Happy New Year to one and all!  I hope you got some packed powder turns in during the holiday week because dry surfaces have been hard to come by during the first half of this month.  The January thaw typically comes along in the late 10’s/20’s of this month, which you can actually see in the historical data as a modest bump in observed temperatures.  This year the thaw came very early, which was unusual but not unprecedented.  An upper ridge was dominant over the East during the first week of the month, which led to a cessation in snowmaking operations as well as a pause in opportunities for meaningful natural snow.  A pattern change of sorts got underway last weekend, and mountain crews took advantage of colder temps this week to rehab terrain as we head into the MLK weekend.  A messy storm is taking an unfavorable track as we close out this week, but it will be turning colder over the weekend, so if you are skiing or riding during the holiday, you can plan on sliding through some snowmaking plumes on open terrain.

While the East has been running lean in the fresh snow department, you no doubt have been hearing about the parade of storms that have been plastering the West with fresh snow…especially the coastal ranges that get first dibs on the incoming moisture.  Those moisture laden upper troughs have been working their way out onto the Plains and then fighting with the upper ridge that has been over the East much of this month.  Most of the troughs have been deflected to the northeast, running through the Great Lakes and into Canada, and that is a track that draws moisture and mild air northward, bringing rain or mixed precip along the full length of the Appalachians.  Occasionally, one of the troughs fights its way straight east, weakening and dislodging the ridge in its path.  This scenario is what played out last weekend, leading to a colder week.   That cold air has helped to produce some snow on the front end of the system moving through the East late this week, but the track is inland, as illustrated by this slide from Friday a.m.

A low center over Albany allows milder air to reach all the way into southern Quebec, so much of the front-end snow has been washed away.  The backside of the low will bring some snow to northern New York and northern New England, and the air mass for the weekend will be seasonably cold, allowing a resumption of snowmaking.  Next week will turn somewhat milder again, but there are strong signs that a major pattern change will get underway later next week.  It won’t be a “light switch” to a cold and snowy regime, but in the transition, there is the potential for a significant snowfall on the 20th/21st that would benefit area primarily north of I-90.  South of there it will likely be a mixed precip event, with a nice shot of snowmaking temps following the passage of the low center.  Here is a look at a surface map for next Friday afternoon…

Once again, the low center will cross central New England, but there will be enough cold air around to the north of the low for a healthy snowfall.

Longer term, there are changes in the southwest Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean with respect to where thunderstorms are clustered that point to a colder than normal regime developing during the final week of January and continuing right on into February.  This season has been uneven at best and a downright dud in some parts of the East, but that thunderstorm correlation (also known as the MJO, or Madden Julian Oscillation) is an excellent winter forecast tool and I am leaning on it heavily.  Right now, I am very bullish on the second half of the season here in the East.  Here is a look at the 5,000 foot temp anomalies for the 27th, showing that the coldest air poised to dominate the East by month’s end.

For the most part, conditions are epically outstanding out west, but pummeling of storms will end in about ten days, with the northern Rockies becoming the typically La Nina favored region for continued snows…the southern Rockies resorts could still use some snow.  The northern Great Lakes are looking good, but the thaw has impacted the rest of the Midwest.   The central and southern Appalachians need some snow as they are anxiously awaiting the pattern change that I believe is on the horizon.


One Comment

  1. The writing in these articles is dense and makes it hard to tease out the bottom line – what is the forecast for where I am skiing? Most of us are not weather geeks and we do not care about all the details of WHY the weather is predicted to do whatever, or the mechanics of the weather, but we do care what is predicted for the areas we plan to ski at the times we plan to be there. It is a chore to try to figure that out from these articles, if it’s even there.

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