a winter as it gets in the Wasatch. Oh how things change! Just 3 years ago I was fresh out of the swamps of Louisiana & didn’t even know how to ski. In my short time here I’ve already become a Utah powder snob (and said I never would ha!). Seriously, though, I am grateful for the snow that we have gotten. Even though this season is statisitcally almost as bad as it can get in Nrn Utah, we’ve still had plenty of good days and can still ski most terrain. Those out in California can’t say the same! On to the forecast… 

Looks like we got a couple inches to freshen the groomers up a little. Haven’t been up to ski since last week, but I’m sure off trail riding is “moguled out” and will likely remain that way at least through next week. In the wake of this weak system it will get down right HOT for March standards this weekend…aka Desert Season is here. Should be a great weekend for making a trip down south for some biking, climbing, camping, etc. Or if you plan to hang around Salt Lake bust out the jorts for some spring skiing!

Through early week I don’t really see any opportunities for precipitation. By mid-week the models diverge and indicate at least some low end chances of precipitation. The European Ensembles continue to be aggressive in the 7-10 day range, so hopefully other models will trend in that direction.

A little snow then warm again

After another warm, dry day Wednesday a weak trough will move into Utah from the west.  Snow will begin early Thursday morning and last through the afternoon.  Accumulations will be moderate, with 3-7 inches in the Upper Cottonwoods and 2-4 elsewhere.  A ridge will rapidly build back in for Friday.  Temperatures will then warm through the weekend with very warm conditions by Sunday.  Freezing levels with this storm will be about 7000′, so watch out for rain unless you are in the Cottonwoods or up at Beaver.  While the skiing could be reasonable on Thursday, bring the sunscreen and spring wax if you want to go on Sunday.  Could be a lot of mush out there.

Early next week Utah will be under a fairly strange upper-level pattern that has some potential to produce snow out of some sort of weak frontal band, but is too uncertain to call yet.  The Euro model ensemble seems to like it, and that is always a good sign.  

Remember, the resorts (particularly the Cottonwoods) can get a lot of snow in March and April.  Don’t give up just yet!

A Good Looking Storm Tomorrow!

Morning Update: things continue to look really good for this storm this morning, so I’m gonna go ahead and up my forecast to 10-20 inches for the Cottonwoods by Wednesday morning. The forecast for the rest of the Wasatch still looks to be on track.

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It looks like this weekend’s (Sat-Sun) storm totals were generally in the 4-6″ range in the Cottonwoods and PC resorts, with 2-4″ in other areas like Snowbasin and PowMow. So not a huge storm, but the snow was skiing pretty well up at Snowbird today.

Now on to the exciting stuff: we have a very good looking storm on tap for tomorrow and Tuesday. The models have been consistent in depicting a one-two punch of compact shortwave troughs moving through Utah, with moist west-northwesterly flow in the intervening periods, and cold temperatures aloft. The models have been equally consistent in producing pretty good amounts of precipitation. All of these ingrendients are very encouraging if you are a Wasatch skier.  I’m gonna go for 8-16 inches in the Cottonwoods, with 6-12″ in the PC area and northern Wasatch by the time the snow winds down Tuesday evening. To get you even more excited, snow densities will likely be very low with the cold atmospheric temps, so I’m expecting blower powder. You may want to consider taking a day off to ski the goodness that is going to be falling.

There is a brief window for lake-effect snow early Tuesday, but with shifting wind direction and inherently low predictability of lake-effect, I’m just gonna mention it as a possibility. Even if the lake does kick in, I don’t expect it to be much of an event anyway.

Long range: after snow showers taper off Tuesday night, we come back under the influence of a ridge of high pressure for the remainder of the week. The position of the ridge to our west, however, will allow some storms to brush by us. These would potentially bring clouds and a couple snow showers. Temps will remain on the cool side and the warmup will be modest compared to the temps we got used to in February.

Storm Timetable

By Tomorrow Morning:

Snowfall rates are beginning to increase as positive vorticity advection and associated 700 mb convergence increases across Central Utah. GOOD NEWS! This axis has continued to shift north over the last several hours with the heaviest precipitation now reaching as far north as the Cottonwoods. A quick look at the Snowbird cam reveals rates up to 1″ / hour right now and with 15:1 ratios this appears very reasonable. I’m expecting these precipitation rates to continue through late evening so let’s say 6 hours+ of this. I’m going a little bit out on a limb here with my nowcasting, but given these trends early this afternoon I’m going higher than everyone else and forecasting 4-8 inches by tomorrow morning. Everyone from the Cottonwoods and points south should do fairly well. Northern resorts likely won’t get as much with a fairly sharp cutoff in precipitation…I’m not expecting much more northward advancement but if it did occur Snowbasin and Pow Mountain would get in on more action.

Tommorow through Monday afternoon:

Precipitation will become more showery in nature without a strong forcing mechanism like we have this evening. Maybe a couple inches especially in areas that get lucky with a few of these showers but not expecting a lot. This would put us pretty close to Matt’s forecast of 6-12 for the weekend, though he picked the wrong best day ;). 

Monday afternoon through Tuesday:

Another shortwave trough drops down from the NW into Northern Utah. All models are showing that while it won’t be an extremely long duration event, precipitation rates could be heavy at times. There’s still some uncertainty with the interaction between this shortwave and the longwave pattern entrenched in the Western U.S. but I’m confident enough to conservatively forecast 6 – 12 inches. Don’t be surprised if these numbers go up. I really like what I’m seeing with the European and we’ll be in favorable (for the Cottonwoods) NW Flow. In addition, there will be a brief period where we could see some lake enhancement. We’ll hopefully have a better idea about this tomorrow! In the meantime, enjoy the new snow!

 

Things are trending the right direction…

Long story short, the outlook is getting progressively better for the funky trough this weekend.  It looks like the Cottonwoods will get 6-12″ between Friday evening and Sunday night.  This is on top of the 1-3″ that fell today.  Park City will get just a little less.  Snowbasin and Powder Mtn are looking at 3-6″.  

Most of the snow will fall Friday night through Saturday evening so my guess is that Saturday will be a better day to ski most areas.  Sunday might be better if you like to hit areas that are sometimes closed during storms, like Road to Provo at Snowbird.  Snow quality should be very good.

The main uncertainty with the forecast this weekend is where the primary snow band will set up.  Orographic lift won’t play a huge role in this storm, so snow amounts will be sensitive to the positioning of the band.  Right now the Cottonwoods and areas south are going to get it.  Lets hope it doesn’t shift back to the south.  

After showery conditions Monday, another storm is currently forecast to move in Tuesday.  That one looks like an awesome Cottonwoods storm with moist, cold northwest flow for an extended period.  I’ll stick with Matt Lammers’ forecast of 5-10″ for that one, but if the models hold to the current solution it could be more. 

 

 

 

On the Edge

Wow, hopefully all of you powder lovers had a great weekend out there. The storm is long gone today, but I am definitely still grinning about the great turns I had at Alta and Snowbird this weekend. Temperatures are beginning to warm, and will continue to do so under a weak ridge through Wednesday under sunny skies. Although as Trey mentioned, even this “warmup” will still feel chilly after the April-like temperatures we’ve gotten used to.

We are still on track for a storm Thursday/Friday, followed quickly by another shot over the weekend.

The first storm (shortwave trough) will be modest, but the cold temperatures aloft and light NW flow will be working in its favor. Don’t expect a big powder day, but it should be a nice refresher. We should be close enough to the event tomorrow for Jeff to give you some snowfall numbers.

For the weekend storm, the models continue to depict the strongest ascent and snowfall further south, putting the Wasatch on the northern edge of the best action. This is especially true of the ECMWF, which mainly hammers southern Utah/northern Arizona. Hope still remains, however, as there are many ensemble members that depict things far enough north to bring a big dump to the Wasatch. 

So in other words, the weekend still looks to be boom or bust as far as snowfall is concerned. My only hope as a forecaster is that the models do not continue to put us right on the edge of a big snowfall/small snowfall boundary as we get closer to the event…no one likes being teased by the atmosphere.

 

More Snow! But how much??

Looks like we’ll be staying in a fairly cold, more winter-like pattern at least through next week. We’ll warm up slightly Tuesday/Wednesday, but compared to what it’s been the past month it’ll probably still seem cold. On to the good stuff and what we’ve been waiting a month+ for. The pattern change is HERE! High amplitude ridging which has dominated the Western U.S. and plagued Utah for most of the past month will shift westward. This will help open the door for a period of active northwesterly flow with numerous storms affecting the Western U.S. How exactly this pans out for Utah remains to be seen, but I can almost guarantee we’ll have more snow days and better odds at decent accumulations through the next couple weeks than we’ve seen in a while.

The first potential storm to impact us will begin to move into the picture Thursday. Precipitable Water (a measure of moisture) values will begin to increase in advace of the first of a series of shortwave troughs embedded in NW’ly flow. The evolution of this first shortwave will have important implications in determining how the longwave trough and other shortwaves evolve. Without getting too much into the details the latest GFS and European runs have been trending towards and are now showing a deeper overall longwave trough by next weekend. While Northern Utah would still almost certainly see snow from this type of evolution, the best moisture and dynamics would be shunted off farther towards the south. The 00z European run (yesterday) and some ensembles, however, were farther north with the best dynamics and the overall evolution. These different model solutions we’re seeing right now could mean the difference between a mediocre 6 inch storm and a blower 1-2 foot + storm. In summary, the jury is still out on how this will pan out so let’s hope models trend back towards a more northerly solution. Regardless, though, snow is in the forecast for a change. Oh and one more tidbit… things are looking good even beyond this system, so if it doesn’t nail us maybe the next will.