Not all Bad

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 at 7:53 am


Weakening and splitting system will bring snow showers to the mountains of Utah Tuesday and Wednesday.   A break later this week into the weekend.  Next storm arrives early next week.


As mentioned each of the last three days, the storm that was looking significant late last week has really fallen apart.  It brought good snow to the Sierra Nevada yesterday and is currently bringing snow to northeast Nevada, including the Ruby Mountains, all the way up to the Rockies of Montana.  Here is a map of additional snowfall forecasted over the next 48 hours:


It’s almost funny to see how close we were to getting good snowfall with heavy snow accumulations surrounding us seemingly on all sides.    The good news is that it’s currently snowing in the high Wasatch:


Snow showers today in a southerly flow will turn colder this afternoon as a cold front moves through.  Snow showers will then continue tonight into Wednesday.  Total accumulations will generally remain in the 2-4″ range above 7,000′, but it’s not out of the question that we could get amounts of 6″ or more in a few favored locations.

So yes, this storm isn’t going quite as planned.  The upside to this is that it’s only November 3rd.  Better to get skunked now than mid-winter.  Also, the cold temperatures behind the front will allow for snow-making over the next few days.

The other good news is that we’ve already got another good chance for snow in the forecast.  Late this week, we will gradually clear out and warm up by this weekend. Early next week, all models agree on another cold trough diving down into the Great Basin.  Too early to get into any details — but it’s nice to see no signs of the persistent ridging that plagued us last year.

El Nino:

El Nino is now at near record strength (+2.7C in region 3.4).  Indications are that it could continue to strengthen just a touch before peaking either late this month or early December.  I’ve said all along that Utah doesn’t have much correlation between El Nino and seasonal snowfall amounts.  I do believe that a strong El Nino increases our chances of above average snowfall just a touch, but still, ANYTHING can happen this winter.

Since mid-September we’ve been warning that October and November could be warmer and drier than normal.  October was the warmest in SLC history and exceptionally dry.  November is looking a bit more promising right now, but don’t be surprised if we are below average for snowfall yet again.   In December, hopefully we’ll start to see El Nino’s effects start to really take shape as more winter-like patterns develop.  If we can get to January 1 somewhere near normal snowpack, I’d consider that a huge victory.   After that, our odds of above average snowfall increase as we head into the first few months of 2016.  Here’s the Jan-Feb-March precip anomalies:


Predictably, California gets hammered.  The hope is that some of that bleeds over to eastern side of the Great Basin.  March-April-May is wetter for the interior west:


The hope is that we can get through November and December somewhere near normal, if we can do that, then I like our odds of seeing a snowy late Winter and Spring.  Of course, seasonal forecasting is far from an exact science, so it might be advisable to just hope for the best and not worry about any of this.


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  • COD

    What is your long term prediction as far as PC valley being able to hold a consistent, trackable snow pack at WPT or Round Valley for this season? Last season ended so early.

  • Aaron Rice

    First, “I’ve said all along that Utah doesn’t have much correlation between El Nino and seasonal snowfall amounts.”, and then, “In December, hopefully we’ll start to see El Nino’s effects start to really take shape as more winter-like patterns develop.”

    So which is it? Most of what I’ve read say El Nino has no effect on UT unless you include as statistically insignificant 5 moderately above average season with during strong El Nino years.

    • Important to understand that not having a correlation to total snowfall doesn’t mean it won’t have an effect. El Nino will certainly affect our weather, and hopefully make it more active as we head into the heart of winter, especially compared to what we are seeing currently. Correlation just suggests that the cumulative seasonal snow totals historically don’t differ too much from our normal values.

      However, we only have two winters of this type of strength of El Nino to compare against and both were above average, one of which was way above average (82-83).

      • Jim Ring

        So we know it will be a very strong el nino and the only two others of similar strength were above average snowfall for Utah. Is this in itself not a correlation.

        • Science would say 2 seasons is not a large enough data set to establish a correlation, but for our purposes, we can say that it at least gives us hope.

          • Jim Ring

            that’s all we want…hope. who am I kidding. we want 500 inches of snow….

          • BCC_Skier

            500 inches is simply an average winter, but would be splendid after the last four years.

            It should also be said that it is only November 3. We could have a 600 inch season that doesn’t get started until Thanksgiving.

      • Aaron Rice

        Interesting about El Nino affecting the weather, but not the end snowfall total. Not something I had thought about before. I would be interested to see some analysis of what effects El Nino certainly does have on UT weather.

        In terms of the 2 seasons of data. I am so hesitant to make any analysis based on such limited data. I’m sure you could find a lot of crazy things that have only happened twice and happened to align with big snow years.

        • It’s also important to note that I’m not saying it won’t have an affect on our end total. El Nino could give us a great year, a la 82-83. Historically, however, there just isn’t enough data in strong El Ninos to say that is a likely outcome. In moderate El Ninos, which we have more of to compare, there’s not much correlation — we’ve seen below average, average, and above average. So to sum up, El Nino in itself could mean ANYTHING for us in terms of total snowfall. I’m hoping based on our tiny data set of 82-83 and 97-98, that perhaps we are slightly more likely to be on the high end of average this year considering this is such a strong event. We’ll see…

        • Think of it this way. In a typical year (no El Nino/La Nina), we have 33% chance of Below Average snow, 33% chance of around average, and 33% chance of Above average. In a moderate El Nino/La Nina, those number don’t change for Utah — that’s what I mean by “no correlation”. We still have the same chances for below/average/above. In a strong El Nino, I’m hoping that now we have something like 25/35/40, instead of 33/33/33. Sorry this is so convoluted and confusing, seasonal forecasting is always just a game of slightly shifting chances.

  • Brad K.

    El Nino is feeling a lot like when you hear the popular kid at school is having the sweetest birthday party ever and you are just hoping to get invited.

  • NoSnowDownLow

    I saw a video on today that represented the snowiest places in the US. It was based on 30-year average data, so statistically should be a good true average to account for cyclical variances and Nino events, etc.
    Alta coming in at the second snowiest place in the US (#1 going to Mt Rainier).
    Interesting to me was that Colorado’s snowiest place was ~200″ less than Utah… Seems Utah is the place to be for great skiing and riding, even in a “bad” year, which gets equivalent to an average year in most other places.