Weak Storm, Interesting Long Range

Monday, November 9, 2015 at 8:14 am



Windy today ahead of a relatively weak system.  Snow should begin later this evening in the Wasatch as the front passes through but should end quickly.  A second, colder period of snow is likely for late Tuesday into Tuesday night.  Interesting possibilities in the long range.


Our system is currently dropping down off the California coast to our west, very similar to the system last week:


You can see the strong southerly flow over Utah right now in advance of the cold front.  That will create very strong winds today.  Eventually the cold front will reach us this evening, but it looks like it won’t be overly moist.  The system is also splitting again, which doesn’t help our cause.  Snow levels will fall quickly down to bench or even valley floor levels late tonight and the mountains will see a quick 2-4″ inches of snow with a trace possible in the valleys.

Tomorrow we should have a break.  Then the cold core, which you can currently see off the PNW coast, will move over the area on Tuesday evening into Tuesday night.  That should kick up some instability showers, combined with orographics and maybe a bit of lake enhancement.  The hope is that we see an additional few inches from that part of the storm.  Overall, it’s certainly nothing major.  Probably 3-6″ for most high mountains with perhaps 5-10″ in the Cottonwoods.  The hope is still that the lake will help surprise us… but I’m not confident enough to put that in the forecast.

By late Wednesday, we clear out and see an extended break in the weather as the storm track retreats to the north.

Long range:

I’m really looking at the long range with great interest lately.  Until today, it hasn’t really shown up in the operational models, only the ensembles, so I’ve been biting my tongue a bit.  But now, I’m seeing an enticing pattern showing up at the tail end of the 10-day operational runs as well.  The GFS and Euro operational and ensemble means currently show that after a break later this week into the weekend, we should start to see a deeper trough over the entire western U.S. next week.   Here is a look at the forecasted pattern on 11/16, one week from today:


I highlighted Utah on the right hand side for your convenience.  Essentially, what we are looking at is Utah staring down the gun barrel of 3 strong, classic Gulf of Alaska lows.  This is the type of pattern that can potentially bring a lot of snow to the region.  Right now the models show one weak system breaking through early next week with potentially stronger system later next week.  As always, this should be treated as conjecture at this point.  It’s encouraging to see this pattern, but most of the storms are still 7-13 days away, and we all lived through last year, which means that skepticism in the long range is our middle name. Plenty of time for models to decided that we haven’t shown enough respect to Ullr.   Just something for us to watch and see how it develops….


First look at the snowpack of the season!   It might seem silly to look at snowpack this early — that’s because it is!  Still I wanted to show where we stand:


The three lines on this graph are this year (blue), which you can see in bottom left hand corner.  Last week’s storm just barely got us off the floor.  Purple line is the median snowpack, you can see we are already running at only 36% of median.  Of course, this time of year, one good storm would put us above median, so don’t panic just yet.  But it does show that we are off to a relatively slow start so far.  Finally, the green line is the 2004-2005 season.  It is the recent gold-standard for quick starts to a season.  How good was it?  Well, as you can see, by Halloween we had over 13″ of SWE.  That means that if it didn’t snow from Halloween to New Year’s Day, we would have still been above the median on Jan. 1!  Mammoth Mountain in Cali opened around Oct. 20th that year and a buddy and I drove down there just after the opening.  85″ base.  Empty mountain.  Great powder.  Best October ski day of my life!  If I’m not mistaken, several Utah resorts were also open by Halloween that year as well.  It didn’t happen this year, of course, but hopefully if these storms next week work out, we can make some rapid progress on getting skiable terrain in the Wasatch.  Stay tuned…


Addendum:  Just checked weekly ENSO update and El Nino is now at +2.8C in the 3.4 region, which ties 1997 as the strongest El Nino on record!  Impressive stuff…  We’ll see what effects it has on our weather.  For Californians, it might be too much of a good thing.  Land slides, flooding possible based on historical evidence…  Better buy your ponchos.


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  • Florida Sam

    great post, despite the slow start, all the news seems encouraging!

    I don’t know if you have the data or not, but since this is an El Nino year, I think it would be fascinating to see those El Nino years (82/23, 97/98) you’ve mentioned in the past on the SWE charts you publish this year. Since those appear to be the analogous weather patterns, comparing the SWE I think would be interesting…. of course with all El Nino correlation disclaimers!


  • Pilot 3D

    Interesting, concise, practical. Nice site, nice service to the community. Keep up the fine work. See you on the hill.

  • Dafty Punk

    Whats going on with that blob that was supposed to counter the El Nino effect?

  • NoSnowDownLow

    It was snowing heavy (wet) at 5100ft on Traverse Mountain this morning (6am). Settling on the floor too, although not sure for how long as daylight arrives.
    It was sure windy last night too… managed to relocate my garden furniture and the 7ft trampoline.
    Any more snow for today/tonight?

  • Marc Guido

    Moderate snowfall at 4800 feet in Cottonwood Heights right now, sticking to grassy surfaces.