Stepping Backward

Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 6:46 am


A moist system will spin from Mexico into Arizona before moving east over the next few days.  This will bring mountain snowfall to Southern Utah.  A few snow showers may reach the Southern and Central Wasatch Friday night.  Next week the ridge now looks to keep any significant moisture to our north.


Our strong cutoff low is moving north into Arizona today.  Moisture will reach far southern Utah tonight with off and on snowfall likely in mountains south of I-70 thru early Saturday morning.  Accumulation at resorts such as Brian Head could be in the 6-12″ range.   Northern Utah looks to be mostly out of reach of this system.  A few snow showers could make it to Cottonwoods/PC at times, but anything more than an inch or two is unlikely.

High pressure builds in for the weekend with temperatures once again warming as the calendar turns to February.

The last couple days I’ve spoken about the hope for the middle of next week.  Models showed the ridge flattening and allowing moisture to stream over the ridge and into northern Utah.  This was the model output through next Thursday (02/05) on Tuesday’s 12z run:


You can see a good swath of 1-2″ of liquid for the Wasatch Range.  That would have translated to some decent snowfall.

This is this morning’s 0z run for the same time period:


Only a few light showers expected now during the middle of next week…. The best precip now stays well to our north.  Bummer!

What is the culprit for the models backtracking yet again?  My opinion is that our problem lies in the fact that we just can’t rid ourselves of this ridge along the west coast.  At times this winter, we’ve been able to suppress it long enough to get some decent systems into the area.  It quickly rebounds however and before we know it, we are once again in some kind of a blocking pattern.  The ridge seems to be fueled by a strongly positive PDO and warmer-than-average waters off the west coast.  Trust me, if climatologists weren’t paying attention before, they are now.  California is entering its fourth year of drought and we don’t have a definitive answer for why things are so bad.  Lots of theories, I’m guessing each winter has had a slightly different, but equally bad, combination of climatological factors working against it.  Long story short, until we can rid ourselves of this fundamental pattern, we are faced with more disappointments as we struggle to get storms into the West.

Reasons for pessimism:  Models continue to show limited signs of ridding us of the ridge of high pressure along the west coast.  Most long range models have it sticking around through at least middle of February.

Reasons for optimism:  There’s still plenty of time for the models to flip again on next week’s scenario and bring decent precip farther south again.  Both the GFS and EC show the potential for a stronger storm or two at some point between Feb 7th to 10th.  Historically, long drought periods like this in January do eventually break and we see stormy late winters and springs.  For many areas of the Wasatch, half our seasonal snowfall occurs AFTER February 1st.  We have plenty of time still to make up ground on average.

It would be hypocritical of me to sit here and tell you not to be frustrated.  I want snow as much as anybody out there.  I was sick during our mid-January storm and except for leftovers in the backcountry, haven’t skied powder since the end of December.

If there is any flip flopping in the models today regarding next week, I’ll post an update.  If not, assume they remain mostly dry next week.


P.S.   PDO definition and explanation at

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21 thoughts on “Stepping Backward

  1. Phil

    Well, thanks for being honest I guess. The conditions were pretty good up at snowbasin yesterday. They could use a bit more snow off-piste but it was fun to ride fresh cream.

  2. brig

    Thanks for the update. Sea surface temp of CA this fall and early winter is the warmest in memory including during the last two big El Ninos in 83-84and 96-97. It must be influencing the strength of the afternoon onshores which end up deteriorating then high pressures when they are stronger due to greater differential in sea and land temps.

    1. Phil

      Water is warm due to excessive whale farts. They migrate down to Mexican waters, then fart their way back north. Some scientists are already calling this the Great Whale Fart Drought.

    2. Dave The Rave

      It seems that if ocean temps are warmer, there’s more evaporation, thus more water vapor in the atmosphere which would produce more precip. Oh well.

      1. brig

        Yes, but increases in wind speed increase evaporation too, so I don’t know what the cumulative effect of the higher temps are.

        We are just guessing on the effect of elevated nearshore water temps and nearshore wind patterns. I expect that they have helped extend the life of the high pressure ridges along the west coast for the last couple of months.

        The big problem remains that the ridging isn’t moving out which would hopefully allow the jetstream to dip and carry a bunch of Siberian/Aleutian juice our way -that is if there were a bunch of storms out off the Kurils to the Dateline ready to march east. Those hypothetical storms aren’t there yet. Hopefully they will be in another week.

        We’re all pounding our head against the ridge thinking the same thing, “Let the storms through.”

        Weather map L s make the world go round for anyone who likes to gravity slide on H2O.

  3. flyfisherman

    Must be time to relocate. I think I’ll move to JH. I just need a loaded sugar mama with a trust fund that’s thinking the same thing. If your out there just E-mail me and tell me when we are leaving?

  4. jim

    I knew those darn whales were up to something…I don’t want to give anybody false hope but the 0Z Canadian model is still showing decent precip this Sat and next Tues/Wed in northern Utah unlike the GFS.

  5. Darren

    Had the flu during the Jan 13th storm and missed that one as well while the rest of my buddies enjoyed their guys weekend. Seeing pictures of their face shots were worse than my 102 fever. Hope for a pattern change sooner rather than later. We return to UT from the east coast on Feb 14th – 21st. Can’t imagine conditions in December being better than in February!!!

  6. East Coast Greg

    i’m feeling so daggerred right now. but the whale farts have undaggered me a bit. appreciate that guys.

  7. Aztech

    I’ve had plenty of good days this season. You just have to be willing and able to leave work for fresh snow. I’m fortunate enough to be able to do that at a drop of a hat. I’m sorry everyone else is having a crap season.

  8. Tim Bowers

    I got a call from a friend in Tahoe. All resorts there will close after this Sunday.

    just kidding. not a good season for teh west.

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