Saturday AM update:
Not much change from yesterday’s discussion (below). Northern Utah is still on the periphery of good snowfall for Monday afternoon thru early Wednesday. The best snowfall should occur to our north (Tetons), but mountain areas from about Provo northward should still get in on some of the action. Right now I’d say accumulations will be modest unless something changes (e.g. trough sinking farther south). Currently, ensembles are all over the place, suggesting anywhere from just a few inches to up to 20″. I think 6-12″ for the Upper Cottonwoods is a good safe bet right now. The other piece of good news, however, is that temperatures will drop significantly during and immediately after this trough passage. That should allow resorts to implement some snow-making where needed next week.
In other news, there are some rumblings going around of a stronger El Nino for next year. I know many of you are probably saying, “Weren’t we supposed to have an El Nino this year?” The fact is that we did have an El Nino this year, just a very weak one. El Nino generally brings below normal precipitation to the northwest (check) with above normal for southern California and the desert SW (not so much this year). The reason we didn’t get the southern precip is likely that the weak El Nino didn’t quite strengthen the southern Jet enough to break through the ridiculously resilient ridge that has been fueled by +PDO all winter — essentially warm sea temps in the Eastern Pacific. From what I’m reading, oceanographers and climatologists are saying that our chances at another (likely stronger) El Nino next year is somewhere between 40-80%. Personally, I think it’s way too early for us to start conjecture about next year so I’d recommend not reading too much into these reports just yet.
Also, I think it’s worth pointing out that El Nino is NOT necessarily a good thing for northern Utah. We went over this in the fall, but it’s worth re-mentioning. History shows that in general, El Nino events are around seasonal average snowfall for all except far southern Utah. The exception is extremely strong El Nino events such as 1982-83 in which we saw record snowfall. So if you’re rooting for El Nino, ya better hope it’s a strong one!
You’ve heard me rant about the strong MJO a few times over the past two weeks. If you’d like further reading on the subject, and a bit about its influences on El Nino, I’d check out this article shared with me by a reader:
Dry and warm this weekend with times of clouds. A storm will affect Northern Utah late Monday thru Wednesday with mountain snowfall likely.
We are heading into the weekend continuing the regime of warmer-than-normal temperatures. A weak system will pass well to our north over the weekend, but could spread clouds and slightly cooler air into the region, especially in far northern Utah.
Attention continues to be on the trough for next week. This was our “one hope” from the last discussion. Models have generally converged on a middle ground as they so often do. Right now the best precipitation looks to be just north of Utah. With that said, the Wasatch and Uinta mountains should still see precipitation as both the GFS and EC bring enough energy down south to bring us somewhat decent mountain snowfall. Here is the latest GFS qpf through middle of next week:
You can see by the map that the best precip should stay up in Western Wyoming (Jackson Hole/Targhee). Still, I’d expect the Wasatch to see snow develop late Monday and continue off and on thru at least early Wednesday morning. Snow levels should not be an issue for most resorts.
It’s a tough forecast right now because of how fine the margins are between little or no snow, and decent accumulations. If the models trend just 50-100 miles farther south with the best energy, then the Wasatch could be looking at a fairly significant snow event. However, if they trend 50-100 miles farther north, then we could get skunked. There’s no question we need this storm, both for ski and hydrological purposes. Needless to say, we’ll be watching this one closely in the models in the coming days…
Ridging returns. No matter what happens with the Monday-Wednesday system, it looks like it is one-and-done and we head back to ridging to close out the month of March. There are still indications that an MJO-influenced change in the pattern could occur during the first week of April, but at this point I’m not getting my hopes up.