More Good News than Bad

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 7:57 am


A weak, warm system will push through Northern Utah this evening bringing a quick burst of snow to the highest elevations.  A stronger cold front will bring lower snow levels and snowfall to the region Thursday night with modest accumulations.  Another, potentially stronger, system will enter the region Sunday night into Monday.


Yesterday there was some understandable disappointment regarding the upcoming storm.  I think it must have been my overall tone, because the forecasted snowfall totals didn’t actually change at all from Monday to Tuesday.  However, when I’m a bit frustrated, it most certainly comes through in my writing and I think most of you picked up on that.  I found this animated GIF, I think it perfectly sums up our season so far…


I’ve had a few people say, “This is just like last year.”  While I can understand that the disappointment so far might be like last year, from a weather perspective, this is nothing like last year.  Last year, we had huge, persistent ridging over the western U.S. — storms didn’t even have a chance to make it to us.  Conversely, the east was just a consistently cold and snowy.  Remember all those Boston blizzards?  This year, we’ve seen almost constant troughing since November 1, with plenty of storm energy in the west.  The east, if you haven’t already seen, is baking in unseasonably warm temps.  Many ski areas out there have either not opened, or were forced to shut down.  All I’m saying is that at least now, we’ve had plenty of opportunity for snow, they just haven’t quite worked out for us yet.  The next two weeks looks to stay very active and I’m confident that eventually one of these storms will drop a good snow on the entire state of Utah.  To the weather…

Tonight, we’ve got a warm, moist, but dynamically weak wave that will very quickly push through Northern Utah.  This should be very similar to the wave we saw on Monday evening.  Snow levels will be high, up around 7,000 feet.  But an inch or two of cream in the highest elevation is not out of the question by tomorrow morning.

On Thursday, a much stronger cold front will approach.  Winds will be very strong ahead of the front.  This cold front will push through Northern Utah Thursday evening.  Snow levels will drop behind the front down to valley floors.  This is a strong front that could bring heavy snow, but unfortunately, it is moving quickly and we’ll have a very limited window of snowfall.  Snow showers will linger into Friday, but this isn’t the best setup for post-frontal orographic snow showers.  Because of the quick movement, accumulations will likely only be in the 4-8″ range.  I think that if we can get a bit slower movement than forecasted and/or orographics can produce on Friday in the storm’s wake, then perhaps places like the Cottonwoods could get higher amounts.  Here is the snowfall totals from this first storm:


Light blue for us shows modest accumulations.  you can see that the Sierra Nevada does well again, as well as the Tetons and Cascades.  With the timing of this system, the best powder will definitely be found Friday morning, even if it isn’t quite as deep as we’d like.

In general, it looks like a break on Saturday into Saturday night.  As we go through the day Sunday, the next system approaches and our chances for snow increase again.  This system looks to bring snow to the region on Sunday night and Monday with very cold temperatures.  At this point, this second system looks better than the Thursday night system.  We’ll keep a close watch on this one as well as there is potential for it to drop too far west like so many of its predecessors have done.  At this point, both Monday and Tuesday of next week look like potential powder days if the storm holds together.  Here is the total accumulation from the two systems combined:


You can see the spine of Utah gets in much better on the action with this second storm.

We should start to clear out on Tuesday of next week but we will remain cold with a moist northwest flow, which could add additional snowfall accumulations in places.  Another piece of energy looks to drop into the west later next week but models disagree on how this evolves.  Too far out to worry about it now.  In general, the pattern looks to remain active as high pressure parks itself north of Hawaii, keeping our storm door open.  Climate Prediction Center has wetter-than-average conditions favored for the 8-14 day window up and down the west coast:


Although some of the model runs may have given us hope for a major storm that didn’t come to fruition, there is still a lot more good news out there than there is bad.  Several powder days likely over the next week.  Enjoy!


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  • Bryce

    Hey just wanted to leave a comment. I just began following WSF and you do not disappoint. I love your insight into the weather. My family spends a week up in Park City around Christmas and New Years. I cannot wait to get up there. Will be up there Dec. 19th-26th. I have my fingers crossed that these storms produce some good powder. Went to Tahoe last year and busted up my board pretty good on the lack of snow. Pretty disappointed now that now they have an abundance this year and wont be able to partake. I did see that you were a little disappointed yesterday however I think we all need to keep our chins up. There is a lot of activity coming off the jet stream over the Pacific. I am optimistic that we will get in on the action over the next two weeks.

  • Steve Noufer

    Given the way forecasts and storms have gone this winter, any thoughts on odds on the Sunday/Monday storm delivering as models currently indicate.

    • Right now the models (GFS) are showing a big storm on Monday with a cold unstable northwest flow lingering through Tuesday. If the current GFS verifies then there will be 24″+ in the Cottonwoods by Tuesday afternoon.

      • Yeah, I think Steve knows it looks pretty good right now. As for if this will hold up… I honestly don’t know. Obviously I’m not confident, it’s hard to tell if this lack of confidence is founded or if I’m just paranoid.

  • Mark Nielson

    The weather patterns may be different, but the riding still sucks. So looking at Alta’s historical season snowfall for the last 5 years as of 12/7 this is where we stack up:

    2015-16: 56″
    2014-15: 68″
    2013-14: 101″
    2012-13: 90″
    2011-12: 79″
    2010-11: 142″

  • brianh

    Thanks for the great information, and hopefully the weekend and early next week bring some much needed accumulation. My wife and I visit my father-in-law in Park City every New Years and we’re hoping things come together on the slopes in time for our visit. Thanks again- you have a very useful site!