Very cold air in place this morning with some dust on crust for the mountains. Atmospheric River storm to affect the region starting late Thursday thru Saturday. More storms likely for next week.
There is so much going on in Utah weather in the next 10 days, and the more you try to find answers, the more chaotic it becomes. So, I’m going to keep things simple today and just stick to what we know. I speculated quite a bit yesterday and despite loading the forecast with disclaimers, people still got more excited than I would have liked given my overall unease with the forecast.
First, we’ve got VERY cold air to deal with this morning. Most locations are in the teens and single digits with some locations below zero. I was hoping to get a read from Peter Sinks this morning (a notoriously cold basin in the northern Wasatch), but I don’t see any recent readings for this morning. Yesterday morning at 5am, Peter Sinks dropped to -44F, and no, that is not a typo! It could be even colder this morning…
As for snow with this “storm” yesterday and overnight? It was pretty lame to be honest. I was hoping for some lake enhancement and more widespread showers, but they never really got going. Resorts reporting anywhere from zilch to 4″ at Park City. No sleeper pow day 🙁 Just a bit of dust on crust….
The real action begins tomorrow (Thursday) as moisture increases through the day and precipitation should begin. Initially, we could see snow levels down to valley floors as cold air remains in the region, but eventually snow levels should rise up to 6-7k feet for Friday. Basically, we should see off and on pushes of valley rain and mountain snowfall thru Saturday as an atmospheric river takes aim. Park City town and resort base could see a change over to rain late Friday into Friday night before snow levels drop again on Saturday.
This should be a great storm for base building, with quite a bit of dense snow to fill in all the cracks. It won’t be blower powder, so perhaps the skiing won’t be great. Also, avalanche danger will be very high, so check with UAC before heading into the backcountry this weekend.
I’m going to stick with the same forecast from yesterday 10-30″ of snow for the high mountains by late Saturday. The reason for the large range is due to this storm’s higher snow levels. Elevation will make a huge difference. Lower parts of many resorts can expect somewhere closer to the low end of that range, while the higher, west-facing elevations can expect to be nearer the high end. NWS has issued a winter storm watch for the area.
Updated look at QPF:
Generally 2-3″ of SWE for the Cottonwoods by Sunday. Probably 1-2″ for other areas, which supports my forecasted amounts above. Then you can see more action likely next week.
Best day to ski will probably be Saturday when it turns colder a bit, or Sunday, once resorts have had time to get some terrain open.
Next week just looks so chaotic right now. I’d love to give you details, but models don’t agree on timing or strength of anything. Basically, it looks like we’ll have a second AR event for next week and we could see a prolonged period of wave after wave impacting the region. These waves look a bit weaker than they did yesterday, but the prolonged nature means that mountains snow should continue to pile up with rain in the valleys. Needless to say, it looks to remain active next week.
P.S. No doubt I use some technical, weather-nerd jargon in my forecasts. And I wish I had time to explain everything each time I wrote about it, but alas, I do not. Many times I’ve been asked if there is a glossary to look things up. I have linked the NOAA glossary on the Resources page, but it’s not fun reading. If you are looking for an enjoyable book to build a base (just like a snowpack) of how snow science and winter weather come together here in Utah (and elsewhere), then I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth by Jim Steenburgh. Jim’s a professor of Atmospheric Sciences here at the University of Utah and he’s dedicated much of his life to answering the questions of what makes Utah’s snowfall so great. I wouldn’t be half as accurate without some of the work he and his colleagues have done.
It’s an ideal Christmas gift for lovers of Utah snow and skiing. Available online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and local booksellers Weller Book Works, Kings English, and Dolly’s Bookstore (call ahead for availability).