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Friday, February 5, 2016

In one year northern New England has gone from near first to worst as far as best places for winter weather

Even surprise coastal storms find a way to miss the 2016 snow hole that is Vermont. Granted I have been guilty of painting the picture with an optimistic brush sometimes but I can't deny the ugly winter scene that currently exists as of early February. Another missed storm brings snow totals to near normal for the season in places like Philadelphia and NYC while most places in Vermont aren't even at 25 percent of normal. It's colder finally and some snow is in the forecast over the next week and the outlook appears a bit better during the holiday week. All that said, I share the collective impatience and frustration that skiers and riders have felt this year. It has been a horrendous year so far and a once very promising looking storm early next week appears to be falling apart in a disorganized, disheveled mess.

Even a once somewhat promising looking clipper will seemingly bounce off the proverbial Vermont snow shield. We could see a little snow Saturday night but accumulations will be on the order of an inch or two if that.  The Tuesday/Wednesday system looks like this. There is a formidable southern branch system that will move off the Atlantic Coast Sunday while a dynamic polar branch storm begins moving toward the Great Lakes. These two systems are simply one day out of step with one another. The moist southern streamer will move too far offshore to have a significant impact on the northeast. What the storm will do is to carve out a nice jet trough which will help to suck the dynamic polar energy into its wake. Much of the moisture will thus be kept out of New England even from this potent clipper that seemed to have every inclination of bombing. Most of the moisture might miss but not all. A period of snowfall Monday night is possible as a nice deformation area becomes established over New England in between the two systems. Though much of Tuesday and Tuesday night could turn out to be frustratingly snow-free, instability should put the terrain enhanced snow machine into action for a time with accumulating snow beginning Wednesday and persisting through Thursday. This weather system is simply not going to be the messiah of winter storms that we so desperately need. Over the 4 days between Monday and Thursday, the mountain should see 5-10 inches but I was certainly hopeful for considerably more.

There does appear to be some sort of weather system, perhaps a clipper/pacific hybrid type system that will mark the advance of another surge of very cold weather. This airmass appears to be one of the strongest of the season so far as intensity of the chill is concerned. It's somewhat difficult as of now to determine how much snow might fall before this cold arrives over the holiday weekend but there is some potential for a few more needed inches late Friday or early Saturday.

Some of the ensemble runs a few days were painting a very dreary picture later in February by re-tightening the jet stream in the Pacific. Just in the last 24 hours however the long range ensemble data have dramatically backed off some of those milder scenarios for eastern North America. This change has a lot to do with the evolving MJO projections which are now forecast to be substantially more favorable in two weeks verses the projections earlier this week. Since we maintain the support of the arctic oscillation I am substantially more confident that we remain cold through the holiday week. Normally I would anticipate plenty of snow to go along with this pattern except for this hideous snow shield which has spat on us all season. It is very much time for that to stop.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Snow next week, question is how much ?

It's an ugly scene right now across much of Vermont. Not a lot of snow on the ground, above freezing temperatures with rain falling is a nightmare gone bad as far as I am concerned. Winter returns to Vermont by late Thursday but new snow won't arrive until very late on Saturday, probably after the ski day is done. This is not much of a weather system Saturday but the limited amounts of moisture will be enough to produce a few inches by Sunday morning. Any new snow is great but our focus by Sunday will shift to a potentially bigger system.

We have considerably more clarity today regarding what should be an interesting week of weather. Another notable southern streamer will begin making a turn up the Atlantic Coast on Sunday while a vigorous clipper system advances southeast out of the western provinces of Canada. These two storms are about a day out of phase unfortunately and are not expected to combine forces at any time. The clipper system is capable of enough of providing its own fireworks. It should make use of the relative warmth in the Atlantic Ocean and deepen, becoming a fully mature nor'easter by Tuesday. Snow should impact a large portion of the northeast by Tuesday and continue to impact all of New England in some fashion on Wednesday. A healthy pool of instability should allow terrain enhanced snow to continue through much of Wednesday. Accumulations from this system are yet to be determined. The strength and ultimate track of this storm remain a question but given the position of the jet ridge in western North America, Vermont is in a good position to be a snowy beneficiary of whatever evolves out of the Tuesday/Wednesday storm.

Though this appears to be a colder period across much of eastern North America, temperatures will remain close to seasonable levels in Vermont (classic El Nino) in the 7 days beginning this Saturday and persisting through the President's Day holiday. In the wake of the midweek storm, another potentially potent clipper system could add to the new snowfall on Friday and bring with it a blast of below normal temperatures for the early part of the holiday weekend. This cold is then expected to recede by President's Day itself and temperatures again may turn above normal after February 15th.

The jet stream is again expected to tighten in the Pacific pushing the EPO back into positive, adverse territory. This is not an encouraging development for the back half of February but yet again we will keep the AO as an ally and this might help to thwart the adverse impacts of a more energetic jet in the Pacific.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Ice and Rain Wednesday but is potential snow just a week away ?

No good news regarding our potentially wet and rainy Wednesday. Models have actually moved the track of this storm farther north the last few days and the result will be a shorter period of ice and a longer period of rain. The freezing rain should begin around daybreak and change to plain rain within a few hours. Temperatures will inch close to the 40 degree mark later in the day. It's about half an inch of liquid precipitation in total and most of it should be over by the evening. By late Thursday morning most of the mountain should be back below freezing and down into the teens by Friday morning.

A much more productive weather pattern takes over as advertised on Friday. Models have been hinting at varying degrees cold and storminess in the 10 day stretch beginning on Friday but I expect it to be one of the better weeks for snow this season. The first new snow comes Saturday from a weaker clipper system. There were a few indications that this storm might ultimately become more than a weak clipper off the Atlantic coast but those indications have gone away as of Monday morning.

What has been relatively consistent is the indications of a much more organized precipitation producer in the Tuesday the 9th/Wednesday the 10th time frame. Lot of polar jet energy will diving south out of Canada fueling the potential rise of a big east coast system. There are phasing questions relating to this system but it would be hard to doubt the presence of southern branch jet energy and moisture. Potential phasing is a question of timing and the relative positions of both colliding branches of the jet. I put the chances of something rather significant happening pretty high (65 %) given the proximity of the two disturbances in question. It's just a matter of "when" and what the evolving storm will do as a result of the "when" question.

Terrain enhanced powder from any such midweek storm would continue into Thursday as a blast of cold air envelops New England. The cold should continue to dominate through the President's Day holiday and there are indications that yet another storm could bring its potential snowfall to the mountain in that time frame. The cold may recede somewhat during the week following President's Day as PNA support for colder weather vanishes. The AO should remain at least weekly negative thwarting any potential big thaw.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Winter 2016, there is hope for you yet !

Good news on most fronts today as we head toward the last few days of January. Not sure if we can escape all of the adversity in this upcoming week but perhaps it can be minimized. There was a tweet  out there referencing the Mt Mansfield snow stake which graphically showed that the snow depth this year was about the worst ever recorded (in just over 60 years of data). It's actually a close race with a few years in the mid 50's and 1979-80. A mild February with minimal snow could certainly cement the winter as one of the worst ever for snow depth but it doesn't look like that will be the case. Over the past two days ensembles have been painting an ever more promising picture starting around February 4th and likely continuing for at least two weeks.

We enjoyed a bit of snow on Friday and advection induced precipitation late Saturday into Saturday night could bring upwards of an inch. Trouble starts after that with a somewhat innocuous above-freezing Sunday. Monday is even warmer as readings could surge to 40 along with some rain showers. I had offered a glimmer of hope regarding the potential rainy disaster this upcoming Wednesday and that hope remains. Monday's system will indeed usher in a layer of cold, dry air for Tuesday which we will so desperately need as a giant system  winds itself up and heads for the Great Lakes. Current indications suggest that this will ultimately travel through the land gully in between Lake's Huron and Erie. It will then proceed northeastward either right over the St Lawrence Valley.

This is hardly ideal but I've seen worse. The layer of cold, dry air should allow for a period of icing at the very least and the period of plain old liquid rain appears reduced to a handful of hours. If the storm can just move 50-100 miles further south, not a lot of ask, we would turn this ice/rain event to more of a snow/ice base building event. Not a likely scenario as of yet but not eliminated from the possibility spectrum either.

Then February 4th comes and suddenly mother nature waves her magic wand and everything is just swell. A beautiful looking west coast ridge starts to take shape and extends vertically up the west coast and eventually adjoins with a weak area of blocking in the Arctic. Even the EPO forecasts have trended more negatively in the past two days and are now indicating a slightly loose Pacific Jet in about a week's time. What does it all mean ? Cold weather and lots of it. In addition, with the axis of the ridge setting up from the American west coast northward to the Yukon/Alaskan border, the east coast becomes a tinder box of activity for storms. El Nino should provide the fuel for it as well. There have been hints of storms embedded within this pattern all over the place and one way or another the mountain should benefit. The cold will settle into the region February 4th and the first snow is likely to come from a clipper system February 6th (A Saturday). I won't speculate on when the snow comes after that but I would be shocked if significant amounts of the good stuff doesn't fall between the 6th and 20th of the month. More on this in the coming days.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tough times next week perhaps but snow in the short term and a more favorable pattern starting February 4th.

I was holding out yesterday and early today, hoping for some better news regarding next week.  I don't really have any in that time frame, unfortunately, at least not today. The pattern should align itself more favorably starting around February 4th and a few dinky systems may provide a few powder hours over the next 3 days or so. An occasional bout of mild weather is a fairly routine part of a New England winter and it looks as though we will contend with it starting late on January 31 and persisting through February 3. It's not etched in stone just yet but we need some late inning heroics perhaps from Big Papi if you're a Sox fan or from Yoenis Cespedes if you're a Mets fan. Sorry Yankee fans, I am no mood to give A-Rod any love today but maybe Beltran who was an under appreciated Met in his days in Queens.

The weather map later tomorrow will have another juicy southern streamer near the Carolina coast but this one will advance well off shore Friday. The models teased us with this storm a few days ago but there was never a consensus for a big New England hit and it certainly won't happen. At the same time, a weaker clipper system will deliver some moisture to Vermont albeit in limited amounts on Friday. We should see snow develop during the morning and continue throughout the day. This is the good low density stuff and we could see several inches of it (3-7 inches) by late Friday evening.

As one system exits later Friday another weaker disturbance arrives with its small amount of moisture later Saturday. This looks like a weak area of advection/overrunning type snow but another few inches could fall late in the day Saturday into Saturday. Moisture looks best the farther north you go with the Saturday system.

The first above-freezing day follows for Sunday. This is in response to many of the upstream changes with the jet stream we've discussed but most directly a massive snow-producing Rocky Mountain system which plans to pummel much of Colorado with snow Sunday and Monday. Temperatures will creep above freezing Sunday but will struggle to fall Sunday night thanks to a mild flow of air and clouds from an advancing but relatively weak storm. Rain showers are possible later Monday from this but temperatures should remain in the 30's and melting will be fairly minimal.

The threat of tumultuous times rises thereafter. I was hoping this initial, relatively innocently looking Monday system could dig a little downstream of us and help push both colder and drier air back into the region Tuesday. Models continue to hint at that a bit but are struggling to advance the cold into New England in any real material way. A mostly unfrozen and relatively warm Great Lakes aggregate isn't helping us with this I might mention. The very strong Rocky Mountain system then advances into the plains on Tuesday and takes aim at the Great Lakes. The track of this system is not a good one and it doesn't appear to want to break apart at all. One big consolidated system in the northern Great Lakes will push mild air and potentially a lot of ice and rain into the region Wednesday. We can hope that the system simply occludes in the Great Lakes to a point that a coastal low takes over in the Gulf of Maine and thwarts the push of milder air. It's not a total lost cause yet but isn't looking good as of Wednesday afternoon.

The outlook does improve thereafter with a period of colder weather scheduled to begin around February 4th. There is a minimal amount of blocking in the Arctic which will keep the AO in check and although the jet stream in the Pacific moves from adverse to marginal, a ridge in the jet stream which will set up shop in western North America will help provide the pipeline for cold. The middle part of February looks like a competing forces situation as well but no glaring signs of another thaw at all.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Potential thaw next week looks weaker and forecast might yet include some new snow

Weather and snow was front and center across the entire east coast media landscape this weekend. Watching Washington D.C. and Philadelphia get buried in a massive east coast storm reminded me of a few other big El Nino seasons. Both the 1982-83 and 1986-87 featured mild starts to the winter. 1986 also featured a massive storm in the arctic which was responsible for a big spike in temperatures near the north pole just like one that occurred this past December. 1983 featured the famous "Megalopitan" storm in February and 1987 featured an epic 10 days of winter in late January. The biggest of the storms in 1987 also occurred on January 22-23. Interestingly, much of the weather discussed in this paragraph also missed Vermont. The storm which was quickly labeled "historic" and "record breaking" actually fits somewhat into the pattern of big El Nino winters along the east coast. Generally mild weather over the course of 3 months but also a short and very epic stretch of winter weather which typically includes one memorable winter storm. Hopefully we can get ours as well.

"Ours" probably won't come this week. A brief spike in temperatures arrives Tuesday with readings eclipsing the freezing mark for the first time since the rain a few weeks ago. A benign shot of colder weather brings some light snow Wednesday but accumulations will be in the 1-3 inch range.  There is yet another system in the invariably active southern branch of the jet which is going to try and organize itself off the Carolina coast late Thursday. As this is happening a weaker clipper system will approach and there have been hints that the two will try and get together and dance a little but even this scenario wouldn't promise great results for the mountain or the state as a whole.

Another surge of mild air makes a run at the mountain early next week. This is in response to the tightening jet in the Pacific we have been discussing. Storminess will consolidate somewhat in the west but a few pieces of energy will cross the country and prevent a full scale onslaught of warmth but it doesn't entirely reduce the risk of rain either. It honestly looks on multiple days that Snow/Rain/Ice line will be very close to central and northern Vermont and it will take a few days to sort out some of the details. That said, frozen precip and specifically snow is still a possibility for part of next week in spite of the generally milder outlook.

The outlook improves after about February 4th and 5th thanks to the Arctic Oscillation which will keep its negative state and a weak ridge which will develop across western North America. This should set the stage for another period of sub freezing temperatures and open up the opportunity to accumulate some snow.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Big Mid Atlantic blizzard does Vermont no favors so time to look beyond

What a storm for the Mid-Atlantic ! They missed out on a lot of the action since the famous "Snowmageddon" of 2010 and they never seem to mind. When the DMV area does get clobbered, such as what will happen on Friday night and Saturday, all hell breaks loose and their is a massive run on food, gas and other basic necessities. That's not how we roll in Vermont however which is why we deserve a storm such as this and they don't.

With the exception of the south shore of New England, most of the entire region will in fact miss this storm. New York city is right on the edge. The storm  closes off well underneath the relaxing polar jet and allows the powerful southern branch of the jet stream to simply push it out to sea before it make a real northward turn. Some might disagree with this assertion but if the El Nino was perhaps a little weaker, and the southern branch of the jet was a little weaker, we might have had a more fruitful outcome.  Still, we have done quite alright with the smaller systems and terrain enhancement and there is more of that to come.

Temperatures will have a chance to moderate Saturday thanks to a full day of sunshine. By Sunday, readings could reach the 30 degree mark. 30 degrees is about the warmest we will reach for the duration of the month fortunately. Unfortunately, the prospects for big snow are reduce but smaller amounts of powder remain in the cards. A decaying system from the southern Rockies will fail in its  attempts to grab any serious Gulf of Mexico moisture. What moisture it does have though will fall in the form of light snow Tuesday and Tuesday night. This storm is worth a few inches but not much more than that. A nice little jet buckling is beginning to show up on the some of the medium range models as of Friday. There will be a clipper associated with this undoubtedly and some snow should fall in advance of the last full weekend in January.

My thoughts on early February have improved somewhat. Yes, I still expect the EPO to make a sign switch allowing the evil empire to show its ugly face. That said, the arctic oscillation will remain negative and some ensembles suggest solidly so. The door will open for a rain event and a few above freezing days, but the chances of a December 2015 mild air onslaught are reduced in my view. In addition I think one could argue that a few big Rocky Mountain systems will track in our direction bringing lots of moisture with them. It should be a great pattern for the west and perhaps not such a bad one for New England.