Think Snow, Tweet Snow !!!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Awesome stretch of winter should continue through Feb 10 that includes a couple chances for a big storm

The extended January thaw has faded abruptly in to the fog of terrain-enhanced upslope snow. We've seen more of this type of snow this year than in the last several. It's fluffy, it ski's beautifully and we don't have to wait for the next storm for a powder day. A total of approximately 16 inches of snow has fallen since Thursday on the mountain and more snow is in the forecast over the next 10 days.

We are still watching our feisty clipper system for the middle of the week. The track of this storm has trendedfarther south since we last discussed this feature and the corridor of heaviest snow has shifted to a zone from southern Michigan to across much of Pennsylvania and southern New England.  Models agree that some of the moisture associated with the clipper will find its way into Vermont. This occurs after a snow-free and seasonable ski day on Tuesday. Light snow should begin Tuesday night and persist through at least part of Wednesday. Another 2-4 inches is my best guess for snowfall from this system. In its wake, stronger arctic cold will bleed into the region and as this happens, terrain enhanced snowfall will occur late Wednesday, Wednesday night and Thursday; in fact, flurries and snow showers should continue through the early part of the upcoming weekend. For now, lets say additional accumulations are possible in the period between Thursday and Saturday but stability parameters look a little less favorable than they did late last week. There is some lingering moisture however so I would expect at least some additional snowfall, just not the big totals that we've seen the last 4 days. Temperatures will generally be in the teens during the daytime hours and falling to the single numbers overnight. Over the weekend, we could see some below zero readings but without as much wind.

For those planning on watching the Pats in another Super Bowl this upcoming Sunday, you'll miss some great skiing at MRG but we are not expecting big snow. The storm we are watching has the potential to bring snow to the region very late Sunday night into Monday. There is some splitting of the jet stream with the large block positioned over the Bering sea this weekend and an innocent looking system will undercut this block and bring some light snow to the Rocky Mountains. The big question from here is whether one of any number of polar jet disturbances can "spark" this system and help produce something much bigger by the time it reaches the east coast. Models are producing varying results but such outcome is certainly possible. Even if the system fails to develop, some snowfall is likely from the clipper system that would have failed to phase with the aforementioned weather feature. Later in the week, another potential storm will face a similar set of questions and will present another opportunity for big results. I just hope we can cash in big on one of these opportunities because the blocking over the Bering sea will fade by the 10th and 11th of February and the split flow will fade with it.

Some concerns were expressed after February 10th and this sentiment continues today. The beautiful looking blocking structure over the Bering Sea appears to diminish and as this happens, the jet stream in the Pacific strengthens associated with an EPO index that turns positive. Ensembles are not showing an ominous "evil empire" looking jet structure in the Pacific yet; in fact, the American Ensembles have yet to even climb on this train. Both the Canadian and European ensemble members do show the polar jet stream retreating however to a degree. At this point, I would certainly wager that winter will lose any tenuous grip it had on the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States but I am not so sure about New England but we will soon find out.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Upcoming two weeks should have lots of goodies

Winter has made its long awaited return to the Mad River Valley and what a welcome site it was. We are now in the midst of a succession of days that should include some snowfall. Squalls on Friday evening gave the mountain some additional snow that should make for an excellent Saturday skiing. Saturday should feature more flurries and the possibility for a heavier snow shower but it actually looks like the most likely time for additional accumulation comes Sunday morning when a disturbance in the jet stream should trigger a period of enhanced snow showers and snow squalls. The additional 1-3 inches Sunday following the few inches Friday night and the nearly 5 inches Thursday bring the new snow totals to almost a foot.

Temperatures through the weekend will remain rather tolerable, hovering mostly in the 20's on most of the mountain. Monday will finally see readings drop into the teens as flurries and snow showers continue with minimal accumulation. The next organized system approaches Tuesday, a feisty clipper system with enough moisture to bring another 3-6 inches to the mountain. This system will also help the polar jet advance southward and enable stronger arctic air to assume control of the region for later in the week. The snow however should continue into Wednesday and early Thursday. Accumulations appear to be on the lighter side but every little bit helps.

Arctic high pressure is likely to finally dry things out later in the week and send temperatures below zero during a few mornings between Friday the 3rd and Superbowl Sunday February 5th. This is the heart of the period where the EPO is expected to be negative and the jet stream in the Pacific is expected to be at its weakest. The most significant storm system that may or may not impact the region comes after what is expected to be a dry and cold weekend. Its nearly 10 days out of the horizon but models have provided a bit of surprising early consensus that a storm will exit the Rockies and advance eastward through the Southern Plains on that Sunday and spread precipitation to parts of the east coast Monday. The storm has the potential to become a substantial coastal system but its too early to draw definitive conclusions. For now, just keep February 6th and 7th on the calendar as dates that might see an impact from a winter storm.

Cold weather should remain in control through February 10th but there are indications that we lose the support of the EPO thereafter which is certainly not something I want to see at all. As this is happening however, we should have some minimal support from the Arctic Oscillation thanks largely to an area of jet stream warmth or blocking that is indicated to grip areas from Bering Sea to the Eurasia side of the North Pole. At the very least however, I think we are looking at a very good upcoming two weeks before we get to a more questionable period in the middle of February.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Massive improvements on the horizon as outlook for the coming week and beyond looks awesome

We got 2-3 inches of sleet and occasional bursts of snow Tuesday and Tuesday night. I'll give NWS Burlington the nod for the better forecast though some areas south of us did receive the thump snow of upwards of 6-8 inches that we were hoping for. Areas north of us ironically, saw the freezing rain that the National Weather Service was forecasting. We were lucky to avoid most of that and the sleet will provide a very nice foundation for the upcoming pattern which already looked promising and looks even more so today. To be honest, the sleet actually ski's a little better than glop snow but that's just my personal opinion.

The short term has some snow in the forecast also. A weakening system in the Midwest will approach Wednesday night into Thursday. Moisture associated with this system is decaying and will become rather disorganized. That said, some mixed precipitation in the early morning Thursday will evolve into occasional snow showers as the system brings some marginal instability to the region. The combination of moist flow and the limited instability will continue to bring snow showers to the high country, especially in the northern part of the state into Friday. I think ski country north of Waterbury performs a bit better out of all this but MRG should get some accumulating snow as well. Right now, 1-3 inches would be my expectation for Thursday and another 2-4 fluffy inches Friday. Temperatures will start out Thursday in the 30's and should hold near or below the freezing mark for much of the day on the mountain. Readings should drop into the 20's on Friday.

Guess what, the snow continues into Saturday with additional fluffy accumulations likely. The occasional snow showers could even continue into Sunday and Monday although accumulations appear less likely over this time frame. One of the lessons here is that sometimes it is good to get the colder weather without the help of the polar jet which will be absent in spite of an east coast trough. The polar jet can be stabilizing force in the lower troposphere and can limit the type of snow showers we will inevitably receive in the coming days. During the middle of the week, you guessed it, we are likely to see more snow from a clipper system which finally bring true below normal temperatures to interior New England for Thursday and Friday. The clipper though will indeed bring additional accumulations of snow as it gathers moisture from the unfrozen Great Lakes aggregate.

As we move into the month of February the PNA index will be the only hold out. It will move back into negative territory and prevent much of the southeastern U.S. from experiencing any sustained extreme cold. Other indices are looking more and more favorably. The best development over the past two days is what appears to be the development of a large high latitude block in the jet stream over the Bering Sea and a push to move the Arctic Oscillation into slightly negative territory. The combined forces of this and the weakened Pacific jet stream favors cold weather over New England well into February and I feel much more confident of this today than I did as of the last update. In some ways I hope the PNA continues to stay somewhat negative as it did for much of the first two thirds of December as to not allow the Polar Jet to completely overwhelm us and eliminate our chances for snow.

Its been a rough stretch of January folks but we are officially through and the next several weeks should be fantastic. This is well deserved, I know some people have waited way too long for a stretch of decent weather and some snow. There are some trails at MRG that me along with many others haven't skied since March of 2015.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Monday/Tuesday storm details and additional snowfall in the days to follow

Spring-like late March weather continues in Vermont but 36 is better than 50 and that's what we had on Saturday and we will see more of that on Sunday. Drier and slightly colder air will advance into the region late on Sunday and every bit of dry and every bit of cool is vital as our next storm advances toward the coast and then up the coast on Monday. 

I think we have a better handle on some of the specifics with this storm as of Saturday evening. We will get both temperatures and dewpoints down into the 20's on Monday morning as precipitation advances up through New York state and into New England. Readings will rise into the 30's during the day but should fall back into the 28-31 degree range as precipitation beings Monday night. It remains a very close call but it looks like a classic situation where the heaviest precipitation should fall as snow. We could actually see some fairly heavy snow for a few hours and I am inclined to think that 4-8 inches of relatively wet snow is a best guess by first tracks time Tuesday. There is some data out there indicating more sleet and freezing rain and when precipitation rates let up toward daybreak Tuesday, this is certainly possible if not likely for a while. As Tuesday progresses, the upper level low responsible for this big storm will approach the region and allow the critical layers of the atmosphere to cool enough for another few periods of snow and some additional accumulation, especially up past the mid-station. When it's all said and done, accumulations will probably be in the 4-8 inch range near the base but 8-12 inches at the summit. The snow consistency will be pretty dense, especially at the base and a bit gloppy on Tuesday but a little more powdery up near the top. I am certainly happy we can avoid a rain event, especially in this god-awful pattern we are immersed in but this storm could have been a 2 footer if the intensification of this storm could have followed through off shore. Instead, the storm will peak out east of the Delmarva around midnight Tuesday and weaken somewhat as it approaches Cape Cod. 

More above-freezing temperatures will impact parts of the mountain on Wednesday but this will  be the last of any melting for while. A weakening storm system will approach from the Midwest and bring some limited moisture with it. Precipitation will be snow but will be relatively light. Moist flow from the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain plus some instability will put the terrain induced snow machine into action Thursday and snow showers should be prevalent for much of the day. Some parts of the Green Mountains will do better than others, it looks like farther north will do better right now but Mad River should receive a few inches of snow at least between late Wednesday into Thursday. Temperatures should remain near 30 on Thursday and remain in the 20's Friday. There are additional disturbances over the last full weekend of January that should add to the snow totals. Right now, it looks like this particular weekend could be a real winner. 

I'll discuss the longer range in greater detail in subsequent updates but the effects of a large ridge which will temporarily build across western North America will provide the region with a stretch of cold weather which will persist through the first few days of February. This ridge is expected to collapse quickly however and the PNA goes negative. This means more storminess for the west and less widespread cold for the east. That said there are a few teleconnection indices that will help to keep New England wintry even as the rest of the east coast warms and I'll maintain for now that the start of the month looks pretty good. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Tuesday storm is a very close call but our outlook certainly looks snowier overall

The outlook for next week continues to evolve and has gotten more interesting but we are not across the finish line yet. Tuesday's storm is a very close call right now and will need to be discussed in more detail in order to make sense of where we are at with this thing. There is also some new snow potential for the rest of next week and a better outlook as we head toward the month of February.

Our weekend forecast remains cloudy with somewhat less visibility than I advertised a few days ago. There is some very light rain or drizzle that is possible late in the day on Saturday along with temperatures at or slightly above the freezing mark. Sunday is more of the same, but any dampness should dry out later in the day.

We will indeed be provided with a needed bit of dry Canadian cold late Sunday into Monday. We discussed this in the last update as a necessary ingredient if we were to have any shot at snow on Tuesday. The jet streak in the Davis Straits will deliver on its part of the equation. We then have our monster weather system which will proceed from the Mississippi Valley to the Tennessee Valley on Sunday and strengthen as it does so. It will then transfer some of its energy to the Mid Atlantic coast and move toward coastal New England Monday. Precipitation will advance into New England late on Monday and continue into Tuesday with what looks to be extremely marginal temperatures. Models trended cooler for successive days but that trend stopped last night with the American GFS reverting back to a warmer storm.  This might be why many of you are seeing the rain icon show up in your smartphone weather outlooks. These icons can be sensitive to changing GFS runs. What we are missing in this GFS forecast and a big reason as to why it went warmer is the lack of a coastal "bomb". The storm is shown to strengthen onshore, peak over the state of Tennessee but never restrengthen off the coast which a lot of big coastal storms do. The Euro model shows a bit more strengthening offshore but the intensification is not shown to follow through as the storm approaches Cape Cod. The Canadian is the best model for us and thus shows the most snow. Temperatures are close enough however to make for an elevation event. In addition, precipitation should stay snow as long as precipitation rates are moderate to heavy. Lighter precipitation is more likely to fall as rain. Also, unless the outlook turns cooler, snowfall will be wet except for perhaps the highest 1000 feet (above 3,000 feet). Right now, I would expect a gloppy 4-8 inches at the base and a slightly less wet 8-12 at the summit. Valley locations will not perform especially well and will receive nothing more than 1-3. The Champlain Valley probably gets next to nothing. Precipitation begins sometime on Monday and is likely heaviest Monday night or Tuesday.

Wednesday looks like a dry and somewhat mild day but by Thursday, another system will approach. There is some speculation about where this storm will track and it is not expected to strengthen as it proceeds by us on Thursday. It will however provide us with some limited moisture for snowfall and help to usher in colder more winter-like Temperatures in its wake. Lingering instability will enhance the window for new show through much of Friday making new snow very likely as we head toward the last weekend of February.

The big weapon we have in our favor very late in January and moving into February is the weakened jet stream in the Pacific or the negative EPO. A large ridge in the jet stream will temporarily position itself over western North America but we never get a needed high latitude block or a fully negative Arctic Oscillation (AO) to ensure successive weeks of cold weather. It looks instead like a decent burst of cold toward the end of the month into early February and then a pattern that looks closer to normal as we move later into February. This still constitutes a much better outlook compared to what we've experienced over the last 10 days, it just doesn't guarantee that every storm will come up roses for us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trying to make the most of very limited amounts of cold weather

It's winter again and interior New England is about the only place east of the Mississippi River seeing any of it. The west is about to get another stormy onslaught and that storminess will progress across the country and keep the forecasting relatively busy as we get to next week's outlook. The weather pattern is not a cold one and won't allow for much in the way of cold air to be available. By the end of next week, the weather pattern is still expected to turn more supportive but this remains more than a week away.

We have a couple of dry and mild days ahead of us, more typical of March than January with temperatures in the high 30's during the day and 20's during the night. Not idea by any stretch but better than what the excess warmth which will grip much of the Upper Midwest through the weekend. The forecast has also dried out late Friday into Saturday. There was a risk of some sleet or freezing rain has diminished. If we see any of that it will be pretty minimal; in fact much of the weekend will be dry and tranquil with good visibility and nothing more than a high overcast if even that.

Meanwhile a monster of a storm will spin its way into significance in the Lower Mississippi Valley late this weekend. This storm will be a big severe weather producer across the Southeast U.S. and will advance toward the Mid-Atlantic coastline on Monday with a ginormous amount moisture. It is a very favorable track for a big snow but we are really lacking on the cold air as mentioned. With this said, the game has gotten just a little closer in the last 24 hours. There is notable jet streak near the Davis Straits and this becomes the "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobe, you're my only hope" moment. Could this feature be the 2nd in a week to save us from rain ? We need temperatures to be about 3-4 degrees cooler than currently forecast to turn this into an elevation event. 5-6 degrees cooler and we could be in for a lot of snow. The aforementioned feature needs to supply us with just a little more cold air and we are off to the races. Yeah, this still just a little better than a  pipe dream but worth noting because of the strength and size of this storm. Though not the most likely outcome, a few degrees cooler and we could receive more than 2 feet of elevation sensitive snow. Worth watching for early next week but lets keep expectations in check for now.

Gradually temperatures will turn cooler as the week progresses but readings will remain well above average (even if it snows on Monday and Tuesday). By Friday we could see the impact of another storm system which will likely be the trigger for a more substantial cool down. Weaker disturbances during the middle of the week could provide a little snow or mixed precipitation but anything after Friday should fall in the form of snow. The softening jet in the Pacific and the building ridge across western Canada should make for the most ideal period since December in the days leading up to and into February.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Out of nowhere comes 5-9 inches of powder Tuesday into early Wednesday. Happy MLK Day !

Happy MLK Day everyone ! Unfortunately we can't enjoy celebrate the holiday on the slopes of Mad River this year, but perhaps it is a good year to reflect a little bit more on the man we celebrate this holiday for, the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His legacy has been discussed, written about and certainly taught but what has always been most striking to me among his many attributes was MLK's incredible savvy. We all know about his ideals but one can certainly learn so much about the way MLK used activism not simply to garner attention for himself but to actually produce results in the form of progress and change that has served to positively impact the lives of so many and provide an enduring inspiration even almost 50 years after his death. The film "Selma" released in 2014, starring David Oyelowo as MLK pays great tribute to this by revisiting the time leading up to the famed voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. More recently the HBO film "All The Way" starring Anthony Mackie as Dr. King and Bryan Cranston (Walter White of Breaking Bad fame) as LBJ was a fantastic revisiting of the struggle to see the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through a very divided congress. I highly recommend both, especially when it gets mild again  and we are in dire need of a distraction from the less than ideal skiing situation.

That situation is about to get a surprised jolt late Tuesday into Wednesday. I am not sure if an event like this can get the mountain up and running again but it is an astonishing turn of events given the prevailing weather pattern. I mean in the nick of time a confluence area in the jet stream will help to energize a Canadian high pressure center and allow a fresh supply of cold air to work its way into New England. This happens just as a area of moisture associated with a garden-variety low pressure center approaches the eastern Great Lakes. Models had this storm pegged to move well into Quebec but the downstream features in the jet stream discussed above will force this storm to take an abrupt right turn and track closer to New York City. As more data comes in, this storm looks better and better for the spine of the Green Mountains, thanks largely to just enough cold air and the nice looking moist flow of moisture from the Atlantic Ocean we will receive. Snow will begin just around or after dark on Tuesday (Jan 17) and continue at an occasionally moderate clip through the night and into early Wednesday before tapering to flurries. With temperatures now looking to be in the 22-27 degree range on the mountain, the consistency of this snow will NOT be wet and generally be powdery. We also shouldn't see any freezing rain and perhaps only a little sleet at the start. Total accumulations will be in the 5-9 inch category of generally denser powder. What the folks on the mountain decide to do with this is up to them but I am sure they are welcoming it with open arms.

There is much, much, much, much, better news that we will finish this blog entry with. I promise ! Unfortunately, we are still contending with the abomination that is this current weather pattern. Some of the worst of the thawing will actually be felt across the Midwest this week but temperatures will remain above normal in the wake of our Tuesday night/Wednesday snow event approaching or exceeding the freezing mark on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the current week. The possibility of some sleet and freezing rain is possible on Saturday as a wave of moisture slides through the region from west to east. The real worry though is the system early next week which looks to be a real doozy of a storm and will wrap itself up across the Middle Mississippi valley on Sunday the 22nd and in doing so pump some very mild air into New England. This all happening before precipitation arrives early next week. Based on the information available now, the best we can hope for out of this giant storm system is a rain changing to snow situation but it is likely that temperatures rise into the 40's again at some point accompanied by a substantial period of rain.

On to the good news ! The EPO and PNA, two teleconnection indices that are dogging us now will flip by the end of next week. The weather pattern will turn dramatically as a result and we should see much colder weather by the end of the month and some new snow to go along with that. The move toward colder weather will be very gradual next week with temperatures moving below the freezing mark (after a likely thaw) during the middle of the week and getting to within 5 degrees of normal by the end of the week. This is a big improvement though especially considering the fact that there have been a few hints of potential snow just prior to or during the weekend of the 28th and 29th. After that, I would expect temperatures to turn below normal as a ridge in the jet stream builds across western Canada and Alaska, just where we need it.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Wet snow Tuesday night and Wednesday should help keep the high elevations a little wintry in an otherwise mild week

Pattern still looks like garbage for the next 10 days or so. That said, I knew that by going out on a limb and predicting 0-1" of snow for over the next 7 days (my forecast as of last Wednesday), the weather would find a way to prove me wrong. Interestingly, it is actually rare, even in the most god awful patterns, that we get completely shut out on accumulation over the course of a week in the middle of the winter. I have made the forecast on few occasions and noticed that almost every time I do it, I turn out to be wrong. 

So, even though a large ridge in the jet stream prevails across eastern North America, an innocuous storm system will spin its way out of the southern Rockies and head toward New England cutting right through this ridge. The cold air currently in place will grow pretty stale when precipitation arrives very late on Tuesday; in fact, temperatures Tuesday evening will probably be a few degrees above freezing. Temperatures cross sections Tuesday night into Wednesday appear a bit cooler than they have and mixed precipitation and some wet snow is the current projection. We obviously need a lot of snow and much colder weather, but I expect 3-6 sloppy inches across above 2500 feet out of this with precipitation ending Wednesday night. Doesn't look like much in the valley locations but this is a rather impressive fight by winter in an incredibly bad looking set-up. 

The storm responsible for the wet snow and mixed precipitation will close off in the Canadian Maritimes and actually keep our temperatures within 10-15 degrees of average for the balance of the upcoming week after Wednesday. This doesn't sound like much but readings will fall below freezing at night and 35-40 during the day. The spring-like warmth will remain over the Midwest during this period with readings 30-40 degrees above average in the northern Great Lakes. This large blob of  anomalous warmth will drift into Canada by the weekend of the 21st and 22nd as a strong storm system organizes in the southern plains. This storm could be a massive precipitation producer for the east coast but there is a glaring absence of  cold air and most of this precipitation will fall as rain. It is also uncertain as to how much of an impact this storm will have on interior New England. This storm will be the product of a energized sub-tropical jet stream and precipitation might be confined to areas well to the regions south. 

The pattern will gradually turn more favorable in the days following Sunday January 22nd but the key word is gradual, very gradual. Temperatures will likely stay quite mild through around January 24th; after that, both the PNA and EPO turn favorable and seasonable temperature should return and the snow potential starts to rise substantially. By early February, I expect winter to have firm grip on the region and the snow should be piling up once again. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Atrocious outlook through the weekend of the Jan 21-22 but it starts to look better after that

When it was cold this month we missed on a lot of the snow and it has since turned mild and there is little snow on the horizon for the foreseeable future. Winter 2016-17, which got off to such a promising start, has tanked with the new year and though I remain optimistic of a much better February, we are faced with a very tough upcoming 10-14 days.

Wednesday was our first real mild day, a comfortable one, which featured 40-degree temperatures and sunshine. Wednesday night and Thursday will feature sporadic rain and temperatures could climb toward the 50 degree mark on the mountain. We are only expecting about a third of an inch of rain (give or take a tenth) but it will be the continuation of the mild breezes and excessive temperatures that will do the most damage. Colder, arctic air will make a return for the holiday weekend but with very little if any accompanying snowfall. The cold air is actually undercutting the prevailing ridge in the jet stream that has taken up shop along the east coast. This "undercutting" of the cold provides a stabilizing force in the atmosphere and thus greatly reduces the prospects for terrain enhanced snowfall. Temperatures will start Saturday below zero before rising toward 20 by the afternoon. Sunday will be a few degrees warmer and both days will have little wind, lots of visibility but unfortunately little if any new snow.

The dreaded tightening of the jet stream in the Pacific will take place over the weekend and the effects of this will be felt next week. The index that measures this "tightening", the EPO is indicated to be off the charts "positive" by the middle of next week which is nothing short of catastrophic considering there is little to no support for cold coming from any of the other teleconnection indicators. The warm-up will be widespread across much of eastern North America with a large area of much above normal temperatures developing across the Midwest, Northeast and most of eastern Canada. At MRG, temperatures will start the week in the teens but readings will rise above freezing during the afternoon. From there, we are likely to see some limited rainfall in the Tuesday/Wednesday time frame and a continuation of very mild weather for the duration of the week after that. It is the worst 7-10 day outlook we have seen for snowfall all season I am sorry to say.

I did save some good news for last. There are clear signs in the longer term of some improvements in the pattern beginning around the 23rd. The tightening in the jet stream is in fact suppose to be temporary and even the negative PNA which has plagued us now for 3 weeks (4 counting next week) shows signs of shifting course. The pattern shows signs of splitting in the long term and though we do not have the mechanisms present for a massive arctic outbreak, we will have a series of storms. There are indications of a potentially major east coast system between the 22-24 of the month. Most places will be too warm for snow I imagine but interior New England could see some rain to snow situation. If that doesn't materialize into anything, the prospects for both colder weather (at least relative to the next 10 days) and snow start to look a lot better. Sorry for the crap news folks, try and survive the mild onslaught

Monday, January 9, 2017

Big changes for Vermont weather and not many of them good for skiers

Very limited amounts of good news once again and this accompanies a New York Giants playoff lost. Though winter has a firm grip on Vermont and much of the rest of eastern North America, the weather pattern fundamentals going forward look pretty atrocious and the cold will get scoured out of most locations of New England by Wednesday. If there is a small bit of good news, it relates to the upcoming late Tuesday/early Wednesday weather system, yet another in a litany of storms that will track well into Canada. This of course follows the system that slammed eastern Mass with snow yet was a big and a miss for Vermont. Though the track of this upcoming system is less than ideal, it is running into some vary cold air and much of the overrunning moisture will fall in the form of snow beginning late in the ski day Tuesday. The snow will continue sporadically overnight into early Wednesday with temperatures inching closer to the freezing mark. Early on Wednesday, temperatures might inch above the freezing mark and some light rain is possible at lower elevations while a wetter snow persists across the high country. Can't promise a powder day Wednesday but it does look better than 48 hours ago with 2-4 inches of snow falling mostly late on Tuesday. 

I have made mention and many have heard of the epic snows across the Sierra Nevada over the past week. They are a feast or famine location as far as U.S. sking is concerned and went through a series of bad snow years before that was busted last year by the Super Nino. This past week has been beyond epic as far as snow goes and it isn't done yet and is likely to continue for a good part of the rest of the month. Take a look at this forecast from the National Weather Service in Reno. 

Not sure if I have ever seen so many warnings issued for one county. An "avalanche warning", "winter storm warning", and multiple "flash flood warnings". Though some areas saw some rain on Sunday, another 2-plus feet of snow is forecast over the next 48 hours with more to follow beyond that. The weather systems impacting California are not doing Vermont any favors. The energy from the early week California system will push toward the eastern Great Lakes, and like its predecessor, advance into Quebec. There is some cold weather advancing into the U.S. behind this storm but we have little protection in front. It could thus turn into a warm couple days late this week. Temperatures could climb to as high as 50 across valley locations Friday and some rain is likely at all elevations either on Thursday or early Friday. Forecasts right now are for minimal amounts of rain but temperatures and a gusty mild breezes could do some substantial damage to our snowpack. 

Arctic air is expected to reassert some control over the northeast for the holiday weekend with Saturday looking dry and relatively seasonable. Subtropical energy will try and organize itself later in the weekend and advance northeast. It is possible that frozen precipitation could be the end result of this on Sunday or more likely on Monday but models are not providing agreement on the idea of precipitation as of yet or the idea that the precipitation will fall as snow and not sleet or freezing rain. 

There is much better agreement regarding a major northward retreat of the polar jet. This takes place around MLK day and arctic air is expected to have a very limited influence over New England in the days that follow. For a period of at least a week, all forms of blocking at high latitudes vanish and the combination of a tightened jet in the Pacific and a continued negative PNA will continue to pound the west coast with all kinds of weather. The possibility for another thaw across Vermont is also considerably high. As we get closer to January 20th, the pattern looks increasingly stormy though not particularly cold. The right set of circumstances could provide some excitement because of the storminess but the cards are stacked against us given the upcoming set up. We need some fundamental changes and we might not get them until very late in the month or even in early February. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Outlook takes a bad turn for Vermont skiing but there is a chance to save MLK weekend

To be perfectly candid, there's not a lot of positive news on this first Friday of 2017. First, the terrain enhanced snow that we had hoped would redeem the wintry mix from a few days ago never really materialized. That is certainly a bust I have to fess up to before discussing anything else. Though the cold is firmly entrenched across New England, this grip will become substantially more tenuous next week and the various indices are not expected to move in a good direction beyond that.

In the short term, a significant winter weather producer across the southeast will evolve into snow producer for eastern Virginia Saturday and move off the coast over and pass over 100 miles east of Cape Cod. The system might bring snow to the Cape and Islands but will not bring its moisture to interior sections of New England. Saturday will just turn out to be dry and chilly with excellent visibility and temperatures in the teens. Light winds will make conditions tolerable for January. On Sunday, temperatures will be similar and a weaker weather disturbance will bring some light snow to the region during the ski day. About an inch or two is the most we can expect from this followed by a chilly Sunday night.

We could also see some more snow thanks to some overrunning moisture as warm air begins to erode at the cold across the U.S. from southwest to northeast. Sporadic periods of light snow should be expected between late Monday and most of Tuesday into Tuesday night. Most of the accumulation from this will be Tuesday night just before things take another potential adverse turn in Vermont.

Indications were that we were slowly headed in the right direction again in spite of the persistently negative PNA. Over the last two days, the big development in the forecast models and ensembles has been the expected tightening of the jet stream in the Pacific. Anybody that has followed the blog over the last several seasons might understand how much I absolutely loathe a tightened and energetic Pacific jet stream. I call these features the "evil empire" so the connotation should not confuse anybody. The index that most closely measures the pattern in the Pacific is the Eastern Pacific Oscillation or EPO. This index, when negative indicates a loose jet in the Pacific and typically allows for arctic cold to penetrate a good portion of the northern United States in January. A tightened jet in the Pacific or positive EPO scours much of the cold out of the United States. Much of the effects of this forecasted positive shift in the EPO is forecasted in the last several runs of the ensembles. Much of the eastern two-thirds of the country will be on the mild side of average and arctic cold will have a very limited influence on much of the U.S. including New England.

In terms of actual weather we already have one potential ice to rain situation for this upcoming Wednesday. This follows the snowfall we are expecting late on Tuesday. Now through most of next week, arctic air is close enough to keep it a little interesting. In spite of this however, temperatures are still expected to climb above freezing Wednesday the 11th. Another systems will follow for later in the week and this also appears to be another precarious situation.

The late week system has a bit more arctic air in the vicinity but the cold needs to be in place or at least available to create a good snow situation for us going into MLK weekend. This is likely going to be the last surge of cold before the arctic chill makes that retreat caused by the aforementioned shifting in the Pacific jet stream. How it interacts with the late week storm or any system that might follow for the end of MLK weekend remains to be seen but at least snow is not out of the question. It is beyond MLK weekend where conditions really start to look mild for New England allowing for the possibility of a dreaded January thaw sometime between January 18th and 25th.

Meanwhile the rich get richer in Lake Tahoe. The last storm ending early Thursday dumped 50-80 inches most of the ski areas there. In typical Tahoe fashion however, many of the lifts were closed due to wind holds and even some of the roads were shut down because of avalanche danger.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Winter returns to Vermont but just not in a big way, at least not yet

Our first big storm of 2017 didn't produce the epic powder we would've liked but it came back from the dead to help solidify what is already a decent foundation. Colder air is in the process of enveloping eastern North America and  well below freezing temperatures are ready to dominate the region for a stretch of several days. This particular outbreak of arctic air will fall a little short of the one which impacted Vermont in December but not by too much. Unfortunately we are still contending with some problematic variables in the outlook beyond a week and although we might continue to find some narrow pathways through the "thornier looking thickets" it would be nice if we could improve our spectrum of possibilities for a stretch of time.

In the short term we have some snow. Not as much as we might like, but the occasional bursts of snow from terrain enhanced snow showers on Wednesday night into Thursday and Thursday night is likely going to produce a couple of inches. My best guess is for 2-5 inches in this time frame with the highest amounts above mid-station. That said, the snow might organize into some streaming bands from Lake Ontario which leaves open the possibilities for some lucky bigger totals.

The period beginning Friday and stretching through the weekend to Monday looks chilly but generally free of substantial snowfall. The polar jet is pushing what was once a promising looking stationary front well to our south. This boundary of airmasses will be the catalyst for one snow producing system on Friday across the Mid-Atlantic and then another bigger coastal system that will impact parts of the Virginia Tidewater Saturday. Cape Cod might get in on this action Saturday night but the pattern will become too overwhelmed by cold weather to allow this storm to have an impact on a broader part of the northeast.

This brings us to next week and multitude of forces that will be counteracting each other during what looks to be another tenuous period for Vermont ski country. We have talked about the negative PNA which has been focusing the cold weather and snowfall on western North America. If you want proof of that, take a look at some of the epic snowfall totals from Tahoe over the next several days from two successive winter storms. Some of the models are suggesting upwards of 5 feet for the Sierra. The Wasatch will perform quite admirably also. Cold weather and snow across the west can spell trouble across the east and it has on a few occasions already. Interestingly however, ensembles are also keying in on a large blocking ridge which will develop over the Bering Sea and migrate over Alaska. This feature appears substantially larger in stature over the last two days and it will help to flood most of Canada with arctic cold and keep it there through the week. Will this feature help to keep arctic air in Vermont through next week ? The 2nd of the two big Tahoe storms will make its way across the country during the middle of the week and make an attempt at tracking up through Canada. The big Alaskan blocking feature will need to help force this system southward and keep the arctic cold entrenched over Vermont.

The negative PNA is indicated to finally weaken and breakdown just beyond the midpoint of January. High latitude blocking is also expected to diminish however and the polar jet is shown to retreat somewhat across all of the United States.  The ensembles at face value show much of New England to have a warmer than average look but not excessively warm. Cold is expected to reassert some minimal control over the region late next week and a weaker weather system might bring some snowfall to the region just prior to the MLK holiday weekend.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Tuesday/Wednesday system looks colder but still coming up a little short of snow

We are mounting one heck of a 4th quarter comeback on our upcoming storm, the first big precipitation producer of 2017. There was a plan in place for much of the energy associated with this storm to track well into Canada, setting the stage for a influx of mild air and some rain.  Subtropical or southern branch energy has been an undervalued asset during the last few weather systems and the models have struggled to catch on until late in the ball game. In this case, the southern branch component of this system will ultimately absorb most of the energy with this storm and by early Wednesday, a signifcant low pressure center will have developed off Cape Cod.  All that said, we are still behind and don't have a lot of cold air to work with. Temperatures between 6000 and 10000 feet in the atmosphere were orginally expected to warm to as much as 45 Tuesday night into early Wednesday and we are down 8 degrees to about 37. A few more and we might at least have an elevation event to talk about. For now however the forecast is for a cold rain and some ice. This should develop during the day Tuesday with bulk of the precipitation falling Tuesday night. Temperatures will generally hover between 32 and 35 throughout the storm. It's getting close but we actually need this system to deepen a little more aggressively late on Tuesday if we want to see the snow.

Temperatures will work their way back down toward the freezing mark during the day Wednesday and we should see a few bursts of snow. The snow showers will continue through much of the day Thursday and within this time frame some elevation sensitive accumulation is certainly possible. I'll call it a few inches right now but we will reevaluate the situation in a few days.

Both major ensembles underwent a major shift regarding the weather for the upcoming weekend. We had discussed a possible storm in the previous posts but the polar jet appears much stronger now and seems intent on overwhelming the pattern with a decent outbreak of cold. Nothing wrong with that although we could use a little snow to go along with it. I think some might be possible during the weekend from a clipper like system or weak disturbance but a major storm appears a lot less likely under these circumstances. Still we will remain on the lookout, there remain a few indications that an east coast storm is still possible for somebody over the weekend. Right now, Vermont would not be the favored location.

In spite of the changes to short term and the upcoming weekend, the longer range outlook is still plagued with this negative PNA regime. The PNA or Pacific North American oscillation index, when negative, tends to favor both the cold and the snow across western North America. This has been an issue for a few weeks and seems likely to prevail through mid January. That said, other teleconnection indices have moved more favorably in our direction and will allow cold air to compete for territory. We've seen this situation before that sometimes we don't want the pattern to get "too" favorable because the storm track can often shift too far south. It certainly won't be in this case and I would again think it likely that we see a significant snow event before the middle of the month while also keeping the possibility for a brief thaw and some ice and rain.