A major pattern change is about to take place that will bring big storms to California, and hopefully some decent accumulations to the mountains of Utah as well. This all begins on Sunday with the first in a series of storms.
First things first… A weak system clipped the region last night and several resorts are reporting 1-2″ of snow overnight. Hopefully just enough to soften things up just a touch — but probably just dust on crust.
The pattern change we’ve been talking about for the past week or so is now within the 5 day window, which means we can start going into a bit of details. Some of the model runs over the past 48 hours have been nothing short of impressive for California and the Sierra Nevada mountains. I’ve been somewhat obsessing over these storms because there looks to be at least 3 of them and each one could bring massive rain and high mountain snow to that region. Also, I spent the first 18 years of my life in the Tahoe area and its where I fell in love with both skiing and studying the weather, so I have a particularly keen eye for storms in that region as well. And BOY OH BOY, are there going to be storms! And yes, Utah is going to get in on the action.
The first storm pushes into the west coast on Saturday, pummeling the Sierra before crossing the Great Basin Saturday night and bringing wind, lower valley rain, and mountain snow to Utah on SUNDAY. Sunday should be a storm day with skiing getting better as the day goes on. Monday morning should be good as well. Current look at ensemble qpf:
Image courtesy of weather.utah.edu
My dog is trying hard not to allow me to type this part of the forecast, but I persevere… You can see that virtually all ensembles show at least one inch of qpf by Monday afternoon. With the adjusted mean at over 1.5″. This would equate to a decent snow storm Sunday thru Monday in the high Wasatch. We’ll see if this trend holds tomorrow morning before forecasting amounts.
The parent low is going to sag south on Monday/Tuesday into the desert southwest, but that will open the door for another system middle to late next week. There are timing differences in the models, but we should have active weather most days with one really active day when the front itself pushes thru. Right now that looks like probably Thursday or Friday of next week. Models then have a third system timing for a couple days after that. Essentially, the active pattern looks like it will continue thru at least the middle of March.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, California is going to feel the brunt of these systems. 3 big storms in the next ten days, total precipitation looks like this:
Utah doesn’t do too badly, with 3-4 inches of liquid in the mountains, but California looks like a war zone with 10-20″ of liquid for the mountains of NorCal. I think it’s safe to say that there will be no survivors…. Ok, that was a touch hyperbolic, but you get the point. These storms will go a long way to easing the drought in the Northern half of that state.
As for snowfall, it’s going to be deep out there. You may have seen the hype machine revving its engine yesterday with stories of 100+ inches coming to the west. Generally I advise against buying into these articles, however, in the case of the Sierra, I’d say it’s warranted. All models, including the generally more conservative Euro, are calling for prodigious amounts of snowfall. Check it out:
Off the charts snowfall. The high peaks of the Sierra may very well see 10+ feet of snow over the next 10 days if this verifies.
Again, I do apologize for talking so much about our neighbors to the west, but I have my reasons. This storm energy is going to make it to Utah in due course as well. When it does, it will be infiltrated with colder air and as always, we’ll have a better snow quality. Yes, atmospheric river events like this do get diffused a bit as you get farther from the ocean and after they are strained through mountain ranges, so we won’t see as much as Cali, but we should still get our fair share.
In short, I think a “Miracle March” just might be in the cards for us if this pattern holds as currently advertised. I still think we should contain our excitement until we are closer and have more details, but at the very least, snow is returning, the question now is just how much we get.