Spring isn’t here quite yet

Posted Monday, March 16th, 2020 by Julie Cunningham

TL;DR: High uncertainty forecast for snow in the Cottonwoods Wednesday into Thursday. Additional accumulation possible Friday.

What an unfortunate turn of events for resort skiing! Just in time for some snow, too. Let’s hope these closures are only temporary. Luckily, you can still get out and ski the backcountry if that’s your cup of tea.

A closed low pressure system is approaching the Intermountain West as the overall upper-level trough digs south towards Baja California. The graphic below shows how amplified this trough is, which provides the dynamics (and moist southerly flow) for snowfall here in the Wasatch.

Graphic courtesy of Tropical Tidbits.

Precipitation is expected to begin early Wednesday morning, with primarily snow up the canyons, rain in much of the valley, and the chance for mixed precipitation along the benches for this storm. Once the precipitation reaches the Wasatch, freezing levels will hover around bench height for at least much of Wednesday. Expect a brief pause in precipitation Thursday morning before picking up again through Friday morning.

Models are struggling a bit with precipitation totals for this storm. The NAEFS plume (shown below) has a lot of disagreement between members, as you can see by the spread of predicted snow totals. The American (GEFS) members are overall showing higher snow totals than the Canadian (CMCE) members. Based on the uncertainty of the model estimates, I would probably be a bit wary of my forecast, but I’m going to err on the low side of storm totals in the Cottonwoods through Thursday morning since southerly then westerly flow typically isn’t great for the Cottonwoods. We might expect 6-12″ in the Cottonwoods through Thursday morning, but I say this with low confidence.

Graphic courtesy of University of Utah.

If you’re interested, Homewood Mountain Resort by Lake Tahoe has received 79″ at the summit during the current storm. Pretty incredible!
– Julie

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