For Those Still Venturing Out On Snow Shoes, Skinny Skis, Or Skins.

On a typical office day in the winter, I often scan web cams from resorts, living vicariously on those days when I can’t be on the snow myself. Now that the coronavirus pandemic has ground the winter sports season to a virtual halt, I still check out the cams, but recently I have felt more of a sense of sadness rather than excitement or anticipation of my next trip to the mountains. The absence of skiers and the stationary lifts is striking, and where fresh snow has fallen and remains untouched, the scenes are downright bizarre. Although the alpine resort options are very limited, there are many of you who still want to get your fresh air on skins, skinny skis, or snowshoes, or perhaps with your grandchildren on a sledding hill, and it is for you that I present this week’s weather discussion.

The winter pattern has shown a great reluctance to change from a dominant western trough/southeastern ridge configuration, which has led to abundant western snows and a struggle for snow lovers in the Midwest and East. For the past two weeks, there have been signs of change in the Pacific that correlate to colder than normal weather spreading into the eastern half of the country and that change makes sense based on the change of seasons. You see, as we head toward spring, the distance between jet stream features shortens as the available supply of cold air in the hemisphere starts its seasonal decrease. If you think of that cold air as one large puddle in the heart of winter, it becomes smaller puddles as the overall supply dwindles. Each winter trough requires a cold pool aloft to exist, but with less cold air around, those features tend to be smaller than a month or two ago. So, rather than have two large features covering the continent, there is room for three, or even four from the eastern Pacific to the East coast. It is possible to have a western trough AND an eastern trough with shorter wavelengths. This jet stream forecast for next Tuesday illustrates that setup.

Not only is there a deep trough off the West coast, which will deliver another significant snowfall to the Sierra, Cascades, and northern Rockies, but there is a departing trough over the Northeast. In addition, the ripple in the flow over the Plains is another package of energy that could turn into a deeper eastern trough and potential snow producer by late next week because it could become stronger as it moves into the East.

Looking further down the road into early April, there are conflicting signs as to whether or not the jet stream flow will tap any appreciable amount of cold air to sustain what is left of the season. The transitional months are easily the most difficult time to forecast. Judging the battle between the retreating cold and advancing spring warmth is a handful, and there are signs that the pattern will revert to one that is milder than normal over the East while the West continues in more of a wintry setup. I still think that the shorter wavelengths will deliver cold shots and late opportunities for snow to the Midwest and East, at least up until Easter weekend.

Here Are The Regional Details.

Northwest U.S./western Canada: Quiet weekend with systems from Alaska moving into the region next week, leading to a snowy period overall.

Sierra: Dry weekend with snows returning to region next week as an upper trough slides down the coast. Only issue is that if trough hugs the coast, snow levels will rise.

Northern Rockies: Sunny weekend. Coastal Pacific system will bring snow to the region by Tuesday and Wednesday…another system arrives next weekend.

Central and southern Rockies: Southern branch of jet stream has brought this area snow over the past two weeks, but it will be rather quiet for the next week. Nothing more than a little light snow at times.

Midwest: Late week snow will refresh surfaces across the north. Nice weather for the weekend. Next opportunity for snow late next week.

Northeast/Quebec: Chilly, dry weekend. No major storms next week, but an early week southern system could bring late snow to the northern mid-Atlantic areas. Overnight lows help preserve snow most nights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *