Finally… something tangible?

Thursday, January 2, 2014 at 7:14 am


Weak storm Friday night/Saturday morning will bring light snow amounts to the Northern Wasatch.   It will also temporarily scour out inversion for a day or two of cleaner air.  Pattern change looking likely now for next week.


Finally what we’ve been waiting for…. A decent looking forecast.   Most posts over the last 7-10 days have been short due to a combination of a busy holiday period for myself and benign weather.  But today’s post is not short, so get ready for some heavy reading.

Inversions will persist for another 36 hours before a system moves through tomorrow night.  This is a decent cold front, but it lacks moisture, so precipitation amounts will be on the light side.  It is also grazing Northern Utah with the majority of precipitation heading to our north and east.  Still, snow should start late Friday night and continue into early Saturday morning.  Amounts look to be in the 1-4″ range with perhaps up to 6″ in favored areas like the Cottonwoods if we get real lucky.   The big win for us valley folk will be getting rid of inversion for at least a day.

Saturday afternoon thru Monday night look dry.  The next system is also fairly weak but will be the first in what could be a series of storms.  It will move into the area late next Tuesday, Jan 7 into Jan 8.  This could be followed by another storm Thursday/Friday and possibly another next Sunday/Monday.  Of course, this is stretching the limits of our forecasting abilities, but the point is we may be entering a period of several storms rather than just a one and done.

Since we like pretty pictures to illustrate this point, take a look at the ECMWF’s total forecasted precipitation through the evening of January 7:



Our only precip in Utah is from the weak system this weekend.  Now, lets look at the totals thru Jan 12 (this includes the first two storms in the series):

Images courtesy of

Images courtesy of

Much better, storms are progressing from the PNW east into the Great Basin and the Wasatch.  This is a very good sign.  Although it is still too early to say anything about how much snow we can expect — I’m excited because any change is a good change.  For the past two weeks, you’ve heard me spew a bunch of info about ensembles and the CFSv2.  If you’ve been a regular reader, you know that when you start hearing about ensembles, the CFS, and teleconnections like MJO/PNA/AO/QBO/etc, then you know we must be desperate.  No need for that now as there is finally something tangible in the operation and deterministic runs of the models.

Like I said, we are still early in the pattern change forecast and there is still a lot that can change between now and when this is supposed to take place, so don’t get too excited just yet.  But hopefully this will be the start of something good.


With all that being said, let’s take a look at where we stand heading into 2014 snowpack-wise . . .

Because it’s a reliable location and a fairly accurate reflection of the Wasatch as a whole, I’m using the Snowbird Snotel site.  Here is a look at the current snowpack for Jan-1 compared to last year (2013) and the year before (2012):


You can see us this year (green line) — currently we are at 68% of the normal snowpack (dark blue line) for this location.  We’ve seen about 21% of the average annual snowfall so far.  Usually by now, we’ve received just over 30% of our average annual.  So while we are noticeably behind normal, if history is any indication, we still have 70% of the season left to go, which is plenty of time to make up ground.  You can also see with the above graph that we’ve seen significantly less snow than last year at this time (red line).  Last year, however, we had a very poor January-March period after a decent start to the season — so again, plenty of time to catch up.  We have seen worse, however, with the winter of 2011-12 as a recent example (light blue line).

Forecasting is often about identifying correlations and patterns.  If we look at similar years in which we started out okay but then tailed off for the second half of December, we get this graph:



In two similar years (2007 and 1992), we saw ok starts to the season then long periods of dry weather.  In both of these years, we finally broke this pattern in mid-February, but it was far too late to catch up to normal.  Hopefully this year won’t be the same, but unfortunately, when we get into dry patterns this time of year, they can be very difficult to dislodge.



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  • David

    first of all…thanks for your overall effort with this website (it is great!!!). I found today’s graphs very interesting and useful. however, beyond their relevance for this winter, I was most surprised by the difference between the average of the last 30 years and the pattern of the last 3 to 5 years being significanly lower in snowfall? do you have any thoughts on this? global warming? SLC air pollution? random?….thanks.

    • That’s the big question. My general theory is that dry spells happen. We’ve certainly seen two or three consecutive dry years before. But I can’t say for sure that there’s not something broader happening with the climate.

  • Limper Dumper Naster Caster

    Wow this post started off very happy then ended on that super depressing about how we may be stuck in a rut after all and totally screwed. My major question is: should I be driving up and camping out in Jackson hole next week into the weekend?

    • Yeah, sorry about that. I actually wrote the snowpack part yesterday when the models weren’t as gung-ho about the pattern change, so there’s definitely a lack of consistency in tone. Haha. This weekend I would go to either Jackson Hole or Steamboat if you want to chase powder. Next weekend is much tougher call as the models still aren’t totally in agreement regarding the track of these systems.

    • Dave H

      looks like Mt Baker would make a difference, not Jackson

  • dante

    Thanks, WSF!! This obviously takes a whole lot of effort and time on your part and I appreciate the work you do for us. Good news or bad you’re always here to keep snow enthusiasts informed.

  • Tram

    I believe 3 winters ago was record setting. For example summit house at pcmr reported 411″, more then 120″ more then normal, Jupiter reported closer to 500″

  • Flaccid Phallusman

    Global warming is a myth created to drain your wallet. While we should all do ou”Cbest to help mother nature! I have even seen reports that the polar ice caps are GROWING!
    Now Evan how long do you think the “Storm Door” will stay open? Any signs of it “Closing” before march?

  • Right now I’m just hoping it stays open for the 5 days that the models are suggesting. Just taking everything one step at a time. Generally, the “storm door” only opens for a week or two at a time. Periods of ridging are normal and will return for sure at some point.

  • Bryan

    Thanks for the good news, Evan! I am getting tired of washing my ride!!

  • Steve

    Any thoughts on last 2 runs of the GFS which leave Norhtern Utah in between precip north and south of us? Puts off any significant precip for another 11 days. Starting to get a little discouraging.

    • Not too many thoughts, Steve. 12z GEM also showed the system cutting off and dropping down the coast. 12z Euro kept the system consolidated and moved it through the area. I’m still excited because right now any change is good change, but we’ll just have to wait and see if these changes bring us snow.

      • Michael

        wow I am getting pretty concerned also. Is this season doomed to be bad?