Think Snow, Tweet Snow !!!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thursday's potential snow and lots of other ramblings to end 2013

I've been waiting and hoping that the information out there would converge into something very big for the mountain Thursday. Unfortunately, for our late week storm, the consensus of data suggests a loose more disorganized conglomeration of low pressure centers that will push through the Ohio Valley and off the east coast before intensifying into anything significant. I throw the word "phasing" the blog like I would throw a frisbee (which is a lot) but for most of our potential winter storms, the process is critical in determining whether we are "in" or "out" of the best powder. I like to think of phasing as the jet stream and the weather at the surface achieving a perfect harmony like a Jerry Garcia with his electric guitar and Phil Lesh on bass (I think Phil would be the Jet Stream and Jerry might be the winter storm). Phasing occurs quite often in New England because many of the necessary ingredients are always present such as jet stream energy, the accessibility of moisture and the ambient clashing between cold dry arctic air and a relative warm moist Atlantic Ocean. The best storms in Vermont phase early, but often not too early (as they did many times last year). These storms more frequently track very close to the coast or even inland and interior areas of New England are the best spots for the big snow.

The surface map is a tinderbox right now and one good injection of upper air support would mean big things for MRG and the surrounding region. Such support does come but it will come just a little later than we wanted. Snow will expand into New York State and much of New England but unless something changes, the storm will ultimately consolidate its energy off shore and pull the heaviest snowfall to the coast and eventually out to sea. Anyway, that was a lot of rambling for a paragraph and a half and in the end, WE SHOULD A POWDER DAY THURSDAY. Light snow should begin around day break and continue for a good part of the ski day. I think this is a 3-7 inch event, but when it comes to questions of phasing LOTS CAN CHANGE. The Valentine's Day Storm of 07 reached hall of fame status but was not expected to be until very late in the forecast period. Thursday and Friday will be two of the coldest days New England has seen in some time. Temperatures will be near zero all day Thursday as its snowing and below zero all day Friday. Saturday morning's temps could be near -15 F but readings should moderate to more tolerable levels by the afternoon then warm into the 20's Sunday.

Another storm is going to require our attention by late into the weekend into Monday. This is another interesting one and perhaps a storm that might phase too early. The Euro model is indicating a one of those classic "bowling ball" trough's and one for the ages as well. These types of events are dangerous for New England ski country as they send 50 degree readings north to Quebec while sub zero temperatures hit the Ozarks. This is not the consensus solution yet however as other medium range models suggest that potential "bowling ball" never achieves perfect symmetry. A partial phase and a more squashed system could mean some powder for Sunday into Monday. The Euro does bring at least a chance for rain however. The arctic cold that follows this storm could be very memorable as readings, particularly in parts of the Mississippi and Ohio Valley's get well below zero and even challenge records. We saw cold of this intensity in '09 but nothing like that since. The "evil empire" is showings its face as we move beyond January 10th although ensembles have performed horrendously so far this winter so I won't expand on any of those details until later.

Lets hope at least some of this storm pans out. Happy New Year to everyone and think powder !!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Another batch of the good stuff brewing for Thursday/Friday ?

By the time most of you will be reading this, the few inches of glop Sunday night will have turned to a somewhat windblown layer of powder. Temperatures will turn very cold so hopefully the snow consistency is good enough to be considered a powder day for those of you that venture on the mountain. The focus now has to shift very quickly to the New Years day period and another rapidly evolving weather situation in the days that follow New Years. It is amazing how fluid the weather forecasting has been this year and we should expect that to continue. It has been somewhat easier to predict temperatures relative to normal in a general sense but day-to-day weather specifics has been a challenge outside of the 5 day window. Forces the SCWB to earn its money with more frequent updates I suppose.

This will be a very cold 6-day period as has been discussed previously. Temperatures through the upcoming weekend will struggle to get above 20 at any point and we will have several mornings at or below -10 and at least 2 days with wind chills well below zero. We had hoped to get some new snow out of this very bone chilling ordeal and its looking more and more likely that this will indeed be the case. The first snow will come New Years eve from an upper air impulse that will produce some terrain enhanced snow. Snow accumulations from this will be on the order of a few inches and unlike the glob, will be a very fluffy variety. If we are lucky, we will get a somewhat powdery New Years Day.

The "BC Bomber" that has entered the equation in this very evolving weather picture arrives Thursday Jan 2. This system has been discussed but its potential before now has been somewhat underrated. Pretty much all of the major medium computer models are now on board that the system will gather some limited amounts of Gulf moisture, deepen and then strengthen rapidly off the Atlantic Coast. Models disagree with the intensity of strengthening and the track and it is this question which should now be the prevailing debating point as to how much powder actually falls Jan 2/3 at MRG. The European model is the dream scenario because it is suggesting an all out explosion south of Cape Cod and a 1-2 footer for much of Vermont. The Canadian and GFS suggest a more modest deepening with this system, a flatter system overall and confine much of the heaviest snowfall totals to coastal sections. The final answer might have to wait until New Years Day to be answered but we should at least look forward to some modest powder Thursday into Friday. Timing of course will have to be fine tuned in the next few days.

There is some additional fine tuning that is required on what appears to be shaping up to be a volatile week beginning Sunday January 5. There are some potential trouble spots, some more potentially bone chilling arctic air and maybe even some additional powder. A bit of the "all of the above" which was my favorite multiple choice answer on those old high school exams but perhaps not so much when it comes to winter weather.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Wet snow late Sunday and Sunday night will turn more powdery Monday as temperatures nosedive

Most of the current weekend will be on the cloudier side but temperatures will be rather mild for late December, achieving and exceeding the freezing mark both Saturday and Sunday. The question we all want answered though is whether or not to use that last vacation day of 2013 on Monday (or fake sick). There has been some small modifications in the thinking regarding the storm that is expected to advance up the Atlantic Coast Sunday and spread precipitation into the region Sunday afternoon but we think we have enough information to provide some detailed expectations.

Given the prevailing mild temperatures encompassing the mountain, you would be right to say that temperatures will be in that marginal category Sunday afternoon as precipitation commences. Model cross sections are in fact indicating some above freezing layers in the lower troposphere, and as a result, precipitation may begin as some rain or sleet. Within an hour or so of the precipitation start time, we should begin seeing all snow. Temperatures will hover around the freezing mark through a good part of Sunday night and the snow consistency could be a bit gloppy in low lying areas while closer to powder near the summits. In areas below 1000 feet, precipitation could remain mostly rain or simply a rain/snow mix. The snow should taper to flurries or snow showers Monday morning as the arctic deluge reaches the mountain but a few hours of heavy snow overnight should push snow totals in the 6-12 inch category. As wet as the snow might seem Monday night, plummeting temperatures during the day Monday will alter the consistency of the snow to a dense powdery layer. It will also be quite blustery creating wind chills of near zero as actual temperatures to near 10 by late in the day. 

The arctic cold will prevail through the New Years holiday and into the first full weekend of 2014. Models are not at all conclusive regarding some of the fast moving systems that might be on the weather map during much of this time frame. The American model suggests that a clipper system will rotate into the Ohio Valley around New Years Day and later intensify off the northeast coast into something fairly interesting by Jan 2nd or 3rd. The European Model keeps much of the precipitation from this system well south of the region and by the weekend has a massive coastal system near Cape Hatteras with historic snows in the Virginia Tidewater area. The Canadian model is also on the dry and cold side for interior New England. There is undoubtedly a few things that need to be sorted out. For the mountain, our best  shot at some additional snow comes late New Years eve into New Years day. We do know it will be very cold with temperatures near -10 on a few mornings between Tuesday and Friday and struggling to get above zero during the days. 

In the longer range, we still have the negative AO competing with a retrograting ridge. In summary we will go from two favorable teleconnection indices late next week to just one by around January 8th or so. This leaves us somewhat vulnerable for trouble between the 8th and 10th of the month. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Weather in the pre - New Years Day period "evolving"

We have a bit of powder covering the frozen crust and can now look toward the end of the weekend for some more potentially good news. The weekend weather has been "evolving" and the medium range models have more or less failed to indicate with any consistency how it will all play out. We had an idea that temperatures would at some point make a run at the freezing mark and we knew that by Sunday, we had a chance for some snow from a clipper system marking the leading edge of very cold arctic air that is poised to send temperatures below zero on the mountain by New Years Eve. Things have gotten more interesting with the southern branch of the jet stream, which a few days ago appeared as if it would have a negligible impact on the weather through at least New Years. With each cycle of model data however, there is more and more evidence that a low center with Gulf of Mexico origins will indeed move up the Atlantic Coast and impact New England with its moisture.

We discussed the idea of the limited amount of available cold air this weekend over New England. The current air mass will modify and the bitterly cold air will advance to most of the east coast a day after this system exits. Across coastal sections of New England, precipitation will fall as plain rain through much of Sunday. Moisture from the Gulf/Atlantic southern branch system pushes into Vermont just as energy from the clipper system begins arriving from the west. If the two storms were to phase, a bit earlier it would open the door for some incredible upside. Models right now are indicating that this won't quite happen, but we do have barely enough cold to support some snow late Sunday into Sunday night. Remnants of the clipper system and some lingering instability will help support some additional terrain induced or Champlain induced snow showers Monday. I think there will be some better clarity on accumulation totals in the coming days but snow Sunday afternoon, Sunday night and snow showers Monday should total at least 4 inches over that 24 hour period and perhaps upwards of a foot. Because this situation has evolved so much in just 48 hours, we have to leave some room in the forecast for some additional changes so I would expect some modifications in the coming days or so.

Bitterly cold temperatures will make a grand entrance Monday with the aforementioned snow showers. The region, as mentioned in previous updates, will be in the firm grip of arctic air through much of the New Years week thanks to the emerging western North American upper ridge and the negative Arctic Oscillation (AO). Snow could fall from a weak clipper system around the time of January 2nd. By the first weekend of 2014 there have been hints of some southern branch activity combining with the Polar Jet to produce a storm of significance but those hints were mainly yesterday. Today's models/ensembles suggested some additional snows from a clipper along with what should be the continuation of very cold weather. There are also indications that the position of the western North American ridge will retrograde toward Alaska allowing arctic air to loosen its grip on the region around the 7th or 8th of the month. This would go against my idea of the cold weather persisting through January 10th. The AO though is expected to remain negative throughout much of the first half of January, an important ally to have in the prevention of any damaging thaws.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Arctic chill looking for a long tenure at the throne

We took a few good upper cuts from the recent thaw but we did make it through. Perhaps I should try anesthesia for the next thaw because mentally, its rather tough to watch good powder go to slush and then crust. The cold weather is back in a big way though as temperatures on the mountain will hover near 10 degrees during the afternoon of Christmas Eve and Christmas day and should fall below zero Christmas morning. Aside from some snow flurries, enough perhaps for a dusting, it should be a relatively dry two days on the mountain. The next chance for accumulating snow comes Thursday from this clipper we have been watching. We continue to hope that as this system swings through southern Canada, it can tap at least limited amounts of Atlantic moisture and deposit at least a few inches of snow on the mountain (because we need it). The European model continues to be the more vibrant solution regarding this storm and even this result would generally suggest less than a 1-4 inch event for the 26th into the 27th. The Canadian and American models show a meager dusting to an inch or two. 

The cold weather will remain in place for the first part of the weekend but temperatures could actually sneak above freezing Sunday given enough sunshine. After snow flurries and a few snow showers Friday, most of the weekend will be free of snow or any precipitation. The warm day Sunday will occur as the overall weather pattern re-aligns itself into one that will, for the first third of January produce a large amount of brutally cold arctic air into both the Great Lakes and New England. Given what we have seen from the intensity of these air masses so far this winter, it is a good bet that readings will nose dive into the -10 to -20 degree range on 3 or 4 of these first 10 days of January. The culprit is will be development of a weak to moderate positive-PNA pattern which will align itself with what we expect will be a weak to perhaps moderate negative AO. The PNA magnitude (although it isn't actually measured this way) can be loosely measured by the strength of the ridge in western North America. So far this winter, we have not seen much of a ridge in that part of the continent and Vermont has been cold in spite of it. By the new year, we are expecting a ridge to develop over British Columbia and this will focus much of the unmoderated arctic cold over Vermont and other nearby areas.

Of course, we need snow to go along with this cold. Another clipper system, which will arrive late Sunday into early Monday, will bring the next chance for snow to the mountain. This system marks the first big intrusion of cold in the newly aligned pattern. After that, much of the energy in the jet stream will shift south as will the storm track. If it doesn't shift too far south, it opens the door for future clipper systems to continuously deposit additional snow and one of those could evolve into a more significant  snow producer given some constructive interaction with the Atlantic Ocean.  To get a big monster storm, we need the flow to split underneath the positive PNA in the west. This would allow southern branch energy to undercut part of the pattern (without destroying it) and the result would be a steady stream of 1-2 footers like we saw in 1993-1994. No indication of that, at least as of yet but we do still have the door open for terrain induced and Champlain induced events that will also make a contribution during the early part of 2014. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ice and more yuck through Monday but sustained cold weather takes the wheel after that

The front is oscillating up and down through Vermont Saturday. Unfortunately, the warmth pushed just far enough, north and I mean just far enough north, to allow the warm inversion to mix down to the surface and push temperatures close to 50. This boundary between warm and cold was literally positioned across I89, extending west southwest across the southern Adirondacks. Burlington's temperatures remained in the high 20's Saturday and temperatures remain in the high teens near the Canadian border. Oh well, chalk that up to some first class misfortune.

As of late in the day Saturday, the colder air is making a push south behind the first wave of low pressure and ahead of the stronger storm advancing toward us from the Ohio Valley. Temperatures will again be near the freezing mark Sunday morning while rain or freezing rain is falling. Looking at the temperature cross-sections, it looks like some sections of the mountain might see significant icing while other areas might remain a touch above freezing, it is literally that close and temperatures will for much of the day be within a degree of the freezing mark on either side. Saturday's temps will be the warmest we will see in some time but we will see another period on Monday where temperatures hover around 40 for a time before falling back below freezing by the evening.

The mountain will be back in the firm grasp of arctic chill Tuesday morning with readings near 10 for much of the day. Without much in the way of new snow to speak of through Christmas day, it will leave things a bit crusty, a good time to test the sharpened edges on the groomers. We had talked about our next chance for snow coming the day after Christmas as temperatures moderate in advance our next reenforcing shot of cold. The European model continues to drive the snowiest train on this particular system since it allows a relatively strong clipper system to gather limited amounts of Atlantic even some Gulf moisture and deposit a much needed 4-8 inches of snow to the VT high country. The Canadian and American model packages seem less intent on doing much of anything with this clipper, and the result would be more along the lines of a dusting to 2 inches of snow.

It once again gets chilly late Thursday into Friday which sets the stage for a rinse and repeat situation with questions regarding another clipper and another reenforcing shot of cold around the time of the 29th. The Arctic Oscillation is going to take this critical turn toward negative country around the new year or just before it. Specific results are a bit hard to make sense of this early, but generally speaking, we should the polar jet overwhelm a good part of the United States and lots of very cold weather through the first 7-10 days of 2014. When the polar jet is too overwhelming, in can prevent organized storm systems from having a big influence on interior New England but at the same time, sustained cold can never hurt and clipper systems can gradually fluff the mountain back into shape.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A tough weekend lies ahead

Lots of stuff to sort out as we head toward the Christmas holiday and as of early Thursday morning, we are beginning to get some better clarity on the coming weekend. There is a lot to cover and could make the update seem a bit long-winded but bear with me. Unfortunately, the mountain will have to play some defense against a weather pattern that wants to push very mild temperatures into New England. Barring a late inning change, we  have have to endure some less than ideal stuff (Perhaps we should call in the 2013 vaunted Red Sox bullpen or David Ortiz for some heroics) Arctic cold will put up a massive big fight on our behalf to maintain some control on our weather; in fact, by Sunday I can almost envision one of those epic battlefield scenes in a movie as the appropriate metaphor for the clashing of these air masses. The big consequence of all this is of course, a lot of weather. 
A decaying wave of low pressure will provide the region with the initial taste of precipitation Friday. The boundary responsilbe for the upcoming warm push will reach central and northern Vermont but will stall during the day and precipitation is likely going to be a wintry mix, starting as snow and going to a sleet/freezing rain mixture. At some point we could get a period of plain rain also but at least on Friday, this problem will be minimal. Mountains such as Jay Peak and points north will be positioned north of this aforementioned boundary and are likely to get mostly snow and minimal sleet/freezing rain from Friday's more benign system.
I expect some occasional light freezing rain/drizzle or some light rain or drizzle but much of the day Saturday will just feature clouds and some areas of fog.  As this is happening our bigger storm will move out over the southern plains, gather moisture from the Gulf and begin to head northeast toward the eastern Great Lakes. Since the last update, models have suggested that this storm will deepen (strengthen) quicker and track farther north right into the heart of the St Lawrence Valley. This will put the onus on a potent artic high pressure center in northern Quebec to dam  whatever is left of the cold air across interior New England, a challenging task considering the track of this storm.  There is time for some late inning changes, and even a slight shift south in the trajectory of this strorm could have a serious impact impact on the results. As it stands now however, a major of intrusion mild air between 5,000 and 10,000 feet in the atmosphere takes out the possibility of snow. The inversion is so strong in fact, that it could create a situation where many of the summits on the Green Mountain chain are noticeably warmer than valley locations. It could, during a significant part of the precipitation event, be the difference between ice or plain rain.
Precipitaiton over the mountain becomes more intense Saturday night and there is a threat for some serious icing if temperatures are at or below the freezing mark. It is very close call but since we are anticipating 1-2" of liquid precipitation, the icing situation could rival anything we have seen in the last decade or so if temperatures stay below freezing. If the storm would track over Vermont, it would open the door for more sleet with is a much more ideal early season scenario since it would provide a big anchor to our early season base. Although this is still a remote possibility, I think the more likely scenario is freezing rain or rain. Even this less than ideal situation should not become a complete debauchery, temperatures across most of the mountain should stay in the 30's, mostly in the low 30's so although there will be some melting, it will not be a total melting. The rain or ice should end during the afternoon Sunday and temperatures will gradually return to normal by Monday afternoon along with some some snow flurries.
The Christmas holiday week will feature a cold day Christmas Eve followed by moderating temperatures Christmas Day and the 26th. This could go one of two ways  at this point. Around the time of the 26th, we could see a weaker storm system, maybe even a clipper, spread some light snow into the region ahead of what should be a reenforcing shot of cold weather very late next week or into the the last weekend of 2013. We could also see something more along the lines of what the recent European model indicated which was a more organized storm system another round of a wintry mixture of snow sleet or freezing rain. After a glance at the ensemble data, i didn't get the sense that the Euro solution was a true representation of the model conensus so I would expect that the 26th is our next chance for at least a light accumulation of plain snow followed by colder temperatures on the 27th.
There are signs around the new year that the Arctic Oscillation will finally turn negative but this will compete somewhat with the evil empire in the Pacific. We saw a lot of this in 2012-2013 and the results are all over the place. For the time being though, the upcoming weekend represents the only major elongated threat of above freezing temperatures and in the end, temperatures may not get above freezing by too much.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Late December Christmas outlook - lots to cover !!

We have one solid blanketing of snow and a memorable opening day in the books at MRG, but time keeps on ticking into the future and there is a lot to contend with in this future. The first half of this December is one of the coldest starts to the month we have seen in a decade and the cold has occurred in spite of a pattern not entirely supportive of sustained cold or big snow. The prevailing upper air feature in the jet stream has been a blocking ridge in the Bering Sea. This is hardly the ideal position for such a feature but it nonetheless sent such an onslaught of arctic cold into North America that the pattern was more or less overwhelmed with cold much like it was in my favorite winter of 1993-1994. It is such an encouraging sign going forward (at least this winter) to witness arctic cold battle the prevailing pattern with this type of ferocity. In spite of this, we still have to deal with some of the variability that such a pattern was inevitably going to produce. 

We will see this variability manifest itself during the upcoming weekend but in the meantime there is plenty of cold air in place and an incoming clipper system that promises to bring some light snow to the Green Mountains later Tuesday. Light snow from Tuesday afternoon into the evening might amount to a very fluffy 2-5 inches, enough for a few fresh turns Wednesday but the density of this snow will be noticeably less than the almost 2 feet of snow already on the ground. This particular clipper system will have its energy swallowed by a developing coastal system which promises to bring eastern Maine some nice powder Wednesday. Mad River Glen might see some snow showers or at least flurries Wednesday and some more lighter snows Thursday as a boundary representing the warm push of air makes its way toward VT. I don't expect much in the way of accumulation after Tuesday night. 

This brings us to Friday and the weekend which could feature all kinds of weather, possibly lots of weather and as of yet medium range models have failed to develop any sort of believable consensus. We do know that the northern half of our Bering Sea ridge will get chopped off leaving a pattern closely resembling that of the dreaded "evil empire". This being a upper ridge in the mid-latitude Pacific. Lots of mild air will thus make it's way northward, particularly Friday and although some of the aging arctic cold in eastern Canada will fight for control of interior New England, it could get dicey for sure. At this point it seems like there will be an initial push of warm air which will reach parts of VT for Friday. Parts of the mountain could see several hours of above freezing temperatures and perhaps some rain or freezing rain although precipitation on this day appears to be minimal. Colder temperatures will make a rather feeble push south Saturday ahead of what could be a very powerful storm system which will gather strength in Texas Saturday and head in our direction. In this particular situation, it will prove very difficult for this weak area of cold to play defense against a storm heading for the St Lawrence Valley. That being said there are hints on the last round of model output that the storm will travel south of Canada and perhaps right over Vermont allowing the cold weather, at least at the surface, to maintain a precarious grip on the region. There will be copious amounts of moisture sent in our direction and precipitation Sunday is unlikely to be snow but rather sleet, freezing rain or just plain rain. A significant icing event is actually possible in such a set-up but hard to pinpoint for sure how possible as of now. If we do get accumulating snow out of this storm, it would be Sunday night or early Monday. 

This brings us to the all important Christmas week which has yet to get extensive coverage from SCWB (it  has been overshadowed by our recent storm). A somewhat moderated arctic air mass should envelop the region in the wake of our big weekend weather producer. The ensembles however seem to be keying in on another weaker push of warmth around Christmas day. The American ensemble package has been downplaying this repeatedly and has suggested a relatively normal week of weather with a chance for some of the white stuff around Christmas day as opposed to any milder temperatures. I hope the American is right but another mild day and maybe another rain/ice event is possible around Christmas day. I would be more confident of a more serious push of cold weather and possibly some snow in the days following Christmas and into that last weekend of December.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What a nice looking December winter storm !!

Opening day is upon us in what looks to be a very promising start to the season. Even the Champlain induced, terrain induced snow shower machine has chimed in with some help this week in front of one of the better early season storms we have seen in VT in a few years. Yes we have seen some stronger storms and this one shouldn't become part of any New England folklore; but nonetheless, this is a beautiful noreaster for us. The track of this storm will ultimately be right over Cape Cod, the ideal scenario for the MRG powder freaks such as myself and many others. Snow will begin Saturday evening and some very intense snow is possible between midnight and dawn Sunday. This is a fast moving system that should make it's way into the Gulf of Maine by midday Sunday and the snow should taper to flurries by the early afternoon. In the last few days it actually has been quite unnecessary to provide updates. Last Monday it looked like we could get a 1-2 footer and it looks like that now, 1-2 feet of noreaster powder, and hopefully a critical part of the MRG base for weeks to come this season. 

I want to provide a more detailed update on what we might expect for the Christmas holiday, seeing as the ski season will be in full swing and I will do so tomorrow. In the shorter term however, there is a nice little follow-up to the weekend storm that will arrive later Tuesday in the form of a clipper system. This system represents a fight between arctic air and pacific air, both competing for control of eastern North America. The result should be some fluffy snow Tuesday and Tuesday night and some additional powder for the Wednesday ski day. We still have at least one and maybe two pushes of warm air to deal with in the weekend prior to Christmas. We can talk about that tomorrow but for now enjoy the storm, its a beauty. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Storm musings and the weather in the week that follows

Winter is blooming at Mad River Glen. Cold temperatures, snow showers and squalls has the MRG community itching for opening day. The only thing that might be better is some big storm excitement and it just so happens that we have some of that as well. We can't ask for a much better set up either. We have a reenforcing fresh short of arctic chill clashing with a viable southern branch system. The Low pressure system will strengthen in the Ohio Valley and make the jump to the southern New England coast, ultimately moving in the near vicinity of Cape Cod before exiting into the open Atlantic. Snow from this system will arrive Saturday evening and persist through midday Sunday with the heaviest snow likely falling in the pre-dawn hours Sunday. If there was a trend in the cycle of model runs today it was that the storm has a somewhat flatter and weaker appearance. The last American model released Wednesday evening strengthened the storm to a shade under 1000 mb while the European model Tuesday showed a storm close to 980 mb walloping Vermont with 2 feet of snow. This somewhat fickle behavior in the models is very typical a few days from the storm and is a big reason to not sell your soul to the snowiest model. At face value, models today showed a modest 8-12 inch event with some of the heaviest snow falling falling across southern Vermont, the Berkshires and much of New Hampshire. I would not sell my soul to this solution either, at least not yet. It is still possible to get a stronger storm and upwards of 20 inch snowfall totals. Stay tuned !!

The amplification in the jet stream associated with the weekend storm will help keep temperatures on the chilly side of average through about Tuesday or Wednesday. After that, things could get really crazy. If you have been following the blog at all at this early date in the season, we had discussed the Bering Sea upper ridge and its tendency to produce volatile weather across the eastern U.S. including wild swings in temperatures from warm to cold and vice versa. As we move toward late next week, we could be faced with just such a scenario. The jet stream will again amplify but do so over the western and central part of North America thus sending a huge surge of warm temperatures up the eastern seaboard. Arctic air will try to fend off a chunk of this warm push late next week and next weekend (12/21 and 12/22 ) but this could evolve into a thaw or an ice storm or a rain to ice to snow situation. After our big storm, I am hoping for none of the above honestly and maybe we can find a way out of all those scenarios. Time will tell. This battle between some warmth along the eastern seaboard and arctic cold over Canada should continue into Christmas week and could result in a noteworthy event near the Christmas holiday.

Monday, December 9, 2013

More details on potential weekend storm !

I wasn't going to do any detailed update but with the MRG opening bell nearing and the weather this weekend "evolving", a brief one is warranted. On sunday we had discussed the possibility of snow on Sunday before more arctic chill encompasses the region early next week. The situation is a bit more intriguing however since a split in the jet stream and southern branch energy will be capable of incorporating more moisture into the equation. The last 1 or 2 cycles of models have clarified somewhat  the "if", the "when" and the "how" regarding the phasing of this system. And yes, we absolutely want this system to phase, we want it to phase a little earlier and we ultimately want a coastal low to absorb the systems energy off the New England coast. Although this is not etched in stone, it was certainly the trend in some of the last few bits of information. This system has a lot of the right ingredients to be a big snow producer, one certainly capable of getting winter mountain activities up and running.

Precipitation, we hope snow, would arrive late Saturday evening and persist through much of Sunday. More cold air then invades for Monday. Snowfall totals ? A bit too early for that speculation but we should at least up the range of expected snowfall for the next 7 days which should include some snow from snow showers and snow squalls Wednesday.

Much improved expectations for the middle of December

The first potential decent winter storm deposited much of its snow on southern Pennsylvania and managed largely fizzle as its depleted moisture overspread Vermont. Still, the limited snow provides the setting for a wintry scene which will prevail through much of this week and even into early next week. There is little doubt in my mind that the ferocity and expansiveness of the arctic chill so far this winter has been impressive, specifically how the arctic cold has managed to defy some of the less than optimal upper air configurations. It is vital to note that this is a very empirical observation yet an important one that must invariably be incorporated into our medium and long term expectations. In spite of the fact that the pattern has yet to favor cold or snow of any real magnitude over New England, it has favored cold and snow across the central and western United States and the result has been widespread areas of 20-25 degree below normal temperatures. We actually haven't seen much of this the last few years; in fact, we probably have to go back to 2003-2004 or maybe even prior to that since we have seen cold weather of that magnitude in the United States. Needless to say, when the pattern does align itself for cold across the northeast, the cold weather is likely to be considerably more intense than anything we have seen in the recent decade or so.

In the near term and specifically over the next week, we are actually set up for some very chilly December temperatures. A wave of low pressure will bring some mixed precipitation to coastal areas of New England Tuesday but will mostly miss interior areas like the Green and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire.  On Wednesday, the Polar Vortex will take aim at New England and upper level impulse marking the leading edge of this surge of arctic chill should spread snow showers and a few snow squalls to the high country Wednesday and Wednesday night. It then turns bitterly cold by Thursday morning and this chill persists through Friday before modifying slightly before the weekend.

The "slightly" part of the last sentence is noteworthy since we had expressed some concern about a big warm-up for the middle of the month or maybe even a ugly pre-holiday thaw. Ensembles over the last two days have suggested that is much less likely which marks a big shift in the medium range guidance and certainly changes some of my expectations in the important week leading up to Christmas.  A reenforcing shot of arctic air is expected in the latter part of next weekend and this may or may not be accompanied by some snow. The European model is actually hinting at a significant snow producer for the Mid Atlantic while the American and Canadian model packages of hinted at a light to moderate snow event for the likes of us. I no longer expect a big move toward above normal temperatures after the 15th of the month and instead expect normal and even a few days of below normal temperatures with 1 or 2 chances for snow. This is a big improvement and some very good news in spite of the disappointing results from our Sunday Night-Monday event.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Widespread snow/sleet event for Monday will be part of a very wintry week

Our first significant widespread snow event across the northern part of Vermont will arrive Sunday night or Monday morning. This will be one small part of a very volatile temperature forecast over the next two weeks. The pattern is being anchored by a giant omega blocking ridge over the Bering Sea. This is sending plenty of strong arctic air southward, but most of it is going into the Plains and Rocky Mountains where many spots will see temperatures near record levels during the coming week. Some of this arctic air will move eastward but we will not be the focal point of cold in this pattern. 

We are set up to have a somewhat wintry upcoming week however beginning over the weekend when the first batch of arctic cold displaces the mild air that will dominate the region Thursday into early Friday. A dusting to as much as two inches of snow is possible by Saturday morning but the real system of note is a loose conglomeration of low pressure centers which will gradually move out of the Rocky Mountains later this weekend. Arctic cold will be well entrenched as this system approaches. One of the systems two centers will move toward the eastern Great Lakes while another cranks up along the Atlantic coast. This is a very garden variety storm but it will impact a broad area of interior New England with snow across both mountains and valley locations. Snow should arrive late Sunday evening or early Monday with the heaviest snow lasting not more than a few hours. Precipitation could end as some sleet or freezing rain later Monday. I would put this in the category of a 6-12 inch event with the mixed precipitation adding some density or possibly some crust to whatever falls. Quite possibly a good base-building event !

Another batch of the some of the intense cold centered across western North America will then build across the region during the middle of next week but will likely be rather short-lived. The Polar Vortex could actually get rather close to Vermont for a day or so, perhaps sending temperatures well below zero for the first time this winter season. A clipper system could add a light accumulation of snow to the region as well. The Bering Sea ridge and the lack of any downstream blocking in the Davis Straits or Greenland will allow the cold to escape rather quickly and this could set the stage for another mild week beginning around the 14th or 15th of December. A few days ago I was more concerned about a widespread outbreak of mild temperatures but I think lingering cold in Canada will compete for control of the weather in spite of the overall expected jet stream configuration. At the very least however, it is likely we see some more above freezing days in the week preceding the Christmas holiday. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Variable pattern to dominate first half of December

The big finale to November has many giddy about the upcoming month and why not, it has been a momentous week to ten days. In reality though, the first half of December is typically erratic and more recently a big struggle. This one appears that it will conform to this norm since in spite of some promising looking possibilities in isolated parts of the forecast period, the next two weeks as a whole is fraught with trouble.

Arctic cold still, as we speak, encompasses much of Canada and is helping to rapidly freeze the Hudson Bay (now ~ 60 percent frozen). Unfortunately, it's influence has someone subsided across New England and points south. Were it to be more pronounced, a developing coastal system Tuesday might have had a greater chance of manifesting itself into something significant. As it is, the system will develop and it will mainly be a mixed rain and snow producer for coastal New England, exiting the region Tuesday evening. The duration of the week will generally be free of any new snow. Arctic cold and snow will descend on the Rocky Mountain region while the east coast will see a warming trend. Precipitation, if it falls at all, will be rain Thursday night (although nothing more than a period of a few hours).

Speaking fundamentally, the pattern in front of us is being anchored by a strong blocking ridge in the Bering Sea. Blocking, in general is a positive thing and the jet stream in the Pacific will be "loose" as opposed to "tight" which is also a positive thing. Longitudinally speaking however, the Bering Sea blocking ridge still presents some problems since it is a mechanism for focusing cold on the western half of North America while there is no mechanism to hold the cold in place over New England or eastern North America. The result is a highly variable pattern with intrusions of cold, some significant followed by quick warm-ups. New snow, maybe even a significant snow is possible as well but a thaw might quickly follow.

After a day or two of above freezing temperatures later this week, there will the first move toward colder temperatures by the weekend but this turn to colder weather does not look like it will accompanied by any snow. The next best chance for good snow comes around the 9th or 10th of the month as a potential system exits the Rocky Mountain and gets catapulted northeastward toward the eastern Great Lakes by another big jet amplification across the west. Actually, the track of this system is still very much in question and if the amplification across the west is a bit more imperfect, it might generate a flatter system. The snowiest solution would probably involve some compromise of the above solutions. The potential storm (or no storm) will be followed by a more significant chunk of cold for the middle of the week but this to will be short-lived. By the 13th of the month there is some strong evidence to suggest a more significant push of warmer temperatures, perhaps even a significant thaw since the Bering Sea ridge may in face bottle up much of the cold in western Canada or at least that is what some of the ensembles are indicating.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Big mid week storm is a mainly rain to some snow situation

With the thanksgiving holiday being one of the more popular travel periods, there has been lots of talk about the upcoming storm this week. Energy in the southern branch is going to churn up a pretty impressive weather system with lots of help from the Gulf of Mexico. With some of the coldest November weather in a decade currently in place, one could certainly envision a big dump for Vermont. Right now it looks like more of a rain to some snow event. There was a bit of back and forth with the models but there is some pretty good agreement over the last 24 hours or so to take this moist system up through the lower Hudson Valley and up through New Hampshire.  In the middle of winter, this type of track could deliver the goods, but this is still late November and its very easy to draw some very warm into the equation this early in the season. Precipitation could start as a little snow late Tuesday evening before going to a cold rain by Wednesday. Accumulating snow is still likely as the storm pushes off to the northeast later Wednesday, maybe something on the order of 4-8 inches followed by another round of very chilly November weather.

We are not getting much support from some of our favorite teleconnection indices going into December. Nonetheless, the jet stream in the eastern Pacific will remain rather loose and allow arctic air to remain on the playing field through a good part of next week. There have been hints of something significant for interior New England between the 2nd and 4th of December. We will have more on that during the middle of the week. A good event next week should have the powers-that-be at MRG talking opening.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

SCWB turns decadal and winter hinting it may have some big things in store for us !!

Some early-season winter teas' n seems to have many excited about the upcoming winter and why not, winter may be nuisance to many, but for MRG enthusiasts, tis a glorious time. With that time now approaching, the 10th season of SCWB begins (crazy that it's been that long). With snow-capped General Stark, I know it seems like the blog is getting a late start, but I try to keep updates within the confines of the MRG ski season which typically begins a bit later than some close rivals. So yes, we are beginning right on time. 

All winter seasons seem to consist of some hype. If it isn't coming from yours truly, I am sure it would take a rather effortless scouring of the internet to find someone else that is all juiced up about the upcoming snow season. But with the current month of November already providing some biting intrusions of cold weather and frequent dustings of high elevation snow, it seems even the cynics want to play with the hype machine. It is certainly refreshing to be enveloped in all these positive vibes. It is certainly been a few years since winter has started with a bang. The winter of 2008-2009 featured the last chilly November and big start to a season. A few New England veterans told me that winter felt like a "throw-back" to the old days for its propensity to unleash the full variety of weather with big temperature swings, all kinds of weather, brutal cold shots and most importantly a few winter storms. This, by the way is the 20th anniversary of my favorite winter (1993-1994). That winter started a little slow, but in spite of weather pattern that was dominated by somewhat adverse teleconnection indices, arctic air of an unusually strong intensity continuously clashed with a steady stream of southern branch energy. The result a 6-7 week stretch of continuous cold and big winter storms that would occur weekly. If you could have scored Tuesday's and Wednesday's off during that year, it was a true winning lottery ticket. 

The winter of 1993-1994 comes to mind as I have watched the current month of November play out. I recently returned from my 2-week honeymoon and I can remember looking at the weather pattern going into the month and thinking of how generally unexciting and mild it appeared, particularly as it related to our favorite teleconnection indices, the AO, NAO and PNA. Yet upon my return, the actual weather has defied all of that and the month will finish with one of the coldest thanksgiving weeks that interior New England has seen in 20 years. Sure, it may seem overly analytical to get hyper-focused on these details but I am a geek like that, and I do believe these little subtleties can provide important clues to how the weather on the mountain plays out this season. 

All of that aside, it remains vitally important to focus first on more quantifiable variables that have some proven merit. With that, let me unleash the disclaimer about how incredibly inexact the science of seasonal forecasting is, how fluid long range weather predicting can be and most importantly, how many longer range outlooks get inflated with first-rate BS. The state of the ENSO however is not BS part of a long range forecast, particularly a winter forecast. It remains one of the best ways to get a early sense of how a winter might behave from a personality standpoint. The ENSO, for the last three winters has been in a La Nina state, the last winter featuring a very weak La Nina and one that only developed midway through the winter. This winter much like last features a equatorial Pacific Ocean where sea surface temperatures are average, thus yielding an ENSO close to neutral (a positive SST anomaly yields an El Nino while a negative yields a La Nina). We have some experience with the analysis (being that we have been doing this 10 years) and the ENSO neutral winters tend to be on the colder side of a somewhat upward trending moving average of temperatures. The three worst winters for both snow and cold in the last 15 years (01-02, 05-06 and 11-12) were all La Nina winters and many of the other winters that were noticeably mild (but with periods of decent snow) often had a significant El Nino. This is not to say that winter can't defy this logic, the weather always seems to defy any logic but the probabilities weightings of cold verses warm can certainly be adjusted. It was also found that neutral winters tended to be drier across New England. The signal was not extraordinary but the stormiest winter seasons have tended to occur during significant ENSO winters on either side.

Our next point of focus is the PDO or Pacific Decadal Oscillation. We have defined it a few times in our many pre-season outlooks as an index which reflects the configuration of sea surface temperatures in the mid-latitude Pacific as opposed to the equatorial Pacific (where ENSO is decided). Like the SCWB, which also has become decadal, the PDO tends to prefer a positive or negative index every 15-20 years and thus the "decadal". Sometime around the birth of the SCWB the PDO turned negative and only two of the last 10 winters have had a positive index. There is a relationship the PDO has with the ENSO. Most La Nina winters feature a negative PDO and vice versa for El Nino winters. Since the relationship is far from perfect, the PDO does deserve its own little section in our pre-season synopsis. Like, the previous 3 winters, the PDO this year has a negative sign (-0.86 as of the last update) and this typically means weather patterns rotate in and out frequently. We have had and will continue to have an occasional encounter with the "evil empire". This term described the tightening of the jet stream in the Pacific caused by the clash of an upper level ridge in the Pacific and a trough over Alaska. The "variability" aspect of the weather in negative PDO years has been very evident during this year especially even through the summer. The weather since late last winter has been incredibly "normal". A few weeks of anomalous warmth has been followed by a few weeks of anomalous cold with each period failing to persist for more than 2-3 weeks. The shift to this elongated state of "normal" occurred after the first half of winter this year after the historic warmth of 2012. I suspect we will see more of this through the upcoming winter though I think there is reason to think that cold weather will win some important battles this year and further limit damaging thaws (though I suspect we will see them).

The source of some of the excitement and perhaps one cause of how the current month has "defied expectations" is the expansion of snow and ice in the northern hemisphere. The arctic actually saw a more abbreviated retreat of ice in the arctic regions verses the last few years (although it was still well below the 30 year average). The expansion through October and into November has been, shall I say, awesome. Once the final numbers for November are tallied, the October/November snow and ice cover in our hemisphere will rival the 2nd highest total in 40 years of recorded data. We only trail the bicentennial winter of 1976-1977, a winter that will long be remembered for  long stretches of historic cold. The Hudson Bay in particular is about 20 percent iced over as of November 21st, which would be the largest show of ice this early in about 10 years. It is my belief that the expansion of ice and snow is an important early season feedback. A larger area of snow and ice cover creates a larger breeding ground for arctic cold and it is arctic cold and often the strength of this arctic cold that can often times make or break a winter. We have seen an early taste of exactly that early this season with continuous invasions of arctic chill even when some of the teleconnection indices have argued against it.

So what do we make of all this ? We can finally forecast a cold winter !!! I have not done that too much since it typically is a bad bet (though I have forecasted a few snowy winters). The colder than average temperatures will result from what I think will be a few nasty periods of bitterly cold temperatures but the aforementioned PDO will still allow for some variability and the occasional thaw, even a damaging one. The neutrality of the ENSO would suggest less in the way of storminess so I am reluctant to sell my soul to a snowy winter. We should see at least something in the range of normal. For the record I will say 1-3 degrees below normal on temperatures and 260-280 inches of snow (which is just to the above side of normal). Get your mad cards and get your ski's ready, I expect a fun winter !!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An improved 2012-2013 season with a happier ending

A season wrap-up was promised and has not been delivered until now. All I can do is blame it on tax time which is only somewhat true. Winter continues to only slowly relinquish its grip on New England. The elevations across the Green and White mountains still have lots of snow and I know for some, ski season has yet to reach a conclusion. From a behavioral perspective, the weather has changed its mood since the beginning of the season and certainly since last year. For the time being, vast expanses of above normal temperatures are not the glaring characteristic of the weather pattern and we are instead seeing areas of the country that are seeing extended stretches of below normal temperatures. On the agricultural front, rain and snow in the north-central part of the country have made and will continue to make a healthy dent in water deficits and hopefully end a drought that in some areas got rather severe. Across New England, the end of the winter was somewhat unremarkable relative to normal but much colder than 2012 giving many the impression that it has been quite chilly but actually its been quite normal. 

In the end, the winter 2012-2013 will not be particularly distinctive good or bad and will likely be remembered ambivalently if at all in a few years time. There were many improvements from 2011-2012 mainly in the form of more consistent chill and longer stretches good skiing. Still, many of the better stretches of the winter were interrupted violently by short yet very damaging thaws that left the mountain begging for powder. By the middle part of February, Mad River and much of northern Vermont saw some decent skiing which was started by the epic noreaster responsible for the over 2 feet of snow in Boston. The fun continued through a good part of March, interrupted only once by some rain on the 11th of the month. There were times, even when the pattern was favorable, that the Green Mountains seemed to be on the short end of the stick either by missing storms or striking out in many of the instances where terrain induced snow seemed likely. A few storms and to some degree, the big February noreaster delivered much of their snow to more southern locations. If it was not for the thaws, the misses and glancing blows might have gone more unnoticed but at times we did seem to struggle when we needed the powder the most. 

Meteorologically, the winter was anchored by a mixed bag of features in the jet stream some of which supported snow and cold while some did not. The SCWB coined the "Favorability Index" a few years ago to try and better quantify the outlook strictly from the standpoint of "teleconnections". The most important of these teleconnection indices, the Arctic Oscillation (AO) was negative for much of the winter and significantly negative in March largely contributing to the generally positive favorability index. The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) was also negative to a lesser degree and helped provide support for sustained periods of colder weather in eastern North America. In the Pacific however we saw many of the same behavioral characteristics as we did during the prior winter. The jet in the Pacific, particularly early in the winter often tightened fueled by an expansive ridge in the eastern Pacific and a trough over Alaska. Seeing the eastern Pacific ridge was in fact so exasperating, that we nicknamed the feature "the evil empire" for its propensity to completely disrupt good skiing in Vermont. The disruptions were quite evident in the thaws that crippled the mountain on more than one occasion. The worst and most depressing thaw occurred before the mountain was even close to opening in early December. Other more short-lived thaws occurred in the middle and at the end of January. The January thaws were bracketed by some very cold weather and very little snow. 

Throughout the winter, there were periods of active and inactive weather. The big turning point in December was seeing the MJO finally cycle and allow the ridge in the eastern Pacific to at least get temporarily broken down. The result was some active weather and even some split flow in the jet stream. Some rather intense storms in December were able to move through the Rocky Mountains and impact New England. The first few of these over-amplified in the Midwest largely scouring any cold out of Vermont. Still, the high elevations were able to get some decent snows and the mountains were finally establishing a workable base. Then on December 26th, the right combination of jet energy and cold weather produced the best storm of the year for MRG. Over 20 inches fell out of that and some additional snows combined with enough cold weather allowed that good skiing to persist through January 10th. Another active stretch of weather occurred in the later part of February with some similar results. A few storms were guilty of an early maturation and thus did not give the mountain their best shot but a few also brought some good powder. The season then concluded nicely with a post St Patrick's Day dump that left the mountain powdery for days. 

With that, it is time to sign off for the year and enjoy a well-earned period of warmer temperatures maybe some backyard BBQ if your into that. It was another fun year blogging for the passionate skiing and weather enthusiasts that make up this very close knit community at Mad River Glen. For all of you non-MRG skiers and snowboarders, even you Sugarbush and Killington folk, we are happy to have you here also so long as you play nice, but consider joining us on the mountain at MRG next year and supporting the skiing cooperative. Enjoy the summer everyone and we will talk again late in the fall.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Winter retreating but ready for a finale during the first week of April

Spring has been creeping its way into northern New England. Even the high elevations have seen extended stretches of above freezing temperatures during the day time in spite of some new snow. The UVM Mt Mansfield snow stake site is showing above normal snowpack as of now thanks to the late season powder surge. The average snow depth on Mt Mansfield, according to the site would suggest that snow depths typically peak around this week before beginning the long spring decline.

Winter however is still not done. Saturday should feature some exceptional early spring weather. Sunshine will help bring temperatures from the low 20's to the 40's and the visibility should be fantastic. Sunday will likely start out this way as well, but clouds will advance into the state quickly ahead of an approaching weather system. Precipitation will arrive during the evening and in the low lying areas, I think temperatures will be too warm to support any snowfall. Above 2,500 feet, a period of wet snowfall can be expected and the high elevations above 3,000 feet could receive a few inches by Monday morning. It will be a bit sloppy however as opposed to fluffy since much of Monday will feature above freezing temperatures and perhaps some limited sun. The late Sunday early Monday snowfall was not what I was referring to regarding winter not being done. The blocking is going to produce one more big blast of arctic cold and this one, will be rather impressive for early April. The front will arrive during the evening Monday and send temperaturs plummeting well below freezing by Tuesday morning. Only limited precipitation is expected with this arctic front, but there are indications that the boundary will become anafrontal, which means precipitation falls following its passage as opposed to prior to its passage. This would mean some new snowfall Monday night into Tuesday and this snowfall would be more of the powdery variety. Temperatures Tuesday through Thursday morning will also remain below freezing on the mountain which should ensure that the season is extended through the first full weekend of the month. Snow accumulations should remain on the lighter side ranging between 2 and 5 inches but there remains some uncertainty here so expectations might get some tweaking in the coming days.

The blocking which has driven the pattern through much of March is expected to subside and there are some strong indications of much warmer temperatures throughout much of eastern North America beginning April 7th or April 8th. Temperatures on the mountain will actually begin modifying by Thursday afternoon, April 4th but could turn above normal by the 7th and turn well above normal by the 8th or 9th of the month. This is the type of pattern change that could launch the region into spring rather abruptly and have some obvious impacts on skiing by the middle of April. Barring a change, the blog will likely be updated 1 or 2 more times before a final summary.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Winter continues through the end of March and beyond

No surprise that the late winter storm impacting portions of the Mid-Atlantic will remain south of the region. Portions of southern New England will get some wet snowfall Monday night before the storm proceeds out into the open Atlantic. But, the exiting weather system will still have to contend with the blocked up weather pattern which will make it difficult for storms to proceed east of the Canadian Maritimes. This system will actually get stuck during the middle of the week and allow some moisture to rotate back into interior New England late Wednesday into Thursday. We are late in the winter season now and temperatures this week will reflect that. Overnights, will be well below freezing on the mountain but temperatures on Monday and Tuesday afternoon will approach 40 at the base. Clouds and precipitation Wednesday might hold temperatures closer to freezing but valley locations could simply see some rain while the high elevations sees some accumulating snow by Thursday morning. Dry weather then prevails later Thursday through the last weekend in March. We could see a series of really nice weather days starting Friday and persisting through the weekend with sunshine and some comfortable afternoons consisting of 40-plus temperatures. Not enough to dent the snowpack too much but certainly fleece-only weather.

April is right around the corner and the MRG season hinges on whether we can avoid a major meltdown. The last few cycles of models and ensembles have essentially suggested that the region remains in the grasp of some relative chill through about April 5th. Within this stretch beginning April Fools Day, the mountain could see some more rain or snow or more likely both. The blocking which has anchored the weather pattern should continue through the next week and then weaken somewhat. By April 5th there are indications that the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic will finally see some significantly warmer temperatures but whether or not this warmth makes it to interior New England remains a question

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What a difference a year makes !

Its the last half of March, but Mad River Glen has finally found glory and certainly the best skiing since 2011. This storm was finally one that belonged to us. Snowfall was the best across interior sections of New England stretching from the Green Mountains of Vermont through much of Maine. The mountain should see a bit more in the way of sunshine and a bit less in the way of snow showers Thursday but a final impulse associated with this system should rotate through during the day Friday, a day which could feature an additional 2-5 inches of snow. This snow, if it comes, might actually help Saturday's ski day more than Friday's but its close. Temperatures will remain below freezing through Friday but might creep above freezing Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

We seem to have found a bit of mojo which would suggest that the Sunday/Monday weather system will actually move north and deliver more snow to the mountain early next week. So far there isn't much evidence suggesting this and we should still expect that the strong blocking wins out and keeps the storminess confined to the Mid-Atlantic. If there are indications of a change, twitter will be alive with the details over the coming days.

For the most part I think next week is free of any impacts from organized weather systems. Temperatures will be similar to what we will see this weekend, well below freezing during the nights but a few degrees above freezing during the day thanks to that strong late March sunshine. There are hints that some energy could get caught up under the Hudson Strait block and thus allow some moisture to rotate backwards into the Green Mountains re-invigorating the terrain-induced snow machine. Climatologically, March is a much more unstable period thanks to the higher sun angle. With the right jet stream configuration, daytime heating can actually allow snow showers to enhance over the higher terrain and we may see a little bit of that next week. There are hints of a bigger organized system around April Fools Day but there are also hints of some milder spring-like weather in the days to follow. If your keeping score at home however, the current March is running 12-14 degrees below March of 2012. March 21st and 22nd of 2012 were the days where many locations saw all-time record temperatures for March. What a difference a year makes !

Monday, March 18, 2013

Can we get 3 powder days out of this by Friday ? Certainly

The March Mad River Glen powder machine has kicked into high gear and our current weather system should deliver its goods as expected. The weather system is a conglomeration of low pressure centers with one delivering snow while losing steam in the Upper Midwest and our developing east coast system which has all the moisture but is a bit less organized. An initial area of snow is expected to move over the mountain Monday night, dump 2-4 inches of snow prior to first tracks time Tuesday but then weaken just as the mountain opens. Do not be surprised early Tuesday to see some very unimpressive radar imagery and reports of only light snow for a period during the mid to late morning. This will happen because as of early Tuesday, we will still lack a clearly defined low pressure center and areas of precipitation will lack any organization or concentration. As the day progresses this will change as the storm will gather a little strength in eastern New England and allow precipitation to enhance over the central and northern Green Mountains late in the day. After mostly light snow during the ski day, snow should begin to fall more heavily toward the mid and late afternoon and into the evening. Most of our 10-15 inches should fall in the window between 2 pm and about 10 pm Tuesday with light snow before and after this period. Winds will be out of the due east Tuesday and could be a little blustery at the summits but will shift to the west Wednesday and be a bit tamer at the summits. 

The four day period ending Friday could see snow totals exceed 20 inches thanks to a pool of instability from that old and decaying Upper Midwest snow producing system. This area will be slow to move east and the best area for the additional snow might be north of MRG. Still periods of snow at varying rates, particularly Wednesday and Wednesday night and then again on Friday could slowly add to Tuesday's totals. In essence this upcoming period is capable of delivering 3 or perhaps even 4 powder days. Tuesday's snow will be denser, perhaps a little on the wetter side at the base (powder above 2,500 feet) but whatever falls Wednesday through Friday will be lighter, fluffier and all powder. The "additional snow" part of the forecast has some question marks. Snow of the terrain enhanced variety is always tough to nail down but there is also a disturbance rotating through the deep east coast upper trough which is expected to spawn a weak coastal snow producer Thursday. This system will have no impact on MRG except that it could rob some of the dynamics that might help get us that 3rd and 4th powder day Thursday and Friday. I'll keep an eye on this as we progress but this situation is totally capable of delivering 3 powder days to the mountain before its all over by the weekend. 

Models continue to gradually provide a little more clarity involving what could amount to a respectable Mid-Atlantic storm late Sunday into Monday. With the AO being as negative as it is, it will be hard for the mountain to get much love from this but March is known for a few curveballs and it will need to be watched. I will never forget early March of 2001, another period featuring a big high latitude blocking feature and another period featuring a big east coast storm This storm was expected to be historic for the  I 95 corridor while the forecast called for partly cloudy for Mad River Glen, Stowe and Jay Peak. What happened instead was rain along the east coast and 50-70 inches for those three mountains. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Nice looking snow producer looking more likely Tuesday

Terrain enhanced snow finally found its way to the mountain Thursday and the result was some surprising snow totals Thursday. There are many years where the combination of a little instability and low level moisture will result big powder days for the high elevations of VT. We have had so little of it this year that I have been somewhat afraid to predict it, but the Thursday fluff proves that the Green Mountains can still bring it under the right circumstances. The nearly 10 inches Thursday combined with the bit of snow Friday evening has MRG back in the winter spirit. And best of all more is on the way.

No new snow for the weekend as very cold, very dry  high pressure builds over New England. The airmass is capable of sending temperatures back toward zero, perhaps even below zero Sunday and Monday mornings. Most importantly though, the airmass will be an important building block in establishing a healthy overrunning surface for our upcoming winter storm Monday night into Tuesday. The weather system will be a conglomerate of low pressure centers with one moist storm moving out over the southern plains Sunday while another brings now and wind to the Dakotas and Minnesota at the same time. The storms are not likely to phase and the southern stream system is expected to strengthen and eventually prove to be the prevailing precipitation producer along the east coast. There is some dissension amongst the models regarding the amount of mid level warm air that gets thrusted into the state as the aforementioned storm approaches. The European model has had a more consistent handling of this evolution and is thus the favored solution as of now which is good news for us. Snow should develop Monday night, continue into Tuesday and within this period of snow should be a burst of very heavy snow since this is one of the more moist systems to impact the region this year. Snow totals could be around a foot by later Tuesday and some additional snowfall is possible from instability associated with the lagging decaying low pressure center Wednesday and Thursday. In short, it will be a very wintry week in Vermont and should be one of the best of the season at MRG.

The blocking is still the main driver of the pattern. Interestingly it is not the NAO or PNA but larger scale AO (Arctic Oscillation) which will be off the charts in the negative direction during the last 10 days of the month. This is what we saw in 2010 and this will certainly act to thwart any major thaws through the end of the month. In 2010 however we did see a very suppressed jet stream as a result of the strong blocking and we should see this again. March is a quirky month so you never now whats going to pop up on the forecast radar but my guess is that see a relatively dry 10 days following the snow in the middle of next week. The storm I had mentioned that could threaten the east coast around March 24th will have some difficulty moving up the coast.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Clipper brings its snow further south this weekend but we are cold and hopefully snowy next week

It's imperative that I pay my respects to what was the most dynamically perfect winter storm of my lifetime on its 20-year anniversary. The March 13th, 1993 superstorm was meteorologically beautiful because it phased a moist and active southern branch of the jet stream with an amplifying and cold polar   jet, and did so historically. In the 20 years since, I have yet to see a winter storm with that kind of "yin and yang". Vermont and Mad River Glen in particular got a healthy dose of the March 13, 1993 superstorm, receiving over 2 feet of dense powder. More importantly,  the "93 Superstorm" was embedded in one of the great periods of weather for interior New England. Basically, the stretch beginning in February of 1993 and persisting through all of the winter of 1993 -1994 featured consistent cold and a ton of snow. On a weekly basis, the state was talking about big winter storms and 1-2 foot snowfalls. It was a great time to be a skier and not such a good time to be stuck in high school like me.

 March 13, 1993

Mad River Glen has not been in one of those epic stretches through the last two seasons. This season tops last and has not deviated from some of the pre-season expectations. That being said, MRG has not been in the most favored locations for big snow but has been the center of the numerous thaws that have interrupted what could have been a decent season. The weekend clipper appears to be another such example. I spoke cautiously about it two days ago simply because our luck with these systems has hardly been optimal. Indeed, the consensus of data has shifted the track of this system south and confines snowfall to southern New England. If the expectations hold, any snow this weekend will be very light and accumulations will be minimal. In spite of this, the weather looks quite cold, unusually cold in fact, through the weekend. A very strong late season arctic air mass is poised to invade New England late Saturday and this follows some garden variety chill which will prevail from Thursday through Saturday. Temperatures over the next 8-10 days will struggle to make it above freezing if at all which by mid to late March is actually quite an accomplishment. Some minimal snowfall can be expected through Thursday, perhaps an inch or two Saturday but that is about it.

On to next week when I continue to hold out hope for a 2013 version of the superstorm. Realistically, a 1993 style phase is going to be pretty tough in next week's set up. Still, we have a healthy looking storm and some very cold air to work with and thus the chances for substantial amounts of new snow are pretty good. Models are currently moving energy out of the Rockies in two waves and are indicating a classic east coast cold air damming signature. If this occurs, the mountain has a chance to get snow from both waves but would get more from the second system Tuesday. It is possible that the models are wrong in their "two wave" theory and the storms energy is more consolidated and this would change the equation somewhat. In either case, the Tuesday system, like many of the others this season might go through an early maturation process and though we have fared decently from these types of system, the results are a big short of historic.

The "cold" part of the forecast looks much more certain and it results from what will be a very favorable blocking scheme. The "block" has been and will be centered over the Hudson and Davis Straits (a favorite location this year) and this favors the best snow and the most anomalous cold toward the center of the country southward to the Gulf Coast. Next week however should consist of a healthy battle of spring-time warmth and some big time winter chill. It will certainly be cold across New England but we want the snow to go with it. We have another chance for a storm around the 24 of the month and we might soon be able to extend the forecast of "relative chill" through the end of March.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Yeah its warm and rainy, but winter ain't done

After a bit of a hiatus, I am back. Long breaks from blogging can either mean bad news that I would choose not to report or I was simply too busy. Fortunately in this case it's the latter, even though our once thought to be storm turned out be a dud and Tuesday's weather consists of rain and above-freezing temperatures. After the rain however, winter will make a quick return. We will see some terrain enhanced snow showers return to MRG beginning Wednesday and this activity will enhance Wednesday night into early Thursday. We probably won't see much from the snow showers, maybe a light accumulation of a few inches but I suspect this will not be the end of the snow. 

There are essentially two decent shots of accumulating snow over the next 10 days or so. The first comes from a clipper system, a potent one actually, that will quickly track across the northern tier of the U.S. Friday into Saturday. Snowfall from clippers hinge on the track of these often quick moving systems. Often times it is a narrow area of decent snowfall but if the storm tracks through the central Great Lakes into southern New England Saturday as current model guidance suggests, Mad River Glen and the surrounding Green Mountains will be in the sweet spot for what could be a nice Saturday 4-8 inch fluffy snowfall. A 100-mile change in the expected track of this system could of course change the snowfall outcome. In the meantime temperatures will for the most part remain below freezing through the weekend starting Wednesday. 

The weather next week could be worthy of much more discussion and speculation. The weekend clipper will bring a potentially strong shot of March arctic chill into New England and this airmass will be firmly in place in front of a powerful storm system that will approach early next week. This storm will begin its track across the country over the Pacific Northwest, dive into the southern Rockies and then track from there into the Midwest by Monday the 18th. Uncertainty relates to how the storm will progress from that point and where it is in its maturation. There are many fine looking ingredients however for a big post St Patty's day dump. We have had a few such chances this year with a few panning out and others falling flat. We have to look at next week as another such chance but a good one as of now. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Still waiting for next week to get sorted out but I have yet to have any good news to report

Portions of southeastern New England will see more significant snow from what appears to be a "Norlun Trough" Friday. Admittedly I am not too familiar with the term but NWS employee friends have clued me in on the lingo and Matt Noyes has a very good explanation of the phenomena on his website ( The coastal system continues to churn off shore and away from the region. We were never expected to get much from this and it proved for the most part to be a big tease and nothing more. Telefest however should consist of some excellent weather. Both Saturday and Sunday should feature above-freezing daytime temperatures and both days will be dry with great visibility. Saturday should be the sunnier of the two days.

The weather situation I was more enthused about was the storm or series of storms next week in the Monday to Wednesday time frame.  The right ingredients seem to be on the table for "something" being that we have an energized southern branch of the jet stream, some incoming cold air by late Tuesday or Wednesday and a block in the upper air pattern to our north. Ensembles have been keying in on this time frame, particularly the European Ensembles, for some time. In the last update I had indicated the lack of hard evidence to support any big snowfall in spite of all the hype I had injected into the prognostication. As of now this continues to be the case. We have yet to see indications of a critical phase between at least a piece of the southern branch energy and any incoming cold. Warm air is in fact  indicated to envelop much of interior New England by early next week, enough to allow for an initial period of rain Monday. Thereafter, much of the energy in the southern branch will move to the coast as the northern branch of the jet begins to usher in colder temperatures to the Great Lakes and New England. How the two impulses interact with one another depends on timing and models continue to struggle to sort it out. The initial period of rain Monday could simply be followed by colder temperatures later Tuesday into Wednesday along with a few inconsequential snow showers. Or, the initial period of rain Monday could be followed by an additional period of rain Tuesday or Tuesday night. Or, the initial period of rain Monday could be followed by some significant snowfall in the middle part of the week. I don't want to completely kill that possibility yet though models seem to have declared it dead if your keeping score at home.

That end of next week through St Patrick's day weekend should consist of normal or below normal temperatures. Although the southern branch appears dormant again after the early part of next week, there are indications of clipper systems and at least some limited amounts of new snow from that. The blocking that is anchoring the pattern is expected to continue through the next 10 days and then weaken. As of now however, there are still no indications of a major March thaw though I would expect the chances will increase (not a bold prediction) after March 20th.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Big coastal tries to bring us a little taste

Just a quick update regarding the intensifying coastal system near the Virginia Tidewater. It will track mainly east and out over the ocean as expected, a few hundred miles south of Cape Cod. It will do so slowly however and even though conventional wisdom would suggest this is a complete miss, it might grace the mountain with a brief period do snow Thursday night or Friday and then again it might not. Coastal New England will indeed get better taste of this storm as its area of moisture and wind field spread outward allowing cities like Boston and Providence to get several inches. As of now the best we can do is probably an inch or two.

I continue to think the early to midweek period next week has much more potential. This next storm will try and take the St Lawrence highway and thus might bring a surge of warmth and rain with it. The warm weather and the rain is certainly possible for a time at least initially but the blocking structure in the jet stream to our north should force this storm southward and perhaps trap it over the maritimes creating a situation very conducive for snow. In the spirit of fairness, there has yet to be overwhelming evidence for big snow next week save perhaps the overnight run of the American model, but I do like the set up and think some sort of rain to significant snow event is possible. I'll have more on this in the days ahead of course .

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mostly dry this week and some storm potential for next week

The storm that will have everyone's attention this week is a big one and will certainly cause its share of travel headaches. Unfortunately the storm is not expected to have an impact on northern New England. The storm will become better organized over the Ohio Valley Tuesday and a simple look at the radar at that time would have us thinking we are lined up for glory. This particular pattern however is anchored by a 2010-style block over the Hudson and Davis strait. A jet stream block of this magnitude has profound ramifications on the storm track and this will be no exception. The storm will ultimately become a ferocious coastal system near the Virginia Tidewater causing snow and wind in the Mid Atlantic that could both shut down travel and result in power outages. Recent runs of the American model have shown a minimal impact for Vermont and a significant impact for portions of coastal New England but I think this is a stretch. Most of the snow with this storm should be south of NYC as the storm will be forced out to sea well before making that key northward turn.

This week's miss will leave us dry and many days should feature decent amounts of sunshine. The strong March sun should power temperatures past the freezing mark for a few hours during afternoons at least at the low elevations but low dewpoints and low overnight temperatures should prevent the mountain from losing significant amounts of snow. Warmer temps are expected Friday and Saturday where readings should push into the 40's but we don't expect rain or strong winds and overnights should continue to stay above freezing. The European Ensembles in particular have shown strong indications of our next big storm early next week around the time of the 11th and 12th. The various operational models have been all over the place and there has yet to be any consistency in the simulations from model to model or run to run. March weather is notorious for being difficult to project in the longer range. From my vantage point, the situation has some promise but there could be limited available cold air when precipitation commences. Ultimately however we should see some accumulation from this by the middle of next week and the questions should have to do with how much.

Through the middle of March there remains strong evidence that blocking over the Davis Strait will be driving our train. We should continue to see some above-freezing days but I doubt we see a major melt down through St Patty's day weekend.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Not done yet !!

Thursday was a bit quieter on the precipitation side and a little warmer than I had anticipated but this game is not over yet. The weakened area of low pressure responsible for our snow will drift offshore  Friday combine with another storm and get throttled westward over the weekend thanks to the giant block over the Hudson Strait. Although we could get a few inches from snow showers Friday, additional moisture will come at us from the top and down the spine of the Green Mountains both Saturday and Sunday. Temperatures will remain above freezing in many valley locations during the day (it is March now) but we should see readings remain generally below freezing from the mid-mountain to the summit. Bursts of snow, when they come, will help keep temperatures in the 20's where it's elevated. When can we expect the most additional snow ? There is loose consensus that the biggest burst occurs late in the day Saturday leading us to a powdery Sunday but I would expect some new snow Friday and Sunday as well. Total accumulations for the upcoming 3-day period will likely be a wide range with a few inches at the base and as much as 10 inches on the summit.

Further out in the forecast period there are a few adjustments although I think the general themes remain. The pattern, through mid-month is anchored by a very favorable blocking configuration ensuring no major early March melt-downs. There is the potential for a big storm in the middle of the upcoming week but the blocking is so strong (what is this 2010 ?) that the jet stream will force this potentially strong winter storm into the Mid-Atlantic where there is the potential for some big snow. In the meantime, MRG will stay high and dry once the snow showers subside on Monday. Much of the week will feature sunshine with cold mornings and tolerable afternoons. The adjustments I had mentioned have to do with the period between the 8th and the 13th of March. In the last post, the blog mentioned the potential for a storm around the 9th or 10th of the month, basically next weekend. The ensembles seem to be keying in on a short-lived warm-up in this time frame as of now. The warm spell could mean temperatures reach as high as 50 for a day but this is nothing unusual. The pattern is still expected to ultimately become highly amplified around the 11th of March and there are strong hints of a significant storm on that day or the day after, one that could produce more significant snow. I'll have more later this weekend but the fun should continue I am happy to report.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Game-time !!

Snow has rapidly overspread interior New England and it is now time for the rubber to meet the road. This initial batch of precipitation is a bit more potent verses some my own expectations from a few days ago. I have no issues with this since the stronger upward motion associated with this precipitation will help keep the marginal temperature profile in central and northern Vermont generally below freezing. We still could see some sleet mix with what should be a period of moderate to heavy snow between mid-morning and late afternoon. Temperatures at the base will hover near 30 which could make the snow a bit wetter but I suspect temperatures on the summit will be cold enough to support the powdery stuff we have come to enjoy. I would not at all be surprised to see 6-10 inches simply from this initial burst of snow and all of this will come before dark Wednesday.

The big concern I have with the forecast involves the track of what will ultimately be a disorganizing low pressure center. Initially the storm is a more well-defined elongated low pressure area stretching from the southern Great Lakes to the New England coast. While the storm is in this "well defined" phase, the mountain will get its heavy burst of snow Wednesday. On Wednesday night and Thursday, the low pressure center will try and consolidate over southern New England as advertised but will gradually attain a more disheveled appearance. Although the area of lowest central pressure will pass south of the mountain, it will track close enough to the mountain to potentially allow the conveyor of moisture to push north of MRG. Models are having a very difficult time pinpointing this all important conveyor of moisture. There are models suggesting we are in the sweet spot and there are other indicators saying that the best snow falls north and east of the region. Various NWS offices seem to be interpreting the data in different ways and the forecast seems to lack coordination from one territory to another. I understand this is a lot of "mumbo jumbo" and the passage of the occluded storm is still expected to allow snowfall to be favored over the mountains Wednesday night, Thursday into Friday. The location of these important moist conveyor will simply determine whether we are on the low end of the 15-30 range or the high one.  I can still maintain that both Thursday and Friday should be good days to ski. The Champlain Valley, the southern New England coastline, Rutland and Albany are all places that should not do particularly well from this storm. Accumulations will be more minimal and it is reflected in many of the forecasts that we all have access to. This event will be a significant one for the high country and even the base and summit of MRG could see contrasting conditions for a time.

Conditions will be drier for the weekend but flurries and snow showers will continue as this slow departing storm continues to have its progress slowed by blocking over the Hudson Strait. Valley locations will see more in the way of sunshine and should also see readings creep above freezing. There does appear to be indications of a storm early next week but this system is likely be guided well south of the region by a suppressed jet stream. A jet stream that should also ensure that early March is rain free and includes temperatures that support maintenance of our new and improved base.

Beyond March 5th, we continue to see good news. The overall weather pattern will be anchored by a trifecta of favorable teleconnection indicators. The result could mean a more widespread outbreak of cold for eastern North America and a major amplification of the jet stream that could include a big east coast snow event around March 8th or 9th. What a difference a year makes though. Last year at this time we saw clear indications of a major record breaking March melt down. This year we are seeing indications that wintry weather will persist through the mid part of the month. Enjoy the storm.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

3-day snowfall could make for an epic period late this week

Our eastern neighbors out-did us once again on the weekend snow. The limited snow we were able to pick up continues a nice stretch of winter on the mountain and one that appears destined to continue into March. The fun begins after two relatively calm, seasonable late February days Monday and Tuesday. I have just concluded my own Colorado ski extravaganza, one that included two epic days at Wolf Creek - an out-of-the-way hideout in the San Juan mountains that boasts 440 inches of snow annually. They don't lie either, they get an incredible amount of powder without the crowds or the high prices (the skiing there is twice as good as Breckenridge for half the price). Anyway I am now stuck in Denver thanks to 10 or so inches of wind blown powder that cancelled flights. This same storm will proceed east, strengthen, and produce some wet snow across the Midwest Tuesday. I am hoping for even bigger things in the New England high country thereafter.

Like a few of its predecessors, our midweek storm will mature and occlude prior its New England arrival. We will see a second coastal low try and develop late Tuesday and this will help spread the initial batch of precipitation into the Green Mountains early Wednesday. Temperatures will be marginal but the high elevations should see all snow, at least across northern Vermont which is another reason why a lot of us like to drive the hour north from Killington. Wednesday should thus feature snow with perhaps a little sleet mixed in and by the end of the day, a decent accumulation. The real beauty of this storm is its slow movement. The low pressure center will very gradually consolidate its energy not far from Boston, trapped by the blocking to the north. It will not be especially strong and will remain occluded which means it will have reached its peak intensity. An occluded storm produces weaker areas of precipitation but they are always focused over the high elevations and the light to moderate snow will persist well beyond Wednesday. Both Thursday and Friday should see accumulating snow and three day snow totals could be in the 15-30 inch range. Winds on the summits will be the worst Wednesday and be a bit gentler Thursday and Friday.

Beyond this weeks storm is some quieter weather. It should remains chilly enough to maintain the snow but the storm track will shift south. I am told this is good weather for the maple syrup folks being that the mornings will be chilly and the afternoons may creep above freezing thanks to sunshine. We could see some snow showers from wrap-around moisture stemming from any storm that gets wrapped up and stuck in the maritimes but that's about it unless we see some changes.