Finally some snow to talk about! . . . and a distant pattern change?

Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Updated to reduce snow totals for Wednesday/Thursday system… models trending farther east with bulk of precip.  Very disappointing.

10-day Snow Forecast:

Wednesday Night/Thursday (Dec. 21-22)

  • Above 6K feet, 4-6″ Cottonwoods, 2-4″ Park City
  • SLC Bench, 1-3″
  • Valley Floor, Trace-1″

Saturday, December 24

  • Above 6K feet, light accumulations possible


Quick Monday AM update to move onset of precip up from Wed. evening to Wed. afternoon… everything else still looks about right . . . . . previous…

Wasatch snow-lovers have been suffering through one of the driest snow seasons on record.  And relative to last year’s epic season, it seems even worse.  However, we aren’t the worst off.  Tahoe area resorts as well as the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Northeast have been working with virtually no snow, whereas the Wasatch at least has 20-36″ of natural snow base.  Having roots in Tahoe, I follow their weather and snow conditions very closely, and this is the worst season in my memory for the Sierra Nevada.  Old-timers tell me the winter of 76′-77′ was even worse, with zero accumulating snowfall until after the New Year– unfortunately, that is beyond my recollection but I’ll take their word for it.

Ski-tourism is huge part of the Utah economy and even more so for the Tahoe area… lack of snow affects them more than us however.  Utah’s ski-tourists are generally travelling from farther away than Tahoe’s.  Therefore, the majority of skiers coming to Utah have booked their vacations months in advance and will come whether we have a lot of snow or just a little.  But Tahoe’s skiers are mostly coming from the Bay Area or the Central Valley, just a few hours’ drive away — decisions that are made with far less foresight.  I’m hoping for their sake that we both see a lot of snow in the near future.

So when will it all turn around? Well, it’s not a pattern change but a strong cold front will drop south into our area Wednesday evening with snow continuing into the day on Thursday.  This system reminds me a lot of a system that came through the area in the middle of November and dropped about 8-10″ of snow in the Cottonwoods.  I am expecting similar snowfall totals if everything holds together.  However, the uncertainty being 3.5 days away still led me to air on the conservative side with 5-10 in the Cottonwoods and 3-6 in Park City.  Sunday’s 18Z GFS wasn’t quite as convincing as the morning runs and am a little worried this system is going to fall apart as we get close like so many have already this season.  Waiting for the 00Z run to come in to see if it continues in that direction.  ECMWF is still looking good.  As I type this, I was able to get a first look at the 00Z GFS and it has flipped back to this morning’s runs with more significant precip. A good sign.

Another wave may drop into the area during the day on Christmas Eve, 00Z GFS is looking wetter but we’re still a long way from Saturday so will only mention a possibility for more accumulating snow.  Beyond Christmas, it looks like another ridge will build back in for at least a few days.  There are a lot of signs in the world of meteorology that a major pattern change could be in the works for the New Year or just after.  AO (Arctic Oscillation) has been positive almost all Autumn but it has slowly been working back toward negative in the last couple weeks… A negative AO is often indicative of a Western US trough developing… We’ll have to keep an eye on that.  PNA is still positive and MJO is in the “Black hole of Death”.  AO and PNA going negative is typical in a La Nina year and we are slowly starting to head in that direction.

Obviously, I’m as bummed as anyone that we haven’t had much snow yet this year, but I’m not going to throw in the towel.  By the end of January, I think we’ll be singing a different tune as I expect an above average month – – hopefully enough to bring us back to average snowpack for that time of the year.

In the interim, enjoy the fact that for once it looks like things might go our way with snow on Wednesday Night/Thursday and perhaps Christmas Eve.

Stay tuned . . . Will update tomorrow morning with quick look at 06Z runs.

… The Powder Hound …

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  • I hope you are right but as of now I’m thinking 5-7″ for the Cottonwoods with this storm and that is more than the current models would suggest. The problem with this storm is that the 700 mb flow turns to the NE too quick behind the front so the orographic lift will be limited.