MJO finding its mojo

Monday, February 11, 2013 at 7:56 am

This past weekend’s storm, while not a total bust, certainly did not drop quite as much as we were hoping for. A large part of that was that the southerly flow ahead of the Low on Friday/Friday night never really brought the type of steady moisture stream the models were depicting, so for the rest of the system we had to play catch up. So where does that put us in terms of snowpack compared to average? Well, we’ll start with the best areas. Southern Utah mountains are generally near or ever so slightly below normal. The Southern and Central Wasatch, including the mountains east of Utah and Salt Lake Counties now stand generally between 75-90% of normal — not horrible, but not quite where we need to be. The Uintas also fall into this 75-90% range. The Northern Wasatch, north of I-80, is where the lowest current snowpack exists compared to average. Generally speaking, they stand between 60-75% of normal.

If you’d like to see a full map of current snowfall numbers, you can find it here:

Several of you have been asking where this stands compared to last year, and the good news is that almost all these areas are at least faring better than last year. However, last year we saw a decent March, so if we continue to stay dry, we could fall behind even last year.

That is where the good news comes in regarding the current forecast. If you are a regular reader, you’ve been hearing me rant about the MJO and how I believe it could be the catalyst to turn this stagnant pattern around and give us a good end to February and hopefully a Miracle March. Well, the MJO is in Phase 1, the first of three favorable stages, and is strengthening again and forecasted to move into Phase 2 in the next day or two. My fear now is that the current forecast has it hauling through Phases 2 and 3… so it could be out of those favorable phases by the end of the month. Let’s hope it takes its time propagating and we can enjoy the benefits for a longer duration.

Most of the meteorological world, myself included, has been anxiously keeping an eye on the MJO and waiting for the effects to show up in the operational models. I’ll be the first to admit that I expected to see a much more drastic change in pattern showing up in the models about a week ago. It does appear, that a change is starting to show up beyond President’s Day, but it’s not nearly as drastic as I might have expected.

Today, we will see high pressure build in today behind the departing system. Inversions might reform bit today and tomorrow but shouldn’t be nearly as strong as some of the others we’ve seen this winter. On Thursday, we’ll have a “backdoor” type system drop down the east side of the ridge and clip Northern Utah. Models have struggled with the strength and a slight change in track of this system can mean the difference between no snow and several inches. So we’ll have to keep an eye on it, but at this time it looks like at least light accumulations are likely in the Wasatch, mainly north of I-80, on Thursday. Snow showers could continue early on Friday before we clear out again for the weekend.

A second backdoor system will drop in on Monday. Again, it doesn’t look like much at this time, but it will give us the possibility for at least a bit more additional light snow accumulations. The ridge is then forecasted by both the Euro and GFS to retrograde out into the Pacific and let a series of potentially stronger systems to drop into the Great Basin. This is a type of pattern similar to what we saw in December if it were to verify (that is a big “IF” right now). Not huge storms, but fairly frequent that could start to add up over time.

There are a ton of questions, but the models have been fairly consistent with developing this pattern after President’s Day so it’s definitely worth noting. Until then, we might have at least a couple small storms to keep it fresh up there. Enjoy!


This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .
  • Anonymous

    We can hope. By the way, what is the MJO? I assume it is something that is measured in the meteorlogical world. Great blog.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the great update this morning! I have a question regarding the MJO. I am heading out to the Wasatch in early March. If the MJO makes it through Phases 2 and 3 by the end of February, is there still a likelihood of receiving decent storms in March. Any insight would be great.

    • Absolutely you can still see decent storms in March, even if the MJO has moved through Phases 2 and 3. Decent storms are possible in all phases of the MJO, the MJO just can increase the likelihood of snowy patterns. There are some good signs out there besides the MJO that we’ll see a snowier pattern for the last week of February and first week of March. Stay tuned!

  • Brett Stahl

    Thanks for the update on where we sit, I get out daily on a snowmobile or skis up in the Farmington area and I find myself comparing this season to past season but have to acknowledge that the last few seasons have been non-typical seasons as far as snowpack. Its nice to hear from someone that has the metrological knowledge about these patterns and snowpack percentages. Just one question, how do they create the averages for snowpack? How many years do they use?

    Thanks again for the site!

    • Brett, the averages are just the mean average of years past. Every snowpack site is based on different number of years depending on how long they have been measuring snowpack there. Usually you need at least 10 years to get a decent picture of what is “average”. The most popular snowpack measurement sites in the Wasatch have about 25-30 years worth of data. The last two years have been sub-par for sure. But 2010-11 was a great year! It all averages out in the end.

  • Frank

    Great website and I have been following the updates all winter. Heading out to Park City Feb 18th-24th and was hoping (and praying) for a big storm that week. Coming from New England and we finally got a decent storm over the weekend.

    • Well, looks like you have a chance for a small system on the 18th with a chance for a stronger storm (or two) later in your stay. Stay tuned as it’s still too early to really know for sure. Thanks for the kind words.

  • Anonymous

    I love this site, thanks for all your hard work. We’re coming back to the Wasatch (Feb 29 – March 6) after visiting last year. Coming from MN we heard the locals say that we hit the worst winter in 35 years last year. Here’s to hoping this winter can show us what Utah really has to offer. Bring it (knock on wood)!

  • Jessica

    I’m not a skier, my husband is. I started watching this blog for his sake. I am however, a geography major and taking a climatology class right now. I’m addicted to this blog AND I’m learning so much! Thank you! This is absolutely fascinating! And thanks for the link about the MJO.

    • Good to hear. I’m glad I’m not the only one who is fascinated by unraveling the mysteries of the atmosphere!