Think Snow, Tweet Snow !!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Weekend storm much more likely to deliver for the high country without the help any arctic cold

Though the polar jet continues to show no signs of providing any help for the rest of January, the forecast has improved led mainly by a much better outlook regarding our weekend storm. The week will finish as expected with sunshine on Thursday boosting temperatures on the mountain to near 30 with the same being said for Friday except with the addition of some high clouds. The pattern for the rest of January will allow Vermont to enjoy a bit of "southern Rocky Mountains" winter weather. Cold nights, comfortable afternoons, some elevation sensitive snowfall and only a minimal amount of wind. Very atypical for Vermont in January but I am delighted for this outcome as opposed to a 2nd bad January thaw.

The weekend storm is anchored by a vigorous upper level jet stream feature that is expected to spin east-northeastward, just north of the Ohio River valley Friday. The initial surface storm will never successfully attain a significant amount of moisture before it occludes over Illinois and Indiana, but an influx of Atlantic Ocean moisture into the storm on Saturday will give this system a 2nd life over the northeast. Most importantly, the track of this regenerated storm has shifted inland which represents a massive improvement for us. We had two asks with this storm 1) The above-mentioned coastal regeneration capable of providing the moisture 2) An optimal "inland" but not too far inland track allowing Vermont to ascertain this moisture without accompanying warm air. These were tough asks, especially given the lack of available cold, but we are asking and it looks a lot better that we shall be receiving beginning Saturday afternoon. Ultimately this will evolve and become a "vertically stacked" storm meaning that the upper low will move directly over the surface storm. These situations create a very elevation sensitive dynamic. Snowfall accumulations, snow consistency, perhaps for a small period - precipitation type and certainly temperature will all be dependent on elevation. We should receive a decent burst of snow Saturday evening and then a lot of elevation sensitive snow Sunday, Sunday night and into early Monday. If the outlook for the storm can settle on the current consensus, snowfall totals will likely be less than 6 inches total for the low lying valley areas but over a foot across the high country. The snow consistency will also be pretty gloppy in these low lying areas but drier and more powdery above 2000 feet. This outlook is also likely to change somewhat so stay tuned.

As mentioned, we aren't expecting either a lot of wind or a lot of cold in the wake of this storm Monday. Temperatures will stay in the sub-freezing category but only by a few degrees on both Monday and Tuesday afternoons. Models have been flirting with the notion of a one day thaw in the mid-week period and this is in association with a storm system that has threatened to track well into Canada after originating in the southern plains. Fortunately, models have backed off this idea and this would leave Vermont with more of the same - above normal temperatures but not above normal enough to create problems for us. Midweek precipitation is still certainly possible (in some form) but this remains a wait and see situation given model volatility.

There have been hints of a more substantial jet amplification over eastern North America, Superbowl weekend. The polar jet is still glaringly absent and this leaves the door open for some adverse scenarios; that said, there are fruitful possibilities that are also in play.  There are no improvements on the horizon regarding any blocking in the Arctic or weakening of the jet in the Pacific but some cold air is expected to invade in the wake of our hypothetical Superbowl storm. This would ensure at least seasonable temperatures during most of the first full week of February.

Monday, January 20, 2020

We got a 1 in 3 chance for some decent weekend snows but I woudn't be taking anything to the bank with this upcoming pattern

About 2 feet of snow over the past several days propelled us to another successful MLK weekend as bluebird weather carries us to the finish line. There are times when Vermont can experience long stretches of time with predominantly cloudy conditions. In the case of this week, storminess off the southeast coastline and later over Texas will help promote a sustained stretch sunshine and excellent visibility. Tuesday will be on the chilly side but that aforementioned sunshine and minimal wind will allow 15 degrees to feel relatively comfortable. Another dose of sunshine on Wednesday will push temperatures well into the 20's followed by a Thursday/Friday where we might touch the freezing mark. Don't expect any new snow through the rest of the week but we won't lose much of what has fallen in recent days, especially across the high country.

In spite of the upcoming stretch of sunny dry weather, the pattern across the lower part of North America will be pretty active. The activity will not have much support from the polar jet however which will retreat deep into Canada for the rest of January. New snowfall remains possible between January 25th and the end of the month but with every possible storm we will only have a limited amount of cold weather to work with and will be heavily dependent on an optimal storm path and favorable storm maturation process. The upcoming weekend will present us with the first such scenario as a storm advances from the lower Mississippi Valley to the northeast coast. The absence of the polar jet will allow the storm to move slowly and it is expected to mature well in advance of a potential impact. I am thus and have been a bit skeptical of this system, but forecast models have been moving in the right direction over the past day or two and are suggesting at least something late Saturday into Sunday (Jan 26). I would quantify the various possibilities (roughly speaking) into thirds. 33 percent chance we miss out on the event entirely, 33 percent chance of a minimal 1-4 inch impact and a 33 percent chance for something more significant. Embedded within that "significance" outcome is some serious upside because the storm will be moving slow enough to drop some big accumulations.

Temperatures are expected to moderate back into the "above normal" zone by the end of the week and pretty much stay there for the remainder of the month. The impact of any potential storm during the upcoming weekend will be accompanied by readings in the 20's or low 30's and this should continue in the wake of such a storm. Though we could get a few above freezing afternoons between the 25th and 31st, there are no glaring indications of a major thaw. There are however indications of another storm sometime around the middle of the week. Again, we will need a few of those same things (mentioned above) to go right to score additional snowfall. We are enjoying the benefits of the coldest climatological part of the winter which provides us with a little room to maneuver through a less than optimal pattern. It's not a lot of room though and mixed precipitation or a bit of the "R" word is not out of the question next week.

In the end,  the pattern never did fully flip to a fully optimal scenario and is not expected to through early February. It could remain "good enough" to keep the good times rolling but the AO is expected to remain positive indicating a relatively unblocked arctic. The AO has been positive for much of December and January with the exception of about 1 week. The same can be said for the EPO which is an index measuring, indirectly the strength of eastern Pacific jet stream. It did, as expected, turn negative over the past week but not as much as was initially expected and is now expected to resume what has been a largely positive posture for much of this winter season. The NAO has been a similar story. For the time being I am taking solace in the fact that though the pattern appears a little short of optimal, it is expected to remain out of that disastrous zone. The door will be open (with the storm this weekend for instance) for a few really solid days. Happy MLK day.

Friday, January 17, 2020

One storm down and another on the way, just in time for the weekend honoring MLK !

Suddenly you were gone
From all the lives you left your mark upon

I remember, 
The shouts of joy
Skiing fast through the woods 
I hear the echoes

I learned your love of life
I feel the way that you would 
I feel your presence
I remember...

Of the many written tributes to Neil, my favorite might be the one by Bret Stephens in the New York Times a few days ago. Though I have taken issue with Mr. Stephens on many of his opinions relating to climate change or environmental policy, I thought this was really on the mark. There are so many different life settings where some Neil Peart  lyric pops into my head. The song above "Afterimage"which is a lesser known track off the Grace Under Pressure album deals with the emotions of "loss" but uses a setting very familiar to us. Speaking of the environment, Neil also wrote many environmentally cognizant songs yet routinely brought folks of varying opinions into his music and concerts. These days you have to respect that.

One storm down and another on the way and just in time for a weekend honoring MLK and that's about as far as my poetry skills can take me I am sorry to say. Some very early blue sky and temperatures around -10 Saturday morning will give way to clouds. The latest indications are that we shouldn't see much snow during the ski day Saturday but with winds subsiding to 5-15 mph, it will feel much more tolerable on the hill, especially in the afternoon when actual temps rise into the teens. The snow should begin between 4-6 PM. This is a very garden variety event for us. The storm will pass to our north but the threat of a warm-up is eliminated thanks to an occlusion. Look like a solid 4-8 inch storm Saturday night with some additional snow showers Sunday bringing another 1-3. Sunday will be blustery and a little chilly but nothing like this past Friday. Readings will actually be fairly close to normal.

I am not entirely thrilled with the way the pattern appears to be evolving though it certainly doesn't appear terrible - perhaps just mediocre. The week beginning MLK day begins an extended dry period that should take us through Friday. Should be a few sunny days in that stretch and through Thursday we should be able to keep readings well below freezing but also well out of the "intolerable-range". Storminess off the Carolina coastline should help keep the northeast in a general area of "sinking air" and though more clouds are possible Wednesday night into Thursday. The snowfall outlook is on the low side. My disappointment in the pattern relates to the eastern Pacific. We just have not been able to keep that jet stream in check this year. Basically, when the stream is consolidated and flowing in a fast west to east trajectory over that longitudinal region, it can overload the western US with unsettled weather and act as a blockade for any southward advancing arctic air in Canada.

This situation doesn't appear dire however, just not ideal. The jet stream in the eastern Pacific will be strong enough to keep the EPO positive but not very positive. At the same time the southern branch of the stream appears strong enough to prevent any sustainable above-freezing weather. The outlook has moved in a warmer direction and this ensures that January 2020 will be one of the warmest Jan's in 14 years but there are no indications of another highly damaging thaw. The temperatures outlook has certainly warmed late in the upcoming week but modified polar chill is expected to push back somewhat during the last weekend in January. This happens just as the storm threat rises next weekend. The possible outcomes with this storm are still many and one of those outcomes is a total miss. Any storm next weekend also shouldn't be the last chance for snow in January. The pattern does still appear capable of giving us another chance of something before we turn the calendar to February.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Our Thursday snow looks better all the time, like 6-12 inches better and MLK weekend event expected to modestly produce !

As the sun goes down on the western shore
The wind blows hard from the east
It whips the sand into a flying spindrift, spindrift

As the sun goes down on the western shore
It makes me feel uneasy
In the hot dry rasp of the devil winds
Who cares what a fool believes 

Neil Peart wrote that song, "Spindrift" in 2007 after resettling out near Los Angeles and beginning a new life there. He had suffered unimaginable tragedy in the late 90's while still residing in Canada, losing his daughter and then wife in a span of a year. Given the setting of his new life, I quickly realized that Neil was referring to the Santa Ana wind - an east wind that blows hot off the San Gabriel and San Bernadino mountain ranges surrounding the LA basin. In this case the Santa Ana wind was used as a metaphor, and Neil often used weather metaphorically to express an idea or thought. This is another reason he will be missed so much by fans such as myself. Sorry to dwell on it but Neil is probably worth at least one more tribute (in my next update) given the high regard I continue to hold his contributions to music and so much more.

There are no Santa Ana winds in our future fortunately. Chinook and Santa Ana are of the same breed - they blow hard and hot down a mountain and melt snow with great efficiency. Sometime the MRV can get an intense dry south to southwest wind that blows off Lincoln Peak and can exhibit similarities to those intense winds across the western United States. This also is not in our future; instead, we have two snow events. The first looks better all the time. Though not a particularly moist system to start, the storm approaching us Wednesday evening at night will pick up a bit of moisture from the Atlantic and track near the Vermont/Mass border early Thursday morning. This is a big improvement compared to the forecast two days ago and places MRG in one of the best zones for snow with this modest system. Snow will begin after midnight and continue into the ski day Thursday. As the storm exits, winds are expected to turn and become north to northwesterly which should provide us with some Champlain enhanced terrain induced snow Thursday afternoon, evening and at night. When all is said and done, the high country surrounding the MRV is in one of the best spots for accumulations not only in the state but quite possibly throughout the entire interior northeast (though we are in close competition with parts of coastal Maine). By Friday morning, I am more confident of a 6-12 inch storm total. It may not be enough to get the woods completely how we would want it, but it should go along way ! 

The snow consistency with our upcoming storm will be a little wet at the start, especially across the lower elevations. Colder air, ushered in by those north to northwest winds will allow anything that falls late Thursday and Thursday night to be powdery. Actually, some of the coldest weather of the season is expected to arrive Thursday night and strong northerly winds early Friday will bring wind chill temperatures to 30 -50 below zero. Actual temps are likely to struggle above zero Friday, at least on the mountain itself. The arctic chill will be cemented in place as our next storm arrives during the day Saturday. Temperatures will start out near 10 below and will only climb into the teens as snow begins to fall during the afternoon. This 2nd storm still appears to be a more formidable weather feature as a whole but it's a quick hitter and will be occluded as it proceeds up the St Lawrence Valley Saturday night. Expectations for the weekend storm should thus be tempered to the 4-8 inch category though snows showers on Sunday could add to those totals in at least a small way. 

Chilly high pressure is expected to slowly build across the region next week. Chilly in that temperatures will stay below normal, but the intensity of the cold appears soft by January standards with maximum temperatures in the teens and low 20's and low temperatures in the 0-15 degree range. Action off the Mid-Atlantic coast during the mid-week period may help keep the interior sections of the northeast dry and at least a little sunny. Our next shot at a significant storm arrives next weekend, the first of what could be an increase in southern branch activity. 

The pattern as a whole continues to look marginally favorable for the rest of January. This of course is excellent news since overwhelming patterns in January do have a propensity to disappoint on the snowfall side. I continue to be a little nervous however regarding our inability to completely destroy the active eastern Pacific and it certainly appears unlikely now that we can establish a sustainable ridge over Alaska. A few days ago it was suggested that we might be able to do just that. So the signal to consists of normalish temperatures with a higher risk for big storms during the final week of January. This is of course excellent but the door is not closed on the possibility of a one-day mild intrusion since the cold doesn't appear capable of locking itself over us for any extended period of time. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Winter to make a big recovery following our recent meltoff

I had a dream of a winter garden
A midnight rendezvous
Silver, blue and frozen silence
What a fool I was for you

RIP Neil Peart "The Professor"  - May your words, music and rhythmic harmonies remain timeless and continue to inspire us all 

And for those that are unfamiliar with Neil Peart, Rush and their musical catalog that spans 4 decades, you can help me honor his spirit by dreaming of our own winter garden, something we do plenty of anyway. It was certainly a dream this past weekend during the tropical onslaught but sub-freezing have returned and the snow is soon to follow. 

Though we are expecting a small accumulation of snow Tuesday night, there are two storms of greater significance that have our attention over the next 5 days. Both are products of an intense jet stream in the eastern Pacific but both should get considerably more cold weather support thanks to a weak area of blocking expected to develop over Alaska. Terrific news for snow-starved northern Vermont. 

The cold weather support is rather tepid for the next few days but it's enough. Glimpses of sunshine on Wednesday will push readings to near 40 across valley locations and at least close to freezing on the mountain. Clouds will arrive Wednesday night and wet snow should be falling beginning close to midnight and persisting through much of Thursday morning. This particular storm is the smaller of the two storms mentioned above, but more importantly, the storm is expected to track right through the heart of the state which means both the highest snow totals and coldest snow consistency will be over northern Vermont and extreme southern Quebec. The MRV should do decent enough, including 2-5 inches Thursday morning followed by another 3-6 later Thursday afternoon, evening and night. The early snow will be denser and wetter at the lower elevations, the later snow will be of the fluffier more convective variety and also be accompanied by much colder temperatures. 

It's modified, but it will be arctic. This being the airmass expected to arrive late Thursday with those accompanying snow showers. By Friday we should continue to see at least some flurries thanks to a favorable wind off an unfrozen Lake Champlain; mostly however, it will be chilly and blustery with temperatures on the mountain hovering in the single numbers. Winds will abate Friday night and we will wait the arrival of our weekend snow which as I mentioned stems from a more formidable storm. 

This particular system will enter the central Plains Friday evening and very quickly carve an east to northeast path across the eastern half of the United States. The initial storm is expected to track over Detroit, but the system will transition much of its energy to the New England coastline effectively keeping this a very cold storm for interior New England. Temperatures are expected to begin Saturday at sub-zero levels and only climb into the low teens during the day. Snow should begin sometime during the day Saturday and continue well into the evening. I'd love to get really specific but we should leave some room for alterations. I feel pretty good about our 2nd consecutive MLK weekend storm but changes in the track and evolution of this storm could certainly have an impact on total accumulations. For the time being, and consistent with some of the model forecast maps that are making the rounds, we stand a better than 50 percent chance of scoring at least 6 inches. Last year's MLK storm brought almost 2 feet to the Vermont high country (along with a lot of wind). I doubt we are capable of producing such results this go round given the speed of this system but stay tuned.

The pattern appears promising for the duration of the month and certainly a massive improvement over the first 15 days of January. This being said, I would still describe the pattern as marginal to favorable as opposed to anything historic. Both the AO and NAO are expected to become more neutral but not entirely turn negative and there are conflicting indicators regarding whether we can keep the action tempered in the eastern Pacific. More specifically however, we should expect modified arctic air to keep readings well below freezing for most of next week (through Jan 24). Beyond that I would expect more storminess, but hopefully its of the good variety.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Can't bring any love to the next few days but the outlook is indeed much improved beginning January 17th

Consistent with some of the trends which began yesterday, the outlook, as a whole, continues to look better for both cold and snow in Vermont for the back part of January. Unfortunately, these improvements in the forecast picture don't apply to the coming weekend- a period that continues to look pretty rough state-wide.

We saw some occasional very light precipitation through much of Friday as temperatures crept above the freezing mark. Temperatures will continue to inch upward this evening and during the overnight, rising to about 40 degrees while the bulk of the light precipitation is confined to the northern third to quarter of the state. For a bulk of the Saturday ski-day, I expect this to continue as temperatures exceed 50 thanks to a stiff south to southwesterly breeze. The MRV and surrounding high country will be on the very southern edge of an area of rain expected to impact the very northern part of Vermont but until 2 PM, we are likely to avoid it leaving us with what should be spring conditions. North of Waterbury, rain is considerably more likely and is more probable earlier in the day. By evening, the low level push of cold is expected to arrive, impacting the northern third of the state. From Stowe northward, significant icing is certainly possible. Rain might turn to freezing rain closer to Mad River Glen as well but the lastest indications are that temperatures settle between 32-37 Saturday night leaving us mostly ice-free. All that said, low-level pushes of cold can be very tough to forecast leaving traveling conditions very changeable. The southern half of the state is likely see no impact from this overnight cold push. The snowmelt is thus likely to more extensive but the traveling will be better with readings remaining in the 50's. Even with the earlier cool down Saturday night, the combination of 50-degree temperatures, wind, high dewpoints and rain are going to do substantial damage to what I would still describe as a thin snowpack. Temperatures hovering in the upper 30's or lower 40's Sunday won't help either though the rain should mostly taper off early in the morning.

Colder Canadian air will abruptly push temperatures back below freezing Sunday night, well into the teens in fact by Monday morning. Though there are a couple of opportunities for small amounts of snow early next week, but these are overshadowed by a more significant low pressure area expected to impact the state late in the week bringing either snow, a wintry mix or rain. Some light snow late on Monday stems from weakening surface disturbance but is likely to bring 1-2 inches to the northern VT high country nonetheless. Another on Tuesday night appears to be a 1-3 inch situation. The last-week storm will enter the central plains on Wednesday and quickly approach the region Wednesday night. The end result appears to be a close call and though the storm is likely headed up the St Lawrence Valley, it might make the critical jump to the Atlantic Ocean allowing for a predominantly snowy scenario Thursday. I am actually happy we've managed to keep the game close on this storm considering what is expected to be some pretty bad pattern fundamentals.

Those poor fundamentals, which include a very positive AO and a very consolidated Pacific jet stream are expected to change after January 17th and do so much quicker than I had feared. The AO is not expected to reverse sign yet (it's been positive for quite some time now) but it will lose most of its "positive" intensity. Of specific importance is some much needed action in the more southern latitudes of the eastern Pacific Ocean which will have the effect of pushing a ridge north into Alaska (A place that has been incredibly cold the first 10 days of January). With this change, the mid-latitude Pacific jet stream will weaken while the ridge in Alaska will act as mechanism to push arctic cold southward in lower North America. In the wake of the aforementioned late-week storm, an extended stretch of sub-freezing temperatures look increasingly promising. There have been additional hints of a significant storm for MLK weekend (around Jan 19) and any such storm would certainly have the benefit of more available cold air. I can't provide any clarity on details whether it be the storm or the period that follows (Jan 20-24) but it looks decidedly more wintry compared to a few days ago.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Ugly, mild rain event still poised to attack us Saturday with a slightly colder (but still not great) outlook after that

The scene stays wintry across the MRV and much of Vermont through Friday morning. Snow showers and a few squalls Wednesday will give way to clearing and temperatures near zero Thursday morning. The cold weather persists through Thursday with readings only climbing into the teens but that shouldn't feel too uncomfortable since we should have healthy amounts of sunshine and minimal wind. The milder air arrives very quickly on Friday on the wings of some strong south and southwesterly winds. Though temperatures will start near 15, readings are expected to approach 40 by the Friday evening.

Some adjustments are necessary to the weekend forecast but the news hasn't gotten much better. I know there are some folks that follow the forecast models somewhat religiously and I fully encourage that kind of passion. The two things I would keep in mind are as follows. 1) Computer model simulations can be like schooling fish, seemingly heading in a coordinated direction until some disruption sends them scattering and then they never seem to scatter the same way twice. 2) The upgrade to the GFS model has not done much for its performance beyond day 5. My sense is that the model has shown an improved ability to pick up on a trend here and there but run to run consistency is still not its thing.

For those that don't follow the forecast model stuff or the model hugging weather twitter universe we will move right along. The clouds that are expected to overtake the region Friday may be accompanied by a bit of light rain but this is not expected to amount to much; in fact, the forecast appears a bit drier albeit still very mild from Friday night through half the day Saturday. And by mild I mean temperatures rising into the low 40's by Saturday morning with persistent south to southwesterly winds. Glimpses of blue sky might even accompany the balmy, breezy weather early Saturday before the rain arrives Saturday afternoon. Those noisy forecast models, mentioned above, have been indicating some undercutting cold out ahead of the main wave of low pressure that is expected to position itself somewhere near Indiana late Saturday. That area of cold may or may not reach parts of northern Vermont Saturday evening but it is not expected to have an impact on precipitation type in VT. Temperatures will be near 50 when rain begins late Saturday and that rain is expected to become heavy for a time Saturday evening and night before tapering off Sunday morning. It's an ugly situation that could all end in a little snow during the day Sunday though I am not especially optimistic regarding accumulations right now.

Temperatures are expected to remain above normal next week but not excessively so. Next week is climatologically one of the coldest of the season in Vermont with low temperatures averaging between 5-10 and high temperatures only in the mid 20's. Even 10 degrees above normal can still mean mostly sub-freezing temperatures which is more or less what we should expect next week. There are a couple of opportunities for some wintry weather as well. A warm advection scenario in the Tuesday/Tuesday night time frame could mean snow for northern Vermont and a more organized storm system late in the week could mean snow or snow/wintry mix or wintry/mix rain.

The following weekend (January 18th & 19th) appears colder ! Though the prevailing evil empire dominated (positive EPO) pattern will remain, next weekend does appear to be one those wintry interlude situations where temperatures return to near normal and this might be accompanied by some snow showers. Speaking of this wretched winter weather pattern, it is still expected to linger through much of January and this means another push of milder air is possible before January 22-23. Thereafter, there are finally signs that the pattern will at least weaken. The jet stream in the Pacific still appears formidable but at least less formidable. The arctic still looks unblocked, but the positive AO is expected to weaken. The Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) which has been many forecasters pet toy recently is showing signs of moving out of the non wintry eastern North America phases. The MJO which is current sitting in the worst possible phase for Vermont snow/cold is expected to get close to phase 7 - a more neutral phase in about 2 weeks time. This means some more sustained relief is likely getting a bit closer and aside from Saturday, the forecast doesn't look like a sustained torch.