High pressure and a strong southwest flow will combine to bring the region record warmth Thursday and Friday. More mild conditions this weekend with scattered showers. A cold front finally cools us down early next week with a chance for snow.
Yesterday’s few inches of snow skied very well. As dense, creamy snow often does, it felt deeper than it was. Now however, we are under the influence of strong high pressure. Couple that with a strong southwest flow that will be developing over the next day or so, and we have the recipe for record warmth. Yesterday and today, the low temps in many areas have failed to drop below the average high temperature for this time of year. I would expect many locations to break records over the next two days. Hopefully we see as much cloud cover as possible to help preserve south and west facing slopes that are losing snow quickly.
This weekend is going to be ugly. The low pressure system that is providing our southwest flow will be spinning out off the Pacific Northwest Coast. It is going to throw weak pieces of energy across the Great Basin. This should provide scattered mountain showers for much of the weekend. They won’t be anything significant and snow levels will be high (above 8,000 ft at times). Winds could also be strong from the south or southwest. Some areas may not even see a freeze in the coming days so the snow may be soft, however no freeze can accelerate melting. It’s a very late Spring type of pattern.
Some reprieve should finally make its way to Utah early next week. All models agree on a system dropping into the region by Tuesday and bringing cooler air with it. Most energy in this system is associated with the cold front. This cold front is stronger in the Euro and would bring the Wasatch a short but heavy burst of snow. The GFS is less aggressive and only brings a couple inches worth of snowfall to the mountains. The Canadian GEM is somewhere in between. Overall, I wouldn’t get too excited about it — but Tuesday and Wednesday may have a bit of fresh snow to play in.
Still we are searching for the major pattern change that will bring us big, consistent storms. Every time we have a bit of a pattern shift, we just move to another type of dry pattern, and during the “shift” we get one or two weak storms into the area. Even our storm mid-January which brought 1-2 feet of snow to the Cottonwoods and PC was a weak system, these areas were just lucky to get under a persistent diffluence zone.
Late next week, we go back under high pressure. This time, it’s a typical “Rex Block” pattern in which high pressure sits on top of an area of low pressure. You can see how strong it is in this mean heights prognostication from the ECMWF for 02/13:
Impressive. But if you believe it, the ridge is even stronger in the GFS for 02/13:
Wow! You’ll also notice that due the the west’s strong and amplified ridging, the Northeastern US stays under the gun for more cold and storminess. Damn them!
I know many of you check the models, particularly the GFS, regularly. If you do, you have probably seen in its long-range operational runs that it is trying to undercut the ridge with significant systems starting about 02/17. These systems show strong tropical connections and could be major AR events for California and bring major precipitation to the west. However, before we get excited, it should be noted that many GEFS ensembles don’t agree and for the most part, neither do Euro ensembles. However, more GEFS ensembles agree than disagree, as illustrated by this same mean heights graphic for 02/21:
Overall, the message is that the next 6 days will be warm for the most part and unsettled, but significant snow looks unlikely. After that, ridging takes over for at least 5 days…. Beyond, mid-month, it’s anybody’s guess…. but there are some encouraging signs.
P.S. In case you missed it, I did a full Wasatch snowpack analysis in yesterday’s post.
P.P.S. I know these forecasts have been discouraging. Trust me, if you think it’s tough to read, imagine having to write them every day. But…. I wouldn’t give up hope. In our magic 2010-2011 season Alta received >350″ of snowfall from mid-February until it closed (and even more snow after closing). That is significantly more than an entire season’s worth of snow for most ski resorts. Now I’m not saying that we’ll see that again, but even if we can get just 60-70% of that amount, we’ll be sitting pretty by the time closing day rolls around. The Wasatch usually finds a way to deliver, and most locals know that late February and March is the best time of year for skiing/riding anyway. Keep the spirits up!
This “song” was stuck in my head while I wrote this post….