Bad news, Good news

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 7:49 am

Wednesday PM:

Well, today was painful.  It’s not exactly fun to forecast a storm and have it not pan out.  It was especially painful to watch this system look so good 5 days ago and then just get worse and worse, especially when we are in such dire need of snowfall.  I wasn’t overly confident in this system to begin with, which is why my initial estimate of 6-14″ was conservative.  Or at least conservative compared to some forecasts I saw.  Tonight we could still see some snow and the Cottonwoods have already gotten a couple inches so not all is lost.  I expect some areas of the Wasatch won’t see any snow from this “storm” while a few areas could pick up 6 inches or so tonight.

Saturday’s storm still looks decent.  If it holds together, we could easily see 10-18″ in the high Wasatch.  If it splits, which there is some suggestion it might do, we might end up with 5-10″.  Either way, there will be enough fresh snow for some good skiing this weekend.  And a chance for more snow on Tuesday.

Stay positive!

Previous . . .


There is bad news to talk about, but then some good news that will hopefully make you feel a bit better.  Our current storm, which we expected to start moving inland off the California coast yesterday, continued to dive down the coast until this morning when it finally started the push inland.  We were already expecting the system to track south of us, but now it’s looking like it will track through central AZ.  This means that even S. Utah will struggle to get good snows out of this system.  Northern Utah, which would have benefited last night and today from the southerly flow generated from the Low, will now have to wait until this evening for the flow to turn northwesterly before we get in on the action.  I don’t think there will be too much action to speak of either.  If you are a regular reader than you know that often times when there is no surface front and only weak orographics in play, we struggle to “force” the precip up into and over the mountains.  I suspect that might be the case tonight.  The Cottonwoods and some other northwest facing aspects might do alright tonight with 5-10″ possible by tomorrow afternoon, but I suspect that Park City resorts will only see 3-6″ and even that might be a struggle.  I hope I’m wrong but the best I can do is call it how I see it.  That still will be enough to make the skiing tomorrow fun with some freshies to throw around.

Now on to the good news, we’ll see a break on Thursday night into Friday before light warm advection precip develops in the mountains late on Friday into Friday night.  Fairly potent looking front and system on Saturday will move into the area during the morning hours and should last well into Saturday night.  This system was showing some splitting in the ECMWF (Euro) yesterday but has now trended back to a more consolidated trough.  This is going to be one of those hard hitting systems that is much easier to forecast than the long, drawn-out events.  My guess is that by Sunday morning, most resorts will be sitting on 10-18″ of fresh snow with a possibility for more in places.  It will also be a cold system so it should be Utah’s famous cold smoke!

The next system is timing for Monday night into Tuesday of next week.  This system is slightly weaker in the Euro than in the GFS but both models suggest additional snowfall, exact amounts are still unknown however.

Major model differences begin to emerge later next week.  The GFS generally tries to keep the storm train going through the first weekend of March, whereas the EC builds a dominant ridge.  Obviously I hope the GFS is correct but my gut feeling tells me that the Euro has a better handle on the situation.  We should know very soon as usually once we get within 7 days, the models start to find at least some sort of consensus.

This might not be the huge dumping pattern we were all hoping for, but there is still a solid chance that the Wasatch will see 2-4 feet of new snow between now and next Wednesday.  Let’s make the most of it!


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  • Anonymous

    Good morning WSF. I definitely like the good news portion of your forecasr :-). If the Euro is indeed correct and a dominant ridge builds in next week, do you have any idea whether this will be a long-lived ridge? Thanks

    • Too early to really know. But it does look like IF the Euro is correct, it is a fairly strong ridge which can been difficult to break down.

  • James

    so basically.. we may not have any snow in march?

    • Considering we only have a vague idea of what the first couple days of March might look like, I think it is a little hasty to be saying that we won’t see any snow.

  • James

    it seems.. mother nature doesnt want northern utah to get any snow..

  • Ullr’s Bastard Child

    I demand an end to this “ridging”. It is not fun and does not serve the needs of my backcountry skiing hobby. This is an outrage!!!

  • Anonymous

    Hello WSF! Thanks for all your hard work and excellent forecasts. You all do a terrific job. I have planned a trip to LCC for the middle of March. I am concerned about the ski/snow conditions and whether there will be enough snow at that time. It seems like this year is not much better than last year? I am okay with there not being many big storms during my stay but don’t want to travel from the east Coast if the conditions will be poor. Any insight or advice you might have would be great. Thanks!

    • We might be a bit below average, but LCC still has plenty of snow and coverage will not be an issue for your trip!

      • Anonymous

        Thanks so much for putting me at ease. I appreciate it!! Is it possible that the snowpack would reach near average levels in LCC with the upcoming two storms? Is the storm for next Thursday still likely? Do you have any sense of the upcoming weather patterns in mid-March? Sorry for all the questions but you do an excellent job with your explanations!

        • We are currently at about 80% of average in LCC, if we do really well this week, we’d probably get up above 90% but it’s unlikely we’ll get all the way back to normal. After Tuesday of next week, it’s all very much a blur as one model suggests possibly more storms and the other main weather model wants to dry us out. Mid-March is just too far to know anything with any certainty, sorry. Stay tuned and it will become clearer.

  • Anonymous

    Hi WSF, any risk that Tuesday’s storm will dig south of the Wasatch?

    • It is possible that it could split as it moves into the Great Basin and send its energy south of the Wasatch, but this is unlikely. If you’re asking if it will do what the current storm is doing, then no, not much chance of that. It’s a different type of system.

  • Anonymous

    Hello WSF, thanks for all of your excellent forecasts. I was wondering if the storm forecast for Saturday still looks to be potent snowmaker or is it looking like it will split and miss the Wasatch? Thanks!

    • Still a chance of it splitting a bit. Should be at least a moderate system.

      • Anonymous

        Hi WSF, what do you think the liklihood is of this next system splitting? We talking 50/50?

        Think Park City can sqeak out 6″ or so?

        • Well there are different degrees of splitting. I think there is a high likelihood of at least a partial split but a low likelihood of a total split. I’m optimistic that it will hold together.

  • Sal

    Would you care to comment on why the SLC national service forecaster team is so bad at forecasting storms. At first it appeared to be a fluke but I think their bating average is pretty poor. Maybe they should upgrade their models.

    • I am not sure. My guess is that they are forecasting on a storm’s potential. Their main goal is to keep people safe in dangerous weather, and forecasting the “worst case scenario” is the best way for people to pay attention and take necessary precautions in case storms do meet their potential. Generally speaking, the NWS in SLC does a great job.