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East stays stormy…snow returns to the West

This past week brought several rounds of fresh snow from Alberta Clipper systems to the northern Lakes and the higher peaks of the Northeast and as this weekend unfolds, new snow will fall over much of the West.  I spent a couple of days at Stowe, where several inches of powder piled up both Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  Conditions were outstanding, and I am happy to report that at least this Vail resort had its act together, as both lift ops and food service were close to normal.

The overall pattern has become very active the past couple of weeks, with a fight between Canadian cold and southeastern warmth causing numerous storms to rapidly cross the middle and eastern parts of the country.  The West is still quiet overall, as following the record December snowfalls have been followed by two very dry months.  But now that we have moved into March, the wavelengths of troughs and ridges tend to slowly shrink(shorten), which makes it possible for both the East and the West to be stormy at the same time. 

The first 4-5 days of this discussion period will see an upper trough dominant in the West, with a milder ridge calling the shots over the east half of the country.  Here is a jet stream forecast for Monday the 7th that illustrates…

With a strong ridge sitting just off the coast of the Pac NW, there will be a good supply of cold delivered into the West.  A storm earlier this week brought moisture to the NW, but it wasn’t cold enough to fend off relatively high snow levels…that will not be an issue this weekend.  The weekend storm will have energy in both the northern and southern branches of the jet stream, so new snow is in the cards from the Oregon Cascades all the way down to New Mexico.  This won’t be a blockbuster, but it will be most welcome, I am sure.

If you take another look at the jet stream map, you will see a broad southwesterly flow aloft from west Texas to the St. Lawrence Valley.  That is roughly the track that a low pressure center will take late this weekend, but a low that follows a couple of days later will track further south, so weekend mixed precip in the Lakes and Northeast will be followed by a round of snow about Tuesday or so. 

Longer term, the WPO and EPO indices that I discussed in my last installment are both headed for negative territory very soon, signaling a return to an upper trough and colder pattern dominating the eastern half of the country.  Here are Exhibits A and B… 

Exhibit A is the likely jet stream setup on the Ides of March, when a deep, chilly trough will cover the country from the Plains to the east coast.  Exhibit B is a map of the 5,000 foot temperature anomalies at that time…a proxy for surface temps.  It looks colder than normal from the Lakes to the Northeast…the southern Appalachians, too.  Right now, it looks to me that the cold pattern will hang on through the rest of March and on into April…more on that next

Northwest U.S./Western Canada:  After some early weekend snow, much of next week looks quiet, aside from a round of light snow around Wednesday.  Week Two looks active, but snow levels will be elevated.

Sierra:  Southern branch of jet brings moderate snowfall Saturday…hard to get snow into this region thereafter. 

Rockies:  Light snow this weekend in the north.  Higher amounts in UT, CO, and northern NM into next week.  Quiet until the following week after that.

Midwest:  Snow this weekend in far north.  Colder pattern evolves midweek onward next week. 

Mid Atlantic/Southeast:  Warm week has been rough south of the M/D line.  Turn to colder next week should help sustain the season.

Northeast/QB:  Messy system Sunday.  Colder system Tuesday.  Colder again by later next week…prospects for snow improve after that.

11 Comments

  1. Ellen Greer says:

    I was in Stowe last week and it was marginal, crowds packed onto limited trails. Hard pack, icy and some spring skiing conditions. Too warm or too cold. A few inches would hardly help. Many food and other on mountain services closed, lack of staff. Having skied VT for many years, we are sadly done with it. Totally overpriced lodging and lack of off slopes activities. Restaurants were good.
    No snow pack, forests are dark, trees look unhealthy, in short, climate change is taking its toll on our beloved sport.

    • herb stevens says:

      Ellen:

      I am sorry that you did not have the benefit of good timing on your recent trip to Stowe. The skiing this past week was terrific, thanks to fresh snow from multiple Alberta Clippers. Services provided were a definite upgrade from the other Vail resorts I have visited this winter. I certainly agree with your assessment of the lodging prices. I stayed at a very reasonably priced Fairfield Inn a half an hour away in Williston…right along I-89. I missed out on the ambiance of the Stowe community, but I was not about to pay the Stowe prices.

      The snow pack is down this year because of the variability of a La Nina winter, which bring a wider variety of storm tracks than other winters. They include “cutters”…storms that pass through the eastern Lakes and move into the St. Lawrence Valley, putting New England on the warm side of the storm. The result is a winter where snow events are often followed by mixed precip events, which keeps the snow pack from building up. The forest probably looked dark because temps were above freezing, which allows ice in the back to melt and turn the bark a darker shade. There are no indications that the trees are unhealthy. You might find it interesting that hard data from the Rutgers Snow Lab (best source of hemispheric snowfall and snowpack data) shows a clear and steady INCREASE in northern hemispheric snowfall during the autumn and winter months over the past 70 years or so. With all due respect, climate change is NOT taking a toll on our beloved sport. I am afraid you were the victim of unfortunate timing in a winter that features enhanced variability in the Northeast.

  2. Herb – love your reports, especially when they forecast favorable conditions for NE where I ski. I’m wondering if you have any recommendations for a book or books that would help novices like me better understand weather – sort of a Weather 101?

    Thanks – Alan

    • herb stevens says:

      Alan:

      I would suggest that you check out the National Weather Service “Jetstream” program. It is an online resource that teaches the basics of meteorology that has gotten excellent reviews. If that isn’t what you are looking forward, send another comment and I will try again.

  3. William Hahnenberger says:

    Are you still a climate change denier

  4. Herbert Stevens says:

    I am an atmospheric scientist of almost 50 years experience who puts much more stock in historical weather data than in computer climate models that have been consistently innacurate for the 30+ years of their existence. I reject your use of the pejorative “denier”, having had its origins in the wake of the Holocaust.

  5. Richard Kavey says:

    Hi Herb, I live near Syracuse which is reported to be 5’ short of its average snowfall. Can you explain why. The skiing has been quite good on machine made snow in between patio of rain and high temps.

    • herb stevens says:

      Richard:

      I just took a look at snowfall vs. normals at Hancock(SYR) and as of 3/1 the deficit is right at 4 feet. Nearly two feet of that deficit occurred in December (22.5″). The primary reason why you are below normal in terms of snowfall is the enhanced variability of a La Nina winter, which we are in. La Ninas bring a wider variety of storm tracks through the Northeast than non-La Nina winter typically produce. The tracks include multiple “cutters” that move through the eastern Great Lakes and into the St. Lawrence Valley, which puts upstate NY on the warm side of the storm’s circulation. I think you would agree that you have experienced a good number of mixed precip or rain events this winter. If the storm tracks were south of you more often, those events would have you near, or above normal in terms of snow. La Nina is the problem. It is also worth noting that there was an anomalous spike in solar output (solar flux) that lasted about ten days later in December. That helped surface temperatures spike, which contributed to the paltry December snow total of 9.5 inches.

  6. David P Prince says:

    Love your reports Herb. As a commercially rated pilot of many years I can appreciate your depth and understanding of historic climatological data as it relates to current meteorological behavior. Your assessments are as close as they come. Very impressive.

  7. herb stevens says:

    Thank you, David.

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