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Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year brings interesting pattern and a possible late week winter storm

We are in the midst of a New Years snow binge. Perhaps not an epic one by historical standards but it was good to see so many people out Friday making turns. I know "single" line can get long but we appreciate your patronage and the snowfall futility last year makes the folks at MRG even more grateful for customer loyalty this year. I've said it before but its hard to find a better place to be on a powder day than on the single.

We have more snow on the way for New Years Eve 2017. A clipper system will bring its moisture to the region and snow should be falling by the middle of the ski day. Don't expect anything epic here but another 2-3 inches of fluff is not a bad way to start the year. Flurries will continue through part of New Years Day and temperatures will be quite comfortable, hovering around 30 with a few peaks of sunshine.

The lousy part of our forecast picture revolves around the weather for Tuesday. Another strong storm system in the northern plains will bring another round of blizzard conditions to portions of the Dakotas and northern Minnesota. This system will travel well to our north as it approaches and we have a limited supply of available cold air to begin with. Mercifully, the storm will move quickly and spread its moisture into the region during the morning on Tuesday. Temperatures in some areas will be cold enough to support a period of freezing rain but most places will have to endure a period of above freezing temps and some melting later on Tuesday. Arctic air is expected to consume much of the country by Wednesday and will send temperatures below freezing at MRG by the middle of the day. Snow showers will also return Wednesday and dust the mountain with a small accumulation.

Big questions and lots of discussion is being generated regarding the weather situation for later in the week, specifically Friday/Saturday. Much of the country including Vermont will be enveloped by arctic cold but the one weak spot in this pattern is along the southeast coast. Here, we should see milder air attempt to make another push northward as a storm system exits the Rockies, moves through the Mississippi Delta region and advances northeast from there late in the week. Models are providing no agreement whatsoever on the eventual result of all this but there have been a few hints of a significant east coast storm; furthermore, with the polar jet focused on the western states and only a weakened area of high pressure over eastern Canada, the door is open for this storm to make a big turn up the coast and provide substantial snowfall to interior New England. Other indications have suggested a limited impact across mostly the Mid-Atlantic states but I am skeptical of those solutions.  Certainly a situation worth watching in the coming days.

The longer range outlook continues to be dominated by that strongly negative PNA. As mentioned in the previous post however, other teleconnection indices, especially the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) will turn more favorable.  Add it all together and you still have most of the cold focused on western North American but unlike the recent stretch of weather, some of this cold should control a good portion of the northeast, particularly New England. With milder air across the southeast, the situation is ripe for winter storms that should, on a few occasions take aim at New England. I expect some productive results and at least one big storm before the middle of the month but the chance of mixed precipitation and even a little bit of rain is not impossible either.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

4 days of snowfall to end 2016 and begin 2017

Our pre New Years storm is what we thought it would be and I am borrowing the inference from a retired and somewhat famous NFL football coach is is somewhat famous mostly for a similar quote. Snow began falling fairly early on Thursday and heaviest of powdery stuff is expected late in the ski day into the early evening. The shorter term, high resolution models teased us this way and that about crazier possibilities including accumulations of almost 20 inches. The storm, as expected, will consolidate its energy near the New Hampshire seacoast late this evening and intensify rapidly along the Maine coast very early Friday. As the the storm deepens, a narrow corridor of intense snowfall will form across the White Mountains of New Hampshire and this will move into western Maine. This is the area which will perform the best from this storm, but the intense area of snow will also rob much of Vermont of an epic storm. Accumulations will be in the 4-6 inch range by late this evening at MRG and then mostly light snow overnight will add an inch or two of accumulation by early Friday. Conditions will turn blustery by Friday and the fluffy snow will become denser by the commencement of the ski day with temperatures holding in the lower to middle 20's. Snow showers will continue however and add a few more additional inches of accumulation and producing a storm total of 7-11 inches by late in the day Friday. Yeah we missed the best snow by less than 100 miles but it will be a very narrow area of "best snow".

A much weaker clipper system will follow up our Thursday/Friday event on New Years Eve. Snow should begin very late in the ski day on Saturday and continue sporadically through the night. Much of central Vermont will see a light accumulation from all this and is not in the best location to maximize the amount of limited available moisture. Nonetheless, every little bit is helpful and 2-4 inches is not a bad way to start 2017.

As advertised in previous blog posts, we are not out of the woods as far as future intrusions of mild air are concerned. We will see an increase in high latitude blocking with both the AO and NAO turning at least slightly negative out beyond a week. We also see a large ridge in the northern Pacific Ocean which will stretch into the Bering Sea and be one of the more prominent jet stream features on the global weather map. We are slowly moving in the right direction with all of these things with "slowly" being the key work. The big jet ridge in the North Pacific is only a marginal development and will not help to eliminate the pesky negative PNA which has persisted for 2 weeks and will continue to persist well into January. That said, if one adds the more favorable two teleconnection indices into the mix, interior New England will be living on the edge so to speak but "the edge" is not a bad place to be sometimes in January.  We won't be overwhelmed with a polar vortex of cold and won't see a suppressed storm track. Storms are likely to take dead aim at New England on multiple occasions and I would expect the base to incur a net gain by the time the middle of the month rolls around.

In the shorter term however, we will have to contend with a rain/ice event around the time of January 3rd. This storm was discussed two days ago and it looks a little more icy and a little less rainy today if that's any consolation but certainly not any more snowy. Arctic air makes a return to the region January 4th and so will the snow showers but I would enjoy foot of powdery snow we are expecting over the next 4 days because it will get hardened given what is expected soon after.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Quick hitting storm to dump 6-12 inches Thursday Night into early Friday

We couldn't escape Christmas holiday period without 40-degree temperatures and rain. This makes 6 straight years with a thaw that have impacted the mountain within 3 days of Christmas Day. Yet in spite of the mild interlude, the weather is proving to be more productive during the good patterns and more resilient during the bad ones. We had been concerned that a "part II" of this warm looking week might impact the mountain in the Thursday/Friday time frame but it now looks to be exclusively snow and one of the better events of the season so far.

There were questions relating to the availability and viability of subtropical or southern branch moisture in the jet stream. The European model was hell-bent on suggesting this would be a key driver of this potential storm. It has taken several days for the American GFS model to hop aboard this train, but it finally has (somewhat), and we finally have some solid consensus for a decent winter storm. In the absence of Super Nino 2016, the European model has reasserted itself as the more reliable model in the 4-7 day time frame and is likely to again provide us with the needed clues that we have relied on so heavily over the years to make decisions on when to ski and perhaps when to find creative excuses to not work. In this case hopefully the upcoming holiday provides the needed excuse.

Snow showers Tuesday night into early Wednesday will re-whiten the mountain with a fluffy inch or two of accumulation. Wednesday and most of Thursday will otherwise be seasonable days with temperatures remaining just below the freezing mark during the day and in the teens during the night. Our storm approaches later Thursday as an elongated area of low pressure stretching from central Ontario south toward the mid-atlantic states. The southern part of this low pressure area will have the moisture and this will allow the storm to refocus its energy on the Atlantic Coast and deepen rapidly as it reaches the New England coastline Thursday night and early Friday. The radar won't appear to impressive most of Thursday but precipitation should enhance and Vermont will be under a decent area of snowfall Thursday night. Snow may begin to taper off by the ski day Friday but 6-12 inches should be on the ground and all of it should be of the powdery variety.

Cold weather and blustery conditions prevail for the remaining part of Friday along with some flurries. Temperatures will fall to about 10 Saturday morning and clouds should keep readings in the 20's Saturday. A clipper system is also expected to impact the region during the later part of Saturday (New Years Eve) and provide the mountain with another few inches of snow late New Years Eve. 

The longer range forecast has some good news in that the Arctic Oscillation or (AO) will attain a negative sign. This means that jet stream blocking at the Northern Hemisphere's highest latitudes will be more blocked. The persistently negative PNA however will continue to be the unwanted guest and appears to want to cause more trouble in the first full week of January. The cold will retreat after Jan 2 and we could have another mild scourge and some rain/ice around the time of January 3rd. The negative AO and loosening Pacific Jet should play a more prominent role after this occurs and a more positive outlook should emerge after January 4th or so.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Potential storm precedes New Years holiday weekend after a very brief post Christmas thaw

Vermont enjoyed a bit of wet snow on Christmas Eve and the mountain is skiing a lot better than one might think. Perhaps it's the soft bigotry of low expectations coming off of last year's misery but wet snow is a great way to get through this adverse weather pattern. Speaking generally, I don't want this point to get lost on me or anyone. Last year when the prognosticated weather pattern appeared less than idea, the end result was typically 50-degree blowtorch or rain. This recent stretch of dicey weather has certainly not been a powder fest, but we have managed our way through it with only 1-period of rain and a handful of above-freezing days.

The worst of the post-Christmas thaw will actually come over a small stretch of the upcoming Monday (Dec 26) and Tuesday (Dec 27 period. In classic New England fashion, Monday will see temperatures start the day near 5 degrees but readings will warm to 35 by the end of the day and continue to rise up towards 40 during the overnight hours as a decaying occluded storm system brings its moisture into the region. This storm will peak out Christmas Day in the plains bringing blizzard-like conditions to portions of the Dakotas and the southern central provinces of Canada, particularly Manitoba. The storm will track well into eastern Canada and were it not for the occlusion (post-maturation), the storm might likely bring excessive 50-degree warmth to Vermont early Tuesday. Instead, we can expect temperatures as high as about 40, about a quarter of an inch of rain and some wind. The base of the mountain will take a small hit but we could do a lot worse given the weather pattern. Tuesday will be a mild day, but temperatures will eventually fall back toward freezing by late in the day with flurries.

The best part of the forecast involves the overnight Wednesday into Thursday period (Dec 28-29). This was suppose to be the 2nd part of our potential Christmas Thaw but no more. I am pretty confident that the this next potential storm system will have just enough cold air and just enough moisture to provide a good bit of intrigue.  Models are still battling it out over key details but they are on board with the general theory that temperatures will stay sub-freezing during the event and that most if not all precipitation stays snow. The disagreement involves potential sub-tropical moisture that may or may not play an important role in the eventual personality of this system. One model, our beloved European, is suggesting a healthy infusion of sub-tropical moisture and this ultimately allows the system to blow up along the New England coastline allowing for a big accumulation of snow of 6 or more inches to Vermont, New Hampshire and parts of Maine on the 29th. Other models suggest a more garden variety event of a few inches. All indications have some garden variety chill persisting New Years Eve and New Years Day with some snow showers possible on the latter. What a big improvement in the forecast over the last 4-5 days or so.

The weather pattern isn't screaming thaw during our first full week of January but we can't quite get rid of this persistently negative PNA jet configuration. This is essentially a pattern where the jet trough is favored across western North America while a jet ridge persists across the east. That said, the jet stream is expected to loosen somewhat in the Pacific and the Arctic Oscillation is expected to attain a more negative index. In the end, I think it will mean more cold on the playing though the possibility will remain for a mixed precipitation or rainy type system. Given what has taken place however, it would be ill-advised to sell ones soul to the devil. If we can manage to get snow during this pre-New Years stretch we can certainly score out of a slightly less unfavorable pattern after New Years. Have faith and Merry Christmas ! Hope everyone stays safe !

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Some good news in the form of some snow in the short term and a colder outlook on the New Years holiday weekend

Happy Winter Solstice !! Scrooge still seems intent on messing with our holiday week, yet again, but at least we have a bit of winter weather to talk about in the short term. Two disturbances, one on Thursday and one on Christmas Eve appear capable of bringing light accumulations of snow to the Green Mountains. Thursday's system is an Alberta Clipper and will spread snow into Vermont by daybreak. Snow should continue through much of the day and though it is not expected to be particularly heavy, it will be of the fluffier variety and should accumulate 2-4 inches by Thursday evening. The Christmas Eve system looks particularly innocuous on the weather map but models have converged on the involvement of a little bit of subtropical energy and moisture. There are parts of our state that are perilously close to seeing mixed precipitation out of this, and low lying valley locations might indeed see some mixed rain and snow or very wet snow as temperatures on Christmas Eve rise into the middle 30's. Across the high country of central and northern Vermont, precipitation should stay snow and another 1-3 inches is possible, most of it falling during the ski day.

Arctic air will sneak in the side entrance following our light accumulation of snow on Christmas Eve. The airmass will keep Vermont and the rest of interior New England wintry on Christmas Day while the rest of eastern North America sees much milder weather. Bad teleconnections, much of it discussed in previous posts are the culprit for the push toward warmth but from the perspective of actual weather maps, it will be a well organized storm system that will spin its way into the northern plains on Sunday. This storm will advance well into Ontario and Quebec on Monday and will bring milder air and rain to New England. Indications are that temperatures won't be excessive in a relative sense but 40 degrees and rain is possible either late on Monday or early Tuesday. Temperatures briefly return to normal during the middle of the week but another push of milder air will threaten to bring another dicey weather situation to New England ski country Thursday or Friday. Interestingly, ensembles have trended toward a "less warm" overall scenario in this period leaving open the possibility of frozen precipitation. Unfortunately, rain is also a possibility. We will need some additional time to sort through all that.

New Years weekend does appear colder based on data released late yesterday and early this morning. Though we will have yet to attain any categorical support of the some of the teleconnection indices such as the PNA or EPO, a large, albeit temporary, east coast upper trough is expected to amplify and bring a return of wintry temperatures and snow to the region on December 31st, Jan 1 and Jan 2. It's too early to speculate how much snow might fall or where it might come from. We also won't be completely out of the woods as far as seeing additional pushes of milder air in the first week of 2017.


Monday, December 19, 2016

A little snow late this week and details regarding our post-Christmas thaw

We took a couple of gut punches Sunday and we should prepare ourselves for 1-2 more before 2016 comes to a conclusion. The blocking at high latitudes is diminishing and some key teleconnection indices are turning and will continue to turn toward numbers supporting some late month adversity. We've talked about it a few times but the region of the planet that will key some of these changes occurs between 110 west longitude and the International Date Line (180). Across western North America it will be the dropping PNA index which will show up as a very definable and persistent west coast jet stream trough. Farther west over the Pacific Ocean, it will be a tightening jet stream which will promote a retreating polar jet.

We do have some snow to talk about this week fortunately. It comes from an Alberta Clipper type system which we hoped would get an infusion of moisture and energy from the Atlantic Ocean. It doesn't appear that any such infusion will happen in a material way but the limited available moisture will result in some snowfall beginning early on Thursday and continuing as some snow showers Thursday night. It looks like a 2-4 inch event right now but this could change as the final track of this storm is fine tuned over the next day or two.

Temperatures are generally going to stay below the freezing mark through Christmas Eve and that's about the time when the trouble could start. The European model and some of its ensemble members showed us a glimmer of hope over the weekend. They showed us a "way out" or at least a "way through" this potential late month mess by showing arctic air, which will remain close by in Canada, reestablishing itself over New England even as much of the rest of the eastern United States stays relatively mild. This however was not the weather picture that was painted both Monday morning and afternoon. All three major ensembles key in on some of these important teleconnection indices discussed above and are showing two surges of mild air next week. One which will probably last about a day and could feature some rainfall around December 26th or 27th. After a brief chill down, another surge of mild air and potentially another rain event could hit around the time of December 30th. Given that all this is still a week or more out, one has to respect both the colder and the milder weather pictures. I think some of what the Euro suggested over the weekend could be incorporated into next weeks weather forecast ultimately, but I also think it will be very difficult to find a way through to 2017 without a major outbreak of mild weather,  which will include a day of 50-degree temperatures more significant rain and some substantial damage to our base.

Beyond the time of  New Years Day there are no glaring indications of a return toward a colder pattern. The best piece of information out there is probably the MJO and EPO forecasts which are two indices that are correlated. The MJO or the Madden-Julian Oscillation described convective cycles in the lower latitudes of the Pacific but the various phases of the MJO can correspond to the tightening and loosening of the jet in the Pacific. We are expected to return toward a phase in the MJO which supports a loosening of the jet stream in the Pacific by around the New Year. Thus the EPO or the Eastern Pacific Oscillation is expected to go from positive to neutral after about two weeks time. Aside from these items there isn't much else. High latitude blocking is expected to be glaringly absent late this month and there are no indications it will return, even around New Years Day.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Post X-mas thaw still looms, but we can add more potential snow to our calendar before that

Our weekend system is on track to deliver a well-deserved powder day to the weekend warriors out there. I don't there were any of that variety last year. Snow is expected to arrive at or just before dawn and a fall at a steady rate for several hours during the ski day. Accumulations will be modest and certainly short of anything epic, making  the 4-7 inch prediction I made a few days ago still relevant. Most importantly, I think we keep the freezing rain or drizzle out of the ski day. Models actually suggest that the atmosphere won't support any ice until after the best initial area of precipitation producing "upward motion" moves out of the area during the evening. Temperatures will again start out near 10 degrees and climb to about 20 by evening.

I expect that we see a minimal period of icing Friday evening but models have converged on the idea that temperatures will rise quickly through the 20's and reach the freezing mark overnight. My Sunday morning, our next significant area of precipitation will move through primarily as rain. By the way, Mt Washington saw temperatures at the summit reach -35 F Friday morning but could see readings close to 40 Sunday morning along with rain which would be a 75-degree temperature rise in a roughly 48-hour period.  Even the Himalayas can't brag about weather like that !

We might see a little snow as precipitation ends Sunday but conditions are expected to dry out quickly and temperatures will again turn dramatically colder. That cold weather will again send temperatures below zero Sunday night but readings will gradually moderate reaching 15 Monday, the 20's Tuesday and near 30 Wednesday. Aside from a few flurries Wednesday, no new snow is expected in this time frame. On  Thursday, we do have an interesting little system to watch. I alluded to it briefly in the last post and it appears that this little guy will have enough vigor to make some noise. We also appear to have just enough cold air also although not by much. Precipitation from this system would arrive Thursday and potentially provide some snow to the mountain for skiers late in the day or by early Friday. It still doesn't appear like a big storm but with the polar jet receded somewhat, the system will have some room to develop, so long as it doesn't move too far north and erode the minimal amount of available cold air.

Ensembles are still screaming for a potential thaw in the period between Xmas and around the 28th and the teleconnections that we talked about in the last post also support such occurrence. Some of the data is beginning to hedge on the intensity of mild air and would suggest that it might only be a 1-2 day onslaught of temperatures capable of eroding our hard-earned base. At this point however, I would guess that we will see some rain between the 26th and 28th of the month. It would make it the 6th straight year with rain somewhere between December 21 and December 28th at MRG.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Very cold weather, new snow and a potential thaw all wrapped up in a lengthy blog post

Arctic cold is descending on New England and the snow continues to fly up and down the spine of the Green Mountains. What a start !  More snow is on the way but so is some potential Christmas adversity. It has become a Mad River Glen Christmas tradition dating back 5 years to experience a multi-day thaw and some rain. Once again that threat is very real, but it hasn't happened yet so lets put the reverse jinxy-cat to work.

We can expect 1-2 good bursts of snow on Thursday. The polar vortex will keep the snow showers or snow bands moving very quickly but we can expect a few wind blown inches of accumulation.  The blustery winds will obviously make the single digit temperatures feel like it's well below zero. The snow showers will abate by early Friday but readings will begin the day well below zero and will likely fail to break 10.

No epic storm for the weekend but Saturday IS a powder day. We did have the chance to culminate this incredible early season period with a foot or more of powder and we didn't miss this opportunity by much. This large winter storm however will track from Colorado early Saturday toward the eastern Great Lakes and ultimately travel right up the Saint Lawrence River valley on Sunday. It will bring a nice swath of moisture on its speedy trek across the country and will encounter some serious amounts of cold as it does. Clouds will overspread the region Saturday night and snow should begin a few hours before lift operations Saturday. Temperatures will start the day within a few degrees of 10 and we should see some decent snowfall rates during the meaty hours of the ski day Saturday. By lift-closing time, we should see 4-7 inches of snow on the hill with temperatures closer to 25. The latest data suggests that a good chunk of the precipitation will be over by the time precipitation could change to freezing rain or drizzle. The mild layer will expand and intensify however and gradually work its way to the surface allowing readings to climb just above freezing by Sunday morning. We should see a bit of rain around this point before arctic air reasserts itself and sends temperatures plummeting back toward the single numbers Sunday night. The moral of all this is to enjoy Saturday because things will harden up considerably after that.

Aside from some lingering precipitation along the southeast and potentially Mid-Atlantic coastlines, much of the east coast will be dry for several days. Arctic air will only very slowly loosen its grip on the region from Monday to Thursday but we don't expect above freezing temperatures on the mountain until at least Thursday. At this point the models diverge a bit on the handling of the next system. Only stale and limited amounts of cold will be available as a rather generic looking weather system approaches. There are a few hints that this weather producer could get a boost from coastal low pressure area but the impact will be rather minimal otherwise.

There is an evil empire in the Pacific that is responsible for what could be another Christmas or post Christmas meltdown. Both teleconnection indices that we follow will make a decisive turn against us. The jet will tighten in the central and northern Pacific Ocean and the PNA will turn negative allowing the cold to focus its impact on western North America. Ensembles indicate that the peak of the potentially mild weather in this pattern will be in the period between Christmas Day and 12/28. Not every day in this period will feature extreme warmth but it looks more likely that at least two of them will. Within this time frame will likely be a rain producer of some sort. There is some time for alterations in all these expectations but I wouldn't want to mislead anyone about how things look right now.  The mild weather should not persist through the New Year and there are signs that it will abate before that.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Very wintry this week but milder pattern to emerge for back half of December

A dense 5 inches of snow begins what will be a very wintry week in Vermont. One of the stronger December outbreaks of arctic air will descend on the region during the middle of the week and along with the cold will come a few bursts of snow. Unfortunately, the news isn't as good for the rest of December as various teleconnection indices turn against us and will ultimately force us into more of a defensive posture. Will we have yet another Christmas thaw ? Maybe and maybe not, but we have been incredibly unlucky in this regard the last several seasons and the latest data pushes the risk of this higher yet again for this year. 

We have a polar vortex to contend with in the short term ! It is rapidly moving southward and will rotate its way just south of the Hudson Bay later this week. Several surface waves (for lack of a better word) associated with the incoming cold weather will focus the limited available moisture and bring bursts of snow to the region over the next few days. The changeable conditions will make short term forecasting a bit messy but it's a little easier to summarize in a blog. Additional snow accumulations will greet skiers Tuesday morning and following a several hour period of drier weather we should see an additional round of snow showers Tuesday night as the cold air begins to envelop the region. The snow will bring a light accumulation to the mountain by Wednesday morning but another round of snow showers and quite possibly a more organized snow squall will impact the region Wednesday night. The heaviest snow will be quick moving enough that big snow accumulations are unlikely but another 2-4 inches by Thursday is likely. At this point, temperatures will have plummeted into the single numbers and are unlikely to change to much during the day along with rather stiff winds. The last in this series of waves will could then bring a final burst of snow later Thursday. Another inch or two is possible here and readings will then make their first foray into sub-zero territory.  Friday will be dry and winds will gradually slacken but temperatures will start close to -10 and struggle to climb back to 5 during the afternoon. It will undoubtedly feel like winter in Vermont which is a nice feeling given that we really had no such week last year with this combined amount of both snow and cold. 

A good buddy of mine texted me about the remarkable turn of events that could transpire this upcoming weekend. Quantitatively speaking it could be quite remarkable but were it to happen, it is an all to notorious movie script.  The strength of an airmass (cold or warm) is often measured by referring to the associated mid-level temperatures in the troposphere. This is a general term but it usually refers to a level of the atmosphere just above the height of Mt Washington. When the cold weather peaks very early Friday morning, temperatures near the summit of Mt Washington are expected to be at or just below -15. That's a pretty impressive figure for mid-December. As this is happening, the storm that we had discussed in the last update will organize in the plains and advance toward the eastern Great Lakes. The track of this system is not what I had hoped for and although we could still see some changes with this particular part of the forecast, it appears as if New England will again have to endure another crazy temperature swing, one that characterizes the uniqueness of our weather. We joke with fellow skiers about this but certainly don't brag. There is a chance of seeing some rain with this storm, yes, but the more likely scenario is a snow to ice situation. The snow would begin Saturday and could include a period of moderate or heavy snow before changing to sleet and freezing rain Saturday evening. There is certainly a good chance that a good portion of Saturday could be powdery so keep that in mind. Temperatures will be at or below zero midnight on Saturday but will likely be close to freezing by midnight Sunday. On the summit of Mt Washington, temperatures could warm by as much as 50 degrees in the period between Friday morning and Sunday morning. Only in New England ! 

Cold will be reinforced at a much lesser intensity by Monday but unless there are some changes with the aforementioned storm, we are likely going to have endure a damp Sunday with readings creeping above the freezing mark, even at the summits. The cold air will send temperatures back below the freezing mark for a few days but the polar jet is expected to retreat and the overall weather pattern is expected to realign more unfavorably for us eastern US skiers.  The pattern shift is the result of the combined work of several teleconnection indices but none bigger than the EPO which describes the pattern in the eastern Pacific Ocean. I like to describe it as a jet stream tightening which encourages a more zonal and less amplified jet stream configuration. Although the cold and much of the snow will focus its attention on the west in the period leading up to Christmas Day, I remain hopeful that arctic air will remain close enough in eastern Canada to prevent a major thaw. I think of a Vermont "thaw" as 3 successive days of above-freezing temperatures. On Friday I deemed this unlikely but I would certainly up the chances of such an occurrence as of  this Monday evening. This part of the forecast will require some additional attention and I'll try and expand on this on Wednesday.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Opening day arrives at MRG ! Plenty of fresh snow and more on the way !

Opening day arrives. One of the earliest openings since the commencement of the blog and boy do we deserve it. We have been "killing it" on terrain enhanced snowfall, outperforming expectations almost every chance we get and thus we have, as of December 9th, gotten half way to last seasons total snowfall. Speaks both highly of the weather in recent weeks and poorly of the overall season last year.

Its been rather blustery late this week but for Opening Day we can expect some sunshine, lighter winds and some refreshing winter chill. Temperatures should start around 10 and climb up to about 20. Sunday will feature even lighter winds and a blanket of clouds in the afternoon should again keep readings within the vicinity of 20.

A garden variety storm system will make its way out of the Rocky Mountains Sunday and bring snow to the Great Lakes region as it does. In the last update we discussed the possibility of sleet and ice with this system as well as the possibility for a weaker all-snow event. The latter scenario seems more likely based on current indications. The low pressure center is expected to be relatively weak and make a rather efficient transition to the Atlantic Coast early Monday, squashing any thoughts of unwanted mild intrusions. Snow should begin Sunday evening and continue for several hours before tapering to flurries sometime Monday morning. Flurries and even some very light snow might then continue for several more hours. Model cross sections do hint at the possibility for some freezing drizzle in this time frame also but I don't expect this to be a big problem as of now. This looks more like a 3-7 inch event consisting of relatively dense powder when compared to the fluffy and convective terrain enhanced snow that has been falling recently.

After a rather tranquil and seasonable day Tuesday, the polar jet attacks ! As time passes, I think the effects of this arctic air will be confined to the northern states of the US and of course all of eastern Canada. Vermont's got plenty of latitude however and with the approach of the arctic front Wednesday, snow showers will develop. A burst of snow is also possible with the actual front later Wednesday but arctic air of this magnitude often has a very stable layer at the surface that can prevent a long duration terrain enhanced snow event. Readings could reach the high 20's Wednesday but remain in the teens Thursday and then fall below zero Friday morning. Not expecting much snow late in the week unless one of the Lake Ontario snow bands does something very unique which can happen from time to time.

I am more interested in the period surrounding next weekend, December 17th and 18th. Its still more than a week out and speculation can take on a life of its own, especially if you put wishcasters and powderhounds in the same room together. Come to think of it, I don't think I  want to know what else might happen in such a room ;). Both major ensembles are indicating a much more significant area of low pressure exiting the Rockies either on Friday or over the weekend. Models diverge significantly on what piece of energy in the jet becomes the focal point. The Euro Ensembles though show a beautiful looking damming signature along the east coast which is one key ingredient for a major snow producer. We need a storm a decent track to make it all happen but I have good vibes.

The polar jet is expected to retreat during the following week but as I mentioned, arctic air should remain close by while re positioning some of its focus out west. As of now, I would not expect a big pre-Christmas thaw, something that has plagued us in recent years. If we get unlucky, we could see a bad day and some rainfall but the clashing of airmasses could also mean additional snows.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Some snow on the ground with a long stretch of sub-freezing temps and even more snow on the way !

Yeah the snow is a little wet and yeah temperatures have spent a lot of time above the freezing mark but as an MRG skier, you have to be delighted with the fact that a nice base is down and we appear to be headed toward a long stretch of sub-freezing temperatures including some very cold days. There is snow possibilities to discuss as well and though again, I can't claim to have any "inside info" on opening day, I would be surprised if those specifics are not openly discussed by the MRG folks within a few days or so. Oh and it appears the Mad River Glen temperature sensor is working again (It was stuck at 32 for 3 weeks or so).

So lets get to it. More snow showers and a few snow squalls arrive either late on Thursday or Friday evening. Thursday's daytime temps will probably be the last above freezing readings we see at the base for a while and I doubt it gets past 30 above mid-mountain so we are free to fly.   By early Saturday we should readings near 10 and another 2-4 inches of snow.

The big weather system of interest will migrate its way into the plain states on Sunday and head east north-east toward us. We will have some cold air in place but the system appears to be headed toward the eastern Great Lakes as it attains strength. Models have been providing us with varying solutions so ideas will need some fine tuning. At worst, I don't think the system will bring much in the way of plain rain. Snow and ice begin sometime on Monday and on Tuesday we move to all snow. If the system is farther south and a bit weaker, we could have an all snow event of 6-12 inches. A snow/ice conglomeration is good foundation material however so I wouldn't be too disappointed if that was the result.

A beautiful looking high latitude "rex block" over Bering Sea will go to work as this is all happening. Arctic air, of a much colder variety, will plunge southward and hit the northern tier of the U.S. and all of southern Canada quite hard during the middle of next week.  The bitterly cold temperatures will encounter the relative warmth of the Great Lakes and an unfrozen Hudson Bay so the airmass will modify some. Still however, we will finally get some decent chill. It will follow a light accumulation of snow early Wednesday and send temperatures down into the single numbers by Thursday and below zero in a few areas at least by Friday.

I'd expect the cold weather to be reinforced once around the weekend of the 17th and 18th and within that time frame, another weather system could impact the region with snow. The polar jet is then expected to retreat somewhat as we approach the time of the winter solstice and milder air will consume a good portion of the United States. It is still a question how far north the teeth of this milder air will bite and ensembles do indicate that there could be some resistance to any warm-up in our neck of the woods. Needless to say, I am both optimistic and hopeful about the last two thirds of our month, it could be a very nice stretch.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Good news with the recent snowfall, more good news with the upcoming forecast !

Even without the presence of legitimate arctic air, the Green Mountains are outperforming and securing a very positive start to the season. The nearly 40 inches of snow that has already fallen at Mad River is almost half of the seasonal total for last year. Incredible. We've managed to procure a good chunk of the snow with only minimal help from the prevailing weather pattern. That however is about to change.

We've done incredibly well on snow the last few days with marginal temperatures, making this forecaster look rather foolish. Additional snow is expected Tuesday night into early Wednesday. This is a storm that will do most of it's damage, from a precipitation standpoint, over the Mid-Atlantic States. A decaying area of moisture is expected to reach interior New England and impact all Vermont and precipitation will be all snow in the central and northern Greens but accumulations will be in that lighter 2-4 inch range, similar to what we saw Monday. Not bad though, all things considered, not bad at all.

The meat of the cold air in our reoriented weather pattern will arrive Friday. Terrain induced snow showers and a few snow squalls can be expected as the jet stream amplifies across the east coast late on Thursday and continuing into Friday. The driver of the southward push of arctic air is a block in the jet stream which will develop near the Bering Sea. Actually, over the last few days, ensembles have forecasted the center of this critical weather feature to set up a bit farther east over western Alaska. This will allow the cold to be a more significant player through about the time of the winter solstice.

That said, mild air will continue to fight for control of the weather along the east coast of the United States. Vermont along with the rest of interior New England are in the best shape to avoid much of the mild air but following a cold and wintry weekend, which should at least a few inches of terrain enhanced snow, we should see temperatures moderate for the early part of next week. Somewhere in that Tuesday/Wednesday time frame (Dec13-14) we could certainly get a significant weather event. Could be snow, could be snow and a mixture of other stuff but we will need a few days to figure that all out.

Some brutally cold December temperatures are possible for the very end of next week (Around Dec 16). The cold should continue into that weekend and then there are hints that the pattern relaxes a bit. No indications as of now though of a complete shift toward unrelenting warmth but simply a move from cold back to normal. More snowfall is certainly possible as this happens so though I can't claim to have any inside information, I am sure that there is talk of getting parts of the mountain open given what we expect in the upcoming two weeks. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Still mild out there but forecast picture continues to look more wintry over time

Even as we are fully immersed in this mild start to December, excitement continues to build about cold weather and snow for the middle to later part of the month. The hypecasting and scare headlines regarding the cold weather also seems to be going full tilt. An article in the Washington Post yesterday summarized some of this nonsense quite well yesterday. Nice job by the Capital Weather Gang and Jason Samenow !


Earth's temperature has not plunged at a record clip and nationwide record cold is not coming ! 

As for skiing in Vermont, we have certainly reason to be excited. A nice looking high latitude blocking structure is expected to emerge in the Bering Sea area and this will allow for cold weather to be on the playing field. Getting it in the right place at the right time will be the big challenge in a period which still should feature a few storms.

The specifics of the forecast picture continue to evolve, as they always do. After some terrain induced snowfall Friday, Friday night and Saturday which could amount to a few sloppy inches, Sunday will be tranquil and a bit on the mild side. The storm early next week has minimal cold air to work with but the system out of the Gulf is now expected to take much of its energy off the Atlantic coast by later Tuesday and this spares us the onslaught of mild air which was a risk a few days ago. On Monday, temperatures should remain mostly below the freezing mark and a blanket of clouds on Tuesday ensures that will continue. Precipitation will be minimal when it does arrive but it should be in the frozen form either in the form of snow or at worst a sleet and freezing rain mixture. In the end it won't be a particularly noteworthy event.

The pattern is expected to amplify in a big way across the eastern Rocky Mountains as the week progresses. This is in response to the aforementioned blocking that we expect to be a player as we advance toward the middle of the month. The nature of this amplification is important and models are diverging in their handling of events as it relates to this. The American model allows the cold to envelop the country at an extremely quick pace, flooding the eastern half of the nation with "below normal" though not extreme temperatures by later in the week. The European holds everything back and allows weather system to form in the Gulf and advance toward the eastern Great Lakes Thursday. The result would be a slower advance of cold weather and a possible rain event before in the Thursday/Friday time frame. I am not sure if the European has the specifics entirely right but I think the slower progression of cold is the correct idea later in the week.

Either way, I expect us to get blasted with "garden variety" cold by later Friday (that's my scare headline) and this will be accompanied by terrain enhanced snowfall through Saturday. The 10 days to follow should be very interesting to watch. Cold weather should be available for use but I don't expect it to dominate the entire eastern United States. Instead, we should see 1-2 significant weather systems impact New England and the ingredients will be available for a big snow. Given that there will be some mild air that could make a few northward pushes as well, interior New England could be one of the better places to be for snow along the east coast. It also means that ice and rain are not out of the possibility spectrum either.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Mild weather in the near term but colder air and snow in the forecast picture for the longer term

Mild weather and a couple of upcoming rain events have put the more than proverbial damper on the excitement we had about a week ago. That said, the wet near term forecast will be followed by a more wintry outlook and all but ensures that December 2016 will make a welcome detour from the route taken by December 2015.

The pattern gripping the United States as a whole is not especially mild or arctic but rather stormy. One storm spinning it's way through the northern plains will eliminate a large chunk of last week's snow by early Thursday as it tracks up through Lake Superior and into eastern Canada. Modified Pacific air will envelop the region later Thursday and allow for the return of some snow showers and flurries to the mountains but accumulations will be minimal. The upcoming weekend will certainly see it's share of sub-freezing temperatures but the absence of arctic air will also allow readings to climb above the freezing mark for a few hours during each of the afternoons. None of this is particularly atypical for December.

The 2nd potentially wet weather event is not etched in stone. This system will intensify in the southern plains over the weekend and advance northeastward. There isn't much in the way of available cold air to work with and there is a growing consensus that the storm will track toward the eastern Great Lakes and thus the thinking is for an ice->rain situation. A lot can happen in 6 days however and the possibility for more snow or even base-building sleet entering this forecast period remains. I am not particularly optimistic but if the system can transfer it's energy from the Great Lakes to the coast, it could lead to a much different outcome early next week so don't completely tune this one out.

The arctic door swings open as we advance through the next week period. Much of the cold will focus it's attention on the western half of the country while New England remains on the milder side of average through roughly December 8th. Some of the longer range ensembles then show that the long wave pattern will get reinvigorated as the cold advances toward us allowing for the possibility for snow to accompany the colder weather during the weekend of December 9th to the 11th.

There has been some hype-casters floating around the internet predicting all sorts of extremes for the middle to back half of December and plenty of snow. There will be a lot more of this in the coming years as we become more fully emerged in the bait and click world of information. Weather is certainly not an exception  when it comes to the inherent public appetite for sensationalism so hypecasters will always get attention. The data however does not point at all toward an extremely cold middle to back half of December. Cold weather will, as mentioned, dominate the weekend of Dec 9-11 along with some snow and the chilly temperatures should linger through part of the work-week that follows. Ensembles though continue to suggest a stormy rather than cold dominated outlook and this is supported mainly by the negative PNA which will keep the west more unsettled and snowy for the ski areas out that way. Out our way, I am hoping for more snow but additional pushes of mild air are going to present a challenge as they often do in December. I can say though with great confidence that the month won't disintegrate into the tropical-mudfest that 2015 turned into.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The ENSO has been neutralized and winter 2016-2017 will have a much larger presence. Let the blogging begin !

Welcome back winter ! Given that you pretty much took the year off in 2015-2016, it's nice to see a sizable winter storm hit the Adirondacks, Green and White Mountains in the pre-Thanksgiving days. It's especially refreshing to watch a storm actually expend it's energy on Vermont as opposed to dumping the goods where they aren't wanted. We can only hope this is a sign of things to come.

As many within the community are already aware, this has not been the easiest last few months. An awful tragedy on Interstate 89 in October, has robbed us of 5 young and promising individuals. For those that follow the blog from out of the state, the news might have been lost in what has been tumultuous election season, but it was devastating turn of events. All I can say to those directly impacted by this, and I am sure I can speak for all of us faithful MRG skiers, many of us parents, is that we're thinking of you and wishing you the best going forward.

A few might have seen the fine piece that Emma Cotton at Vermont Ski and Ride put together where a bunch of us prognosticators shared our views of the upcoming season. This was done way back in August however and I always reserve my right to change opinions as I see fit. That said, many of those opinions haven't changed. There's reasons for optimism and reason for concern as of Thanksgiving week 2016.

Our biggest positive going into the season is undoubtedly the elimination of the 2016 Super Nino. This particular ENSO event was the biggest culprit of our miserable season last year. It was the 2nd strongest El Nino in recorded history which dates back almost 70 years. It had a profound impact on temperatures across Vermont, North America and across the globe as a whole. When combined with the effects of climate change, the first 8 months of 2016 set global land and sea temperature records. The El Nino fizzled as of late spring/early summer and by September we finally stopped setting global temperature records. The especially strong El Nino's has an even greater impact on temperatures over the more northern latitudes of North America so believe me it is the guest we are happy to do without on this thanksgiving holiday. My opinions of El Nino are not monolithic. Weaker versions of what we had last year have proven to help produce big winters in Vermont and some of the biggest east coast winters have occurred with the presence of weak and even moderate El Nino's.

As of late summer, there was certainly a degree of concern regarding where the state of the ENSO would be for the upcoming winter. Waters in the equatorial Pacific were cooling rapidly and some of the modeling suggesting that a significant La Nina event would emerge by autumn. This happened following the Super Nino of '97-'98 when we moved directly into a significant La Nina. The winter wasn't a catastrophe but was mitigated by numerous rain/ice events during the peak of the season and those  types of personality traits often characterize many La Nina winters in Vermont. But after waters in those critical regions of the Pacific cooled in the spring, they subsequently stopped cooling in the summer and the state of the ENSO has stabilized on the La Nina side of neutral. We've had a few bad winters that were ENSO-neutral but if you average the 40-plus winters in recorded history in this category, snowfall in northern Vermont is about 5-10 percent above average and temperatures are slightly below average. I like the more empirical approach of simply tallying the amount of catestrophic winters that have occurred during ENSO-neutral years.  I came up with only 7 (plus or minus one or two) although two of them have occurred recently (2005-2006 and 2001-2002). 2011-2012 was on the fence of an ENSO neutral winter. The cross section of 70 years suggests slightly less than a 20 percent chance of an awful winter occurring given the state of the ENSO and this is certainly an encouraging baseline.

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation or PDO also seems ready to assist this winter. The PDO has earned its way into every preseason discussion going back to the early days of the SCWB. The index measuring the state of the PDO is determined by the configuration of sea surface temperatures in the mid-latitude Pacific Ocean. I keep it all straight in my head by thinking of it as colorized horseshoes with the colors indicating SST anomalies. A "red" horseshoe such as the one in the below image describes a PDO in a positive phase while the "blue" horseshoe describes a PDO in a negative phase.




Recall that the PDO was a prominent and in my view, primary player in the 2014-2015 winter. For consecutive months that season, the index was measured at its highest positive value in recorded history. It remained positive through last season but it's influence was likely overwhelmed by the Super Nino. Here are some of the recent values.

YEAR   JAN     FEB     MAR     APR    MAY   JUN    JUL     AUG     SEP    OCT    NOV    DEC
2013 -0.13 -0.43 -0.63 -0.16  0.08 -0.78 -1.25 -1.04 -0.48 -0.87 -0.11 -0.41
2014  0.30  0.38  0.97  1.13  1.80  0.82  0.70  0.67  1.08  1.49  1.72  2.51
2015  2.45  2.30  2.00  1.44  1.20  1.54  1.84  1.56  1.94  1.47  0.86  1.01
2016  1.53  1.75  2.40  2.62  2.35  2.03  1.25  0.52  0.45  0.56 

The critical switch into positive territory took place during the 2013-2014 winter and the catalyst was a large body of anomalous warmth in the Gulf of Alaska that has remained present as of late 2016 though in a weaker state.  Notice also that we saw another big positive PDO surge in the spring of this year but the index has since receded and seems to have settled into a mildly positive state as of Thanksgiving. Though I might prefer a positive to a negative phase, weak phases in either direction are not especially predictive. We've also had some snowy winters during big "negative phase" years because other factors may have overwhelmed the influence of the PDO. Last year of course, our substantially positive PDO was overwhelmed. So now that I have wasted your time discussing it, I am reducing the coefficient of influence for the PDO this year because of its weakened state. 

For the 5th October in a row, snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere "killed it" as measured in millions of square km. I would guess this hasn't gone unnoticed among scientists and researchers looking at such data with the obvious follow up questions emerging. Does the big expansion of snow cover in the NH during recent autumn months related to the low levels of arctic sea ice in recent late summer and early autumn months caused by the warming planet. 5 consecutive snow covered Octobers could also simply be statistical noise. Either way, we like to see the large amounts of autumnal snow since I believe it optimizes the "pooling" ability of polar airmasses. This recent October was the 3rd highest coverage of snow in 50 years or recorded data, just besting October of 2013 which preceded a chilly winter. 

Like with the PDO, the relationship isn't linear nor is it perfect. In addition we have seen a very slow expansion of arctic sea ice this year which can certainly be attributed to the 8-plus months of record-setting land/sea temperatures dating back to late 2015. The Hudson Bay, which is relatively close to us in a global sense is only just beginning to accumulate some ice compared to many years where this body of water is a quarter to a half frozen over by now. So although I am excited about the build-up of snow over land, I am hedging the excitement because of the slow expansion of sea ice. 

This season's outlook finishes the same way it has the last few seasons. Has mother nature, in poker parlance, revealed any "tells" this autumn ? To put it another way, is there a behavioral characteristic about the weather in Vermont the last few months that foreshadows how the weather might behave throughout the winter season. This kind of approach might not seem scientific, but I've found it to be a useful way to simplify the complicated and chaotic relationship between  the causes and effects of atmospheric events and all the feedbacks in between. 

What stands out the most, at least in my opinion, regarding the behavior of the weather the past few months is the inability to sustain below normal temperatures for any significant period of time. When the region does get an occasional burst of cold, the outbreak hasn't been especially strong; in fact, only 1 day in the past 3 months has seen temperatures of 10 or more below average. The period beginning in August and ending in October was the 3rd warmest dating back over a century. 

This is the most disturbing observation going into the winter season. There many reasons one could attribute the recent stretch of warm weather to but fighting "persistence" is a very difficult chore. More often than not, if the weather is behaving in a certain way it will continue to behave that way.  Using the same logic however, we certainly could be more optimistic about snowfall. The few times we've had below normal temperatures in October and November, we've gotten snow. Furthermore, the mountains of interior New England seem to be the favored locations for the heftiest accumulations. I would estimate that over 20 inches of snow has already fallen at Mad River which is already about 20 percent of what we managed to scrounge out last year. 

Summarizing all this gobbledygook makes the forecast picture look as follows. In spite of the neutral state of the ENSO, a slightly positive PDO and a big expansion of autumnal snow and ice, temperatures will likely (not definitely) be on the above side of average. By no means do I expect the mild onslaught that we saw last year; in fact, I fully anticipate a healthy stretch of cold weather. Overall temperatures I would expect temperatures to average 1-3 above average which would be a massive improvement over last year. We should also do substantially better on snowfall. By the end of the season, I would guess that our seasonal snow amounts will be in the vicinity of average. My boldest prediction involves the elimination of the Vermont snow hole. I expect us to do just fine in a relative sense with the favorable patterns producing good powdery periods. The thaws will be there as well, and we I would expect a multi-week stretch of crappy weather and little snow which is certainly not at all unusual in Vermont. 

Hope everyone is enjoyed or has enjoyed their thanksgiving holiday (depending on when you stumble upon this). Let the blogging begin again, I think we will have a lot more to talk about this year ! 




Thursday, April 14, 2016

An agonizing Super Nino winter full of mild weather, missed storms and bad luck is in the books

As promised, even one of the lousiest MRG season's in history deserves a wrap-up. It's painful even trying to remember all of the early season warm weather and the opportunities lost thereafter. 2015-2016 was a miserable winter and snow season in about every statistical way and then some. Adding to the misery was the repeated obscene gestures mother nature seemed to be throwing at us. In the parlance of our times, weather geeks might refer to them as "screw jobs". Get enough of these and one might refer to his location as a "snow hole". In the common tongue a "screw job" is a storm that deposits snow on seemingly every location but your own while a "snow hole" is a region that gets repeated "screw jobs" throughout the year.

Typically, quantifying "screw jobs" and "snow holes" reveals that the term is used too loosely. Statistics manage to even out over time and missing one storm early in the year can be balanced out by getting "bullseyed" later in the season. I bring this all up because I actually wanted to do the analysis and see if the repeated misses this season actually turned central and northern Vermont into the "snow hole" we all perceived it to be. In doing such analysis it is vital that you keep climatology as a reference point so I looked at snowfall amounts across the northeast, the mid atlantic and even parts of Quebec and compared them all to their respective annual averages. Here are some of the results. 

Location         2016   Avg   Pct
Mad River Glen   112.0 240.0  46%

Burlington, VT    31.6  81.2  39%
Manchester, NH    28.4  61.4  46%
Caribou, ME       87.2 108.7  80%
Montreal, QC      61.1  85.6  71%
Jay Peak, VT     194.0 340.0  57%
Albany, NY        16.9  59.1  29%
Rochester, NY     62.3  99.5  63%
New York, NY      32.1  27.5 119%
Baltimore, MD     35.1  20.1 175%

Drawing maps on the internet is not my expertise but even doing this basic one is very revealing. 


The map isn't perfectly drawn, but is a basic illustration of the above data. The Vermont "snow hole" was very real this winter. Places to our north such as Montreal and northern Maine outperformed us on a relative basis, as did places to our east along the Maine coast, as did places to our west such as the snowbelts of New York and the populated regions of southern Ontario. Areas to our south as New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, DC did exceptionally well relative to average all receiving between 125 and 175 percent of normal snowfall. Mad River Glen was not the worst location, but it was on the northeastern edge of the worst location so I am not accepting any consolation prizes. The corridor from southern Vermont through Albany to Binghamton, NY to Scranton, PA to Williamsport, PA was the worst place to be. All of these locations received under 35 percent of normal snowfall and some locations set records for the least snowiest season on record. Williamsport, PA has only recorded 6 inches of snow this winter, an incredibly depressing and dreadful result. Harrisburg, PA which is not even 100 miles down the Susquehanna Valley performed much better and the disparity can be explained away in one storm: the big January 22-23 Mid Atlantic blizzard that did Vermont no favors.

Though there was a promising build-up of snow across the northern hemisphere during the autumn months and the remnants of the two previous super "+ PDO" years remained in place, the dominating variable during the past year was the El Nino. I have been referring to this seasons big El Nino as the 4th "Super Nino" in recorded ENSO history dating back 65 years. A "Super Nino" is an El Nino winter where the critical ENSO measuring reasons feature water temperatures of more than 2 Celsius above average for a month. We have seen other "Super Nino" winters deliver decent though not great results and I certainly expected the mild weather to win the day in spite of the positive PDO and high late-autumn snow cover numbers.  The snowfall forecast of "normal" however was way too optimistic and in retrospect was unlikely given some of the expected temperature anomalies. It is probably fair to say that the region was relatively lucky during the super El Nino of 1997-1998 and was equally if not more unlucky during the past winter season where less than half of usual amounts of snow accumulated on the mountain.

To recap, it was not a pretty start. The mild weather that prevailed in November intensified in December and turned the month into one of the mildest months relative to average since skiing began at Mad River Glen. I am sure no one working at MRG was thrilled about having the mountain closed during the Christmas holiday, but I was hopeful that we could simply put the adverse pattern behind us  and out of the way and that the weather would deliver the same positive results of the recent 2006-2007 El Nino winter. There was every reason to believe that would happen as we approached New Years 2016. The menacingly strong jet stream in the Pacific which destroyed the month, relaxed substantially in January and outbreaks of cold weather and even some potential snow events finally appeared on the horizon.

The first big chance for a storm was on the weekend of January 9th and 10th. In the end, it was cold enough prior to the storm, cold enough in the wake of the storm and 40 degrees and raining during the storm. It would be the first of many events in the January-February time frame that either missed the region entirely or brought a drenching rain to a snow-starved mountain. The two weeks that followed did feature sub-freezing temperatures and some modest snowfall. The snow generally coming from clipper systems and Lake Champlain/terrain enhanced snow. As we approached the weekend of January 23rd and 24th however, a major storm became big news but not for the right reasons. Metropolitan areas, generally in the Mid-Atlantic region experienced a paralyzing blizzard but all of interior New England received little if any snow. By the end of January, more mild weather and even some rain left valley locations devoid of snow pack. Even the high country had a glaring lack of snow and we were once again closed for business by early February.

Most of February was even more agonizing.  The first 7 days of the month were an abomination complete with both mild weather and rain. The pattern became more favorable in the weeks that followed but for the most part, we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and found new and incredible ways to miss big storms. Terrain enhanced snowfall around February 10th and 11th provided the mountain with the best powder of the year and reopened most of the terrain for what turned out to be a brutally cold holiday weekend. The weather remained true to its 2015-2016 character however and in the worst traditions of New England winter weather. Within 2 days of -15 degree temperatures, it was raining yet again with readings in the 40's and deteriorating snow. Just over a week later we saw more of the same, rain and another lost opportunity at a big storm. Models continuously struggled to provide any clarity and were full of false alarms for a variety of reasons. Most of this just simply rubbed salt in the proverbial wound. A week of cold weather in early March brought with it another storm that managed to miss all of New England and provide decent snows to both Ontario and Quebec. It was all over after that as mild weather reestablished control over much of eastern North America and effectively ended the season.

These days, any mild season brings the topic of climate change or global warming right to the fore. I've said it many times that mixing seasonal, monthly, weekly, daily, geographical variability with a longer term trend such as what has occurred with global warming does not work on the debate stage and people continuously fall into the this trap. There are so many components of the seasonal variability equation which need to be measured and we discuss many on the blog and many others I leave out. Though "global climate change" is a component when predicting temperatures over the course of a winter season it remains a very small component. A Super Nino type winter season, such as the one we had will render it even smaller. I am not a denier; far from it actually, but raising awareness of the issue requires one to approach it from the appropriate scientific perspective.

Speaking in terms of seasonal variability, nothing seems to have the impact that can match that of a Super Nino as far as global land and sea temperatures are concerned. As mentioned, we have had 4 of these events in the 65 years of recorded history and every one has resulted in a 0.3-0.6 C rise in temperatures relative to average across the globe with higher numbers at higher latitudes. It is an astoundingly large figure which accounts for a substantial portion of the big global anomalies we saw in the December to February time frame this year. Those that refuse to accept the statistical reality of global warming loved to refer to 1998. It is the reference point that has reached legendary status among the deniers. How statistically convenient to use a record setting Super Nino as a starting point and then claim that the globe as cooled since then ! Take a look.

Given what we know about El Nino and what we also know about seasonal variability, this argument is completely ludicrous. What is not ludicrous would be to compare global temperatures this past winter season with those that occurred during the last Super Nino, the legendary reference point of 1998. Take a look at these global temperatures anomalies.

Month          1998      2016
January        0.60      1.05
February       0.86      1.21

So with a Super Nino that was nearly equivilent if not a little weaker than 1998, global temperatures actually rose .45 C in January and .35 C in February. Such data just lends greater support to what we already know about the statistical global temperature trends. It is very noticable and very quantifiable. Those that want to claim the data is manipulated can simply resort to the empirical evidence such as the deterioration of glaciers, loss of ice in the Arctic, or the 9 trillion tons of ice lost in Greenland. 

With election season approaching and given some of the data discusssed in the previous paragraphs, we may again see some light shed on the issue in the coming months. I just find it unfortunate that have yet to move beyond the point of proving the relevance of the data. There are two candidates that have said, given the chance, that they would like to abolish the EPA entirely and leave the environmental regulatory authority to the states. Though some states might behave it would undoubtedly in my view set up an arms race among other states to see who can be the most friendly to the big polluters. Furthermore, it degenerates the argument to the point where no big picture workable solutions can be agreed upon. I tell as many environmentally aware people as possible that simply getting into pissing matches with other environmentally aware people is not enough. The needle only gets moved if the skeptics can be won over. Environmental issues need to be embraced not only by liberals but also by conservatives. In this country we seem to be moving farther away from that every day. If you are a conservative, there is nothing out there that requires you to eat everything at the conservative buffet. You agree with 60, 70 or 80 percent of the platform yet reject the cynical view toward environmental issues such as what Christine Todd Whitman has done. It is the most viable path forward toward meaningful change. 

Anyway, this miserable season is well behind us and the last of the snow is melting on the mountain. Next year, this El Nino will be severely weakened if not gone entirely. We are also through a season that featured some horrendous misfortune, some of which can simply attributed to a bad season at mother nature's slot machine. A repeat performance of that is highly unlikely. Enjoy the summer everyone and we will speak again as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, hopefully with some snow to talk about. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Euro cries wolf again and Vermont misses yet another storm

Hype for an east coast reached yet another fever pitch but it was as if many had forgotten the last 6 weeks. It is important to preface the following statement by saying that the European model and its ensembles have had many terrific calls and have many times pinned down specifics on some of the most important weather events in New England ahead of competing information. The last 6 weeks has been a complete abomination for the Euro however with several false alarms. In a year so devoid of snowfall in Vermont, crying wolf is certainly not going to win any hearts and minds.

Barring a miraculous turn of events in the 11th hour, the Sunday/Monday storm is a miss. Even the most optimistic scenario has the storm farther east by about 100 miles. The cape and even Boston could still receive some snowfall but much of New Hampshire and Vermont including the Green and White Mountains will receive next to nothing.

Chilly temperatures will still dominate the region and in fact may thwart the coming milder push of temperatures for a few days. Some snowfall is in fact possible on Tuesday and Wednesday across northern New England thanks to a nice overrunning zone established by the mild push of temperatures battling the existing cold weather. Snowfall accumulations could amount to a few inches before temperatures finally climb above freezing Thursday and perhaps reach the 50's on Friday.

Assuming nothing crazy happens, the blog will conclude with a seasonal wrap-up sometime next week before going into spring and summer mode.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sunday-Monday storm still not likely but remains in play for now

Winter makes a multi day cameo appearance in a month that has been generally middle. Rain and snow showers later Thursday become snow showers Thursday night producing a few inches of accumulation across the high country. Friday will be a rare blustery, sub-freezing day along with a few flurries. Saturday is high and dry with temperatures topping out right around the freezing mark after starting out in the 5-10 range.

The potential storm is still in play. The European model suggests a decent sized storm close to 980 mb tracking just east of Cape Cod. Vermont would be on the western side of some heavy snow while portions of New Hampshire get clobbered with well over a foot. This is the best case scenario for Vermont and includes about a 6-12 inch snow late Sunday into early Monday. Other models have been and continue to be further off shore with this system and weaker as well. The European has been living in its own fantasy-land with many of these systems over the last month-plus so I am extremely reluctant to sell my soul to another one of its snowy solutions. That said, it does have some support from its ensemble members as of early Thursday morning so it remains worthy of watching.

Though cold weather will linger through Tuesday March 22nd, the pattern continues to look extremely mild from the 23rd to about the 30th of the month. This could include another 1, 2 maybe even 3 days of readings in the 60's in this stretch. Ensembles do show the build-up of a ridge along the west coast around March 31-April 1 and this could lead to an outbreak of colder weather around that time.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Winter is on life support but will try to make one big last gasp this weekend

To be perfectly frank, I am ready to put the 2015-2016 winter season in the rear view mirror. March however, is typically the best part of the MRG season and in many years is the snowiest of all the winter months in Vermont.

We are still in the midst of a stretch of milder weather which will persist through a good part of the week.  With the help of some sunshine on Wednesday, temperatures might again make a run at the 60-degree mark but clouds and some rain very late in the day might thwart that effort. Cooler weather will begin to slowly work its way back into the region Thursday; in fact, leftover moisture might result some limited snow across the high terrain while light rain falls in the valley locations.  Friday begins a limited multi-day stretch of colder weather, perhaps the last such stretch this month.

Though Friday and Saturday look dry along with temperatures just below the so called "normal" threshold, a storm system will try and organize during the weekend combining jet energy in the plains with southern branch moisture in the Gulf of Mexico. Whether or not this all comes together correctly remains a question but there is a decent chance for some sort of east coast event Sunday the 20th into Monday, March 21st. Yes, one of the scenarios does call for a decent interior New England hit. The storm system would lack the strength to be historic storm but could produce as much as 12-18 inches of snow. That would be the upside. The downside is another in a litany of misses for Vermont this year.

Cold weather will continue to grip the region through the 22nd but will give way to more mild weather for the last week of the month. The limited blocking that was supporting the cold weather around the Spring Equinox will deteriorate plus the jet in the Pacific is expected to tighten. The storm late this weekend may be the last chance for a significant taste of winter though as Eric at MRG said, stranger things have happened.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A mild and somewhat rainy upcoming two weeks still expected

Nothing new or exciting to report as of March 7th. Pattern is still poised to turn very warm and stay that way for a better part of the next two weeks. Readings might get close to the 60-degree mark across valley locations Wednesday with 50's across the high country.  A front will drop south out of southern Canada late Wednesday and early Thursday bringing the chance for some light rain and temperatures that are less mild. Later on Thursday, a more organized wave of low pressure will move along that same boundary of temperatures and spread significant amounts of rain into northern New England later Thursday and Thursday night. It's ironic because this particular storm will take a relatively favorable track for snow but the pattern will have gotten so warm by late this week and available arctic air is so limited that the results, predictably, will be another swing and a miss. There is a chance that rain changes over to a period of snow across the high country early Friday leading to a wet accumulation, but that is after about an inch of rain.

The pattern does appear to want to return to normalcy around the time of March 20th. This is very late in the game however and lots of damage will have been done both from rain and from warm weather. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Winter to make a retreat and a reappearance is not on the horizon

It's going to be difficult to keep SCWB going barring a dramatic change in later March. The snow stake at Mt Mansfield illustrates the situation perfectly. It is right there with the worst winters going back to 1954 which spans 60 years. In 1980 and again in the Super Nino winter of 1983, the snow situation was similar, but both years featured snowy periods in March or early April salvaging some minimal dignity. This year appears to want to go the way of 1956-57, which after a awful December, January and February, faded completely in March. If anyone has the great Crosby Stills Nash and Young's live album - 4 Way Street, Neil Young introduces one of his songs by saying this - "Here is a new song guaranteed to bring you right down, its called 'Don't Let It Bring You Down'. It sorta starts out real slow and fizzles out all together." This describes the winter of 2015-2016 perfectly.

There is really no snow in the forecast over the next week and I am not sure it gets much better beyond that. One organized weather system will pass well to the regions south Friday. This means more snow for the Mid Atlantic, a region that has actually seen above normal snowfall this winter. Another much weaker system follows on its heels Saturday night into early Sunday but this too will pass well to the south of us and minimal if any snow is expected. The last of the cold weather from the present arctic intrusion will then vanish Monday and give way to thaw which is expected to persist for several days.

The European model remains a bit warmer than the American GFS model going forward but both models share in the belief that the thaw will mark a major retreat for the current winter season. Temperatures in the 60's are possible during the middle part of the week and although cooler weather is expected for the weekend, nothing categorically cold is expected (below normal temps) and snow is certainly not expected. It is possible for the pattern to take a dramatic turn in later March. Spring in New England is especially unpredictable and full of twists and turns but I would be surprised to see significant snow or cold of any kind through about St Patrick's Day which looks out about 2 weeks.