Long-Range Pattern Change

Monday, February 29, 2016 at 7:25 am


Another very weak system is clipping Northern Utah today.  Clouds, breezes, a few snow showers.  A couple more similarly weak systems will pass through later this week.  Finally, a more extensive change in the pattern looks likely for next week.


Weak energy just clipping Northern Utah this morning.  Pathetic really.  Powder Mountain and Beaver both reporting an inch of new snow.  Not really expecting much today other than a few snow showers at times up north.  At one point, this Monday system was looking halfway decent, but fell victim to the ridge like so many of its predecessors.  We’ll have two more similar systems this week.  One on Tuesday night, and another on Thursday night into Friday.  Both look like the main impact will be breezes and clouds, but we can’t rule out a few snow showers here and there.

The main change that I’m focusing on is the pattern change that is looking increasingly likely for next week.  We started talking about this pattern change last week and it has been looking increasingly solid with each passing day.  It appears as if we’ll see some storm energy work its way into the area late Sunday into Monday — with additional storms possible after that.  Too early to know the significance of these storms just yet.  Hopefully this will be an extended series of storms with significant snowfall to boost our snowpack as we head toward Spring.


Speaking of snowpack, today is the last day of February.  December and January were unquestionably good months.  Neither of them were excessively snowy by Utah standards, but they were both a bit above average and featured frequent medium-sized storms with great powder snow quality.  Nobody was complaining.  Then the calendar turned to February and it hasn’t been nearly as fruitful since.  We’ve still seen some storms, but they’ve generally been less frequent, smaller, and with heavy dense snow and warm temps in between.

At the end of January, nearly every basin in the state was reporting above average snowpack.  This has changed over the past 4 weeks:


Most of the Wasatch is still above 90% of median, not too bad.  Most of Southern Utah is at or above the median.  The statewide average is still very close to normal, so not nearly as dire as some of you may have been expecting.

For perspective, let’s look at the entire west:


You can see that most of the Western U.S. is generally in the same boat with near average snowpack.  The one big exception is Arizona and SW New Mexico.  This was an area that was doing very well after the big storms in early January, but has seen practically nothing since except for high pressure and warm temps and it shows.  Generally below 50% snowpack.

More locally, Snowbird is sitting at 92% of the median:


We’ve basically straddled the median for most of the season and have only recently fallen a bit behind.  If you look at this graph compared to the past 4 years however, you’ll find that we are still doing better than any of them:


Farther north, Ben Lomond Peak, near Snowbasin and PowMow, is falling behind a bit this month, currently sitting at 82% of median.  However this is still far better than they were doing at this time last year (green line):


Even farther north, Tony Grove Lake, like Snowbird, has spend much of the season following the median closely and has only recently started falling behind just a touch:


The snowpack numbers really aren’t too bad considering the poor month we’ve had.  Luckily, we started February above normal so that gave us a bit of a cushion and we’ve seen some storms this month to at least help us a bit.   These snotel stations are generally located in protected, high elevation areas.  What we don’t see is how much snowpack we’ve lost on lower elevations and south facing aspects.  I’m guessing if we looked at those numbers, they’d be significantly worse.

The next 7 days is mostly dry, so these numbers should continue to fall, but once we get to that pattern change, the hope is that we’d bounce back up to near or above normal again.  I’m still optimistic that the last few weeks of March and most of April could be very active.  Locals know that spring powder in Utah is sometimes the best powder.  Long way to go yet!


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  • Evan

    So this weekend isn’t bringing the goods. Here’s to praying that the $200 airfare change fee is worth it and March 11, 12, 13, and 14 are powder days.

    • Steve French

      For 200 smackaroos, I think you made a wise choice.

    • Jim

      If you were coming in for this weekend you probably wouldn’t see any new snow until Monday. Safer bet is the following weekend.

    • Neve

      Good call. You have a better than 50% chance of seeing some fresh snow during March 11-14.

  • Db

    Snowpack did look good a couple weeks ago. Even average is really good.
    Arizona would be a great place for consistent skiing if it wasn’t for that big haymaker in the sky. Once it comes out in AZ snow vanishes in a hurry.

  • GOOD NEWS! It kept snowing and Beaver got a total of 3″ …I bet PowMow got more than an inch too. It’s not a sick pow day, but still… MORE is better! 🙂