For the title of this piece I chose a line from David Bowie’s classic song. The jet stream pattern that ultimately determines the snowfall haves and the have-nots is undergoing change and, ultimately, it will be dramatic.

As a lifelong skier and weather nerd, my step gets a little lighter and I tend to have a song in my mind when the weather pattern is soon to become more favorable for cold and snow.  I’m an Easterner and guilty of a provincial bias. So far, the East is at the short end of the weather stick. Other regions (i.e. Southwest, Wasatch, and Tahoe) also are struggling to attract snow. But much of the East remains significantly below typical trail counts for early January, largely due to the massive Christmas rainstorm.  

In my last report, filed a week before Christmas, it looked like the holiday storm could be a major snow producer.  Alas, there wasn’t enough cold air available to make that happen, and that has been the case much of the time since.  Pacific air has been flowing across the country, leading to heavy snow in the Pacific Northwest, with lighter, but still significant amounts across the northern Rockies.  Further downstream, plenty of disturbances have tracked through the Midwest and East, but without cold air from Canada, those disturbances have produced mixed precip events. 

So, what is going to change?  It’s the jet stream, the hand that moves the pieces on the weather chess board.  Here is picture of the current set up… 

The red blob over northeastern Canada is a blocking ridge slowly migrating west.  It will end up over far northwestern Canada by mid-month, where it will tap a growing supply of cold air.  The blue area over the Southeast is a trough that is delivering a late week snowfall to the southern Appalachians.  That storm is suppressed by the ridge to the north and until it the ridge moves northwestward, it will be tough for any storm to turn the corner into the Northeast.  But I do think that will happen within the next week, and likely several times in the following weeks.  Also of note, if you look over the eastern Pacific and follow the lines from west to east, you can see that the prime source of air masses is the Pacific, not the Arctic.  

Now take a look at a jet stream forecast for the 18th, one that I agree with.

 


The changes are substantial.  The ridge is stretched out across the far northern latitudes, with an extension over the northeast Pacific.  The clockwise circulation around the ridge will help access cold in the Yukon.  A deep trough over eastern North America is poised to receive the cold and spawn surface storms.  

Better times are ahead for skiers and boarders east of the Mississippi.  At the same time, rather quiet weather will develop out West.  This pattern, once established, will persist into February.                  

Regional details…         

Northwest U.S./Western Canada:  Occasional Pacific systems will bring snow next week…slowing down after,  as western ridge builds.  

Sierra:  Storm track to the north for the foreseeable future.  

Rockies:  Moderate snow events across the north in the next week…weaker systems fight through the ridge after that.  Central and southern Rockies pick up occasional light snowfalls.       

Midwest:  Cold starts pushing late next week, Alberta Clippers and lake effect snows will become frequent events for the second half of the month…and beyond.

Mid Atlantic/Southeast:   Fresh snow in NC mountains late this week.  Entire region in line for mountain snows and great snowmaking as the cold air deepens after mid-month.     

Northeast/QB:  Cold, but with suppressed storm track through next week.  Extended cold, snowy pattern develops thereafter.    

5 Comments

  1. Love Herb’s reports. You can can take them and shove them into your bank account. As a result I’ll plan some ski days later this month at Whiteface/Lake Placid.

  2. Avatar Ed Schultz says:

    Difficult to travel to New England resorts from NY State so waiting for snow at Gore, McCauley, Snow Ridge & other NY resorts.
    Think Snow!

  3. Avatar herb stevens says:

    Ed:

    With the polar vortex pressing southward and the waters of the lakes still wide open and milder than normal, I would be on the lookout for an epic day or two at Snow Ridge late this month. If the restrictions on travel weren’t so tight, you could very well see me there. I have hit SR twice in the past 15 years…both after 60″+…and if the cold air mass I expect to descend into the States gets lined up on the Tug Hill, the snowmobilers might be wearing snorkels…

  4. I attended a seminar that Herb gave during an NSAA National Convention, do not remember the year but is was between 1975 to 1985. I was Operations Manager at Hidden Valley PA back then. I still remember some of the things he explained. Glad to hear that the pattern is looking up for the east. Over 400 ski areas is an impressive accomplishment, I have a measly 120 in my life. Of course Ogden Nutting may have the record with over 500.

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