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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bad news explained and what we can hope for from here

The evolving forecast for the upcoming week calls for another update. This is an extremely promising setup that includes what is generally a rather favorable pattern for snow but expectations have taken another bad turn today and can't be ignored or sugarcoated. This has been a year dominated by a strong El Nino and this particular ENSO event has not treated Vermont well at all.

As late as early Saturday morning, there was some loose consensus for a rather positive outcome. Indications, particularly from the European Ensemble mean showed a storm track short of optimal but still upwards of a foot or more of snow by the end of the week. There was dissension amongst the ranks however with the GFS American model tracking northeastward moving storm through New York state while the Canadian was close to optimal with a coastal track not far from Cape Cod. The Canadian has performed horribly however while the GFS (in spite of my criticism) has shown an ability this winter to nail a few trends ahead of its competitors. This may be one of those cases unfortunately.

Have the models struggled more this year ? Hard to quantify that answer but there has been some unexpected twists and turns this winter and hardly any of them have been good. The big problem has been the powerful El Nino which is causing anomalies in the way the atmosphere is behaving particularly across southern latitudes of the United States. In a sentance, the jet has been more active and contains considerably more moisture and precipitation than models have been willing to resolve more than 5 days out.  There is a feedback associated with the maturation of all weather systems that involves the presence of moisture. More moisture means more latent-heat release which drops air pressure which deepens storms until they reach a peak maturation. More moisture means faster maturation and in the case of our midweek system this is especially bad. The storm appears as if it wants to mature quicker and one of many effects means that it will suck more warm air from the Atlantic while making an early and quite unfortunate northward turn. When the European Ensemble shifted the track of the storm from just west of Boston to central New York state, the forecast had to be adjusted accordingly.

In spite of all this news, the very powerful storm may still be a net positive for Mad River Glen and the surrounding Vermont and New York state high country. We are still expecting a surge of colder air which will arrive late Monday and establish a layer of cold air that will allow precipitation to begin as sleet and snow late Wednesday. Then comes the surge of warmer air changing precipitation to what could be a lot of rain yet again late Wednesday through most of Thursday. That is if the current forecast holds and doesn't shift back to something more optimal and there is still hope for that yet hopes took a low blow today. Snow returns as the system occludes in the maritimes and there is the right combination of instability and moisture for substantial snows Friday and Friday night. A powerful clipper on Saturday February 20th would provide an additional opportunity for snow and another powder day late on the weekend.

We continue to have great support from both the PNA and developing support from the Arctic Oscillation going into early March. I know it all comes with a grain of salt given our struggles but that is the way things look for now. So, although 2016 has rained bad news more than figuratively, I highly doubt that this is the end. 


TJR said...

Regardless of the outcome; thank you for your wisdom, time. regardless of the outcome, sharing you knowledge is enlightening and appreciated. That being said, let it snow like a MFr!!!

billski said...

You are a brave man Mr. Fox. Calling it like it is, during a crappy year. Better to set expectations low and then over achieve,rather than causing skiers excessive psychologist fees this season. Maybe going west is the best antidote...

Jared Miller said...

Looks like I picked the right week to head west. Thoughts and prayers my east coast brethren!