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Friday, April 30, 2021

Winter 2020-2021 review - What could have been !

 The 2020-2021 ski season was certainly compromised as a result of the ongoing Covid19 pandemic but we still had one at Mad River Glen and we thank the efforts of all staff members that helped make that possible. On the weather side of things it was interesting because it almost always is.. We had two big east coast storms, a historic and very damaging cold wave in Texas and a persistently negative Arctic Oscillation yet in the case of northern Vermont, I can best summarize using 4 words. What could have been ! 

As expected, the winter was dominated by a moderate La Nina. It strengthened very quickly in autumn but SST's in key regions of the equatorial Pacific leveled off at about 1C above average and then began to fade late in the winter. Also as expected, the sea surface temperature configuration in the Pacific did create a weather pattern that was dominated by a strong Pacific jet stream which proved to be a mostly invariable force throughout the winter. The more dramatic and less expected distinction relates to the aforementioned Arctic Oscillation. Recall that the winter 2019-2020 was dominated by a very positive AO, one of the strongest recorded in the last 75 years, averaging an index over+2 over a 4 month period beginning in December and ending in March. Over the same period 2020-21, we saw an average AO of -.82 and the very positive AO we saw just recently in March blunted what would have been an even stronger negative number. More than anything else, it was the negative AO which helped daytime temperatures in the MRV average 2 degrees colder during the recent ski season than the season prior. This is not an insignificant figure over a 4 month period and really should have resulted in more snow across the Vermont high country. The stake at Mt Mansfield doesn't lie however. The snow season started below average and never caught up and quite honestly, I chalk it up to whole lot of bad luck. It simply should have been better given the selection of ingredients available to us. I'll expand on this point more when we review what happened in February. 

November of 2020 bore no resemblance whatsoever to what we saw during Snowvember 2018 or even last year. We started mild, we finished mild and the minimal snow we saw in between melted by the start of December. There was almost no support for early season winter weather in November across New England but the AO made the critical turn early in December and this began a long period of time where high latitude blocking effectively suppressed surges of more intense milder temperatures (with one exception). Interestingly, the blocking was largely confined to an area that included Greenland, the Davis Strait, the Labrador Sea and portions of the Hudson Bay. Having such a large block in relative close global proximity to New England actually prevented eastern significant amounts of Arctic cold from impacting eastern North America; nonetheless, it was enough to finally bring a stretch of sub-freezing temperatures to the northern Vermont high country beginning around December 5. The coldest stretch of days occurred in the middle of the month out in advance of what was the first of two major winter storms for New York and New England. Initially forecasts kept the storm south of Vermont but hopes were kept alive by the "northward shift" possibility, which specifically refers to a medium range model bias that overly limits the impact of nor'easters on interior New England. The bias is real and it happened again, as forecasts began shifting the track of the storm northward and higher resolution models began pinpointing the presence of a massive pivoting band of snow within the storm near the Vermont/ Mass border. Man, did we get close ! The MRV missed what could have been some historic snow by maybe 50 or so miles. In Vermont, the band concentrated in a line from near Granville east to Windsor, Vermont and produced as much as 50 inches of snow with high amounts recorded even in areas that often get screwed because of unfavorable oragraphy. It was frustrating to miss on some terrific early season powder by very little but it foreshadowed much of what became some very bad luck in northern Vermont that plagued us throughout the season. The storm did showcase the material improvements in higher resolution modeling, specifically how forecast data was able to indicate the presence of the pivoting heavy snow band. Ski areas such as Magic Mountain and Okemo certainly got a chance to bask in the glory of this storm for several days. Further north, we managed to build a 6-10 inch that seemed to accompany a growing sense of doom as the forecast for Xmas deteriorated. 

Christmas was indeed a disaster but guess who had it on the bingo card back in October when Vermont Ski and Ride came calling for an outlook ! I got extremely scientific with this prognostication going with the theory that 2020 was full of piss and vinegar so why should Christmas be any different. The storm was absolutely a freakish occurrence given the weather pattern by getting caught in the jet stream blocking in eastern Canada rather than tunnelling underneath as most storms do in those circumstances. It was windy, it was mild and our snow was all but gone by December 26th. It was a terrible but fitting way to end a not so great kind of year. 

The start of 2021 brought almost instantaneous improvement to Mad River Glen. High latitude blocking in the jet stream finally began to score some victories with the first coming from a very garden variety storm that moved from the lower Mississippi Valley to southern New England late on New Years Day. Steady snow fell across much of Vermont and much of ski country in the northern part of the state scored 6-12 inches. Much of what fell ended up staying on the ground through early March thanks largely to the persistently negative Arctic Oscillation. Interestingly, however, eastern North American remained largely devoid of intense arctic chill as the plethora of high latitude blocking structures, were, for a time, closing pathways for polar air to move from the Eurasian Continent. That would eventually change but for much of January, Vermont manage to experience a very impressive streak of sub-freezing temperatures that were, at the same time, above normal. Following the early month snow, a stretch of dry weather persisted for over a week and temperatures remained rather comfortable, staying mostly in the 20's and low 30's and never really falling below zero. We began to see signs of a storm for the MLK holiday but with the cold weather holding a very tenuous grip on New England and the Christmas fiasco still fresh in my mind, I will admit some apprehension. It ultimately looked apparent that the storm would not follow the same fate as the one on Christmas Day. The initial storm occluded over in Iowa and the main precipitation producing storm reformed over New York City early Saturday. Though the snow consistency wasn't optimal everywhere, the storm was the best event of the season with over a foot falling across the high country surrounding the MRV. Colder weather in the ensuing week along with several small accumulating snow events made for some terrific conditions and that persisted through the rest of the month even though the MLK storm was the last to impact the state for the remainder of the month. As for the arctic cold, it finally showed up in New England on the last few days of January with temperatures dropping to as low as -20 in spots on Saturday January 31st. 

February 2021 is a month that will be long-remembered and not necessarily for the right reasons in some parts of the country. For the ski areas in northern Vermont, I consider the outcome quite unfortunate since the chess board appeared set up for an absolutely glorious stretch of winter and the results were rather ordinary at best with our rain-less, thaw-less streak ending late in the month. The 2nd of the the season's 2 big nor'easters struck on February 1st and 2nd as a classic Miller B type event with a Midwest storm transitioning its energy and moisture to what would become a much stronger coastal system. Indeed it was very strong storm and proved to be an epic event for the NYC metro with upwards of 2 feet falling in some suburbs. Snow did reach most of northern Vermont but accumulations were very garden variety and fell short of even some modest expectations. The snow that did fall was nonetheless a welcome addition to a 5-week stretch of sub-freezing, rain/ice-free weather and the week that followed was a productive one with small accumulations of snow making the first full weekend of the month, one of the best of the season. It was a point in the season where everything looked as if it was going to come up roses as the Pacific jet appeared to be finally relaxing allowing the persistent blocking at high latitudes to win the day and the month. What was even more encouraging was the continued presence of a La Nina-style southeast ridge; which, appeared ready to steer multiple storms in our direction as oppose to a confining the impact to coastal areas. Normally, I would embrace this setup and do so enthusiastically fully expecting epic results. 

The weakening Pacific jet was as an absolutely critical occurrence and indeed allowed the blocking at high latitudes to produce an highly amplified pattern capable of producing a cold wave of historic proportions across the Texas, Oklahoma other parts of the middle of the country. Arctic air began its southward advance around February 7th, initially affecting northern latitudes including Vermont. By the weekend of Valentines Day however, the pattern would become even more amplified allowing very extreme cold to make a full on assault on portions of the Gulf Coast. As the cold continued to look more intense in Texas, it was gradually appearing less intense across New England and expectations began to shift from bone-chilling cold to a more defensive posture of fending off surges of milder air. The third week of February, you know the one that includes the holiday looked like a could be a 2-storm type of week and ended up being a wide-left and a wide right form if ugliness. The first storm late Monday into Tuesday involved a big push of mild air and had lots of moisture but an initial, decent burst of snow turned to sleet and ice. The 2nd on Thursday, Feb 18th, made a southward shift in the days leading up to the event and resulted in little to no snow in northern Vermont. The month ended with a muted thaw but and it was a microcosm of a month that should've been better. 

And while Vermont was glazing over with ice or getting bested by coastal cities on snow, Texas was freezing in darkness. The cold wave sent temperatures to -14 in Oklahoma City which is about as cold as the MRV got all winter. Readings were below zero as far south as Dallas/Ft Worth and a low as 10 degrees in some outlying suburbs of the Houston Metro. The intensity and duration of the cold wave stretched an already flawed electricity market in Texas, overseen by ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) beyond its breaking point. Much has been written and politicized about a weather event that proved more impactful than multiple high category  hurricanes making landfall at once.  Though I don't operate within the ERCOT sphere, the power markets remain part of my home turf and it was disappointing to see misconceptions made by familiar characters in the aftermath of the event. The most common one involved laying the blame at the feet of renewable sources of energy such as wind which supply Texas with a critical amount of electricity throughout the year. Texas, in fact, leads the nation in wind generation, a source of electricity that many cold weather climates rely on in high demand periods and do so successfully. The Texas market however does not operate with the necessary incentives to seamlessly operate during high load events and especially during historic cold waves. When the postmortem assessments are completed, they will almost assuredly show how dangerously vulnerable the grid was to a historic cold wave and that planning for such an event was very poor with a limited sample size of data used to make an adequate risk assessment. Texas, more than any other region, is susceptible to gas freeze offs which effectively shuts off vital supplies of  natural gas to power plants when they need it most. Wind, could have provided Texas with a critical backstop but ERCOT failed to provide generators with the proper incentives to winterize their wind generation which is commonly done for wind generators farther north. ERCOT also operates with a reserve margin that is considerably lower, often less than 10 percent during high demand periods, than our market (NEPOOL) in New England which is typically closer to 30 percent. A  less than 10 percent reserve margin in a region of the country that can experience very volatile weather and energy demand is not a market structure that ensures reliability and is instead hoping for a combination of luck (which always runs out) and market forces (which have a funny habit of conspiring against John Q Consumer at the worst time) to operate successfully.  Don't let anyone tell you differently, the situation in Texas in February was a miserable embarrassment for free-market advocates who can wax poetic about how all of this serves the consumer. It serves no one to freeze in the dark, which millions did for a span of several days.

The milder turn the weather pattern took in late February continued into March. The AO which helped power the widespread cold outbreak in February abruptly turned positive in late February and stayed positive through March and when combined with a still active Pacific Ocean jet stream helped make for a rather torchy and surprisingly dry month. That said, winter tried to make a last stand in New England and Vermont was one of a select few states to see a sustained stretch of winter early in the month including a day, on March 2nd where temperatures struggled into the teens. Fittingly however, Vermont saw a very limited amount of snow when it was cold. The high country did see a few decent snow squall events but at no time do we see snow from an organized weather system. Ski country did see some excellent weather for spring skiing however. By my count, the MRV got to experience 7 days of near 60-degree, sunshiney weather which is unusual for us and gave skiers several days of healthy spring conditions. Too much of a good thing can present a problem for MRG lift service however and all of that warmth ended the official season on April 3rd. 

April followed with more surprisingly pleasant spring weather in Vermont but this was rudely interrupted on April 15 by an elevation snow event which brought some heavy snow to the same portions of central and southern Vermont that seemed to get much of the best snow all winter. Another even colder event on April 21/22 brought snow to the northern Vermont high country and helped make April a snowier month than March in spite of a lot of warm weather. 

Years ago, a very experienced and seasoned forecaster shared with me his feelings about what was going to happen during the upcoming summer of 1999. He was a believer that the 11-year sunspot cycle could be correlated with the North American weather pattern. The 11 year sunspot cycle refers to the oscillating measure of observed solar activity where it takes 11 years to complete one full cycle. There are peaks and troughs of such activity with the most recent peak occurring around 2014 and a trough having occurred very recently. He never did actually sell me as to why and how the correlation exists but he pointed out how hot and dry summers have occurred in the same point of each cycle stretching back (at the time ) of 50 years. 1955, 1966, 1977, 1988 were all hot and dry with a high activity of tropical cyclones. The forecaster nailed the 1999 summer forecast and though I never was completely sold on the sunspot link, the verification stuck with me and I remembered it going into the summer of 2010. Once again it was hot and dry. So, if you made it this far in the review and in the paragraph, you can probably see where I am going with this. 

I won't sell folks on the idea that the sunspot cycle is a predictor of a prevailing weather pattern. I really don't know. I do believe however, as many of you know, that the weather pattern can provide tells as to future weather. I've watched many dry weather patterns in spring lead to hot and dry summers. We've had some precipitation in April and some more is on the way in the upcoming week but we've been running deficits for several months with the biggest occurring in March. Unless we get a wet May that cuts into the building precipitation deficits however, count me as someone that believes a very hot and dry summer is on the way. Yeah, this kind of thing is a little too anecdotal and might need a scientific infusion but I have a sentimental weakness for some of that stuff and it was a good way to end another season of blogging. 

Hope everyone made the best of the season under some trying circumstances. Hope everyone enjoys their summer and we will talk again late next fall !!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Melt most of our snow, open Rt 108 to Smuggs and like magic, the heaviest accumulating snow event for the high country appears !

We are about halfway through April 2021 and daytime temperatures are averaging almost 8 degrees higher than all of April 2020. The outlook for the coming 10 days does look a bit cooler relative to average and won't include another succession of 70-degree temperatures but it won't change a final outcome of a warm and dry month. The latter characteristic is of growing concern going into a summer that I already expect will be on the dry side. I don't update the blog in mid-April for dry weather however, I update for snow and a storm that could prove to bring the largest accumulating snow of the season to Sugarbush and Mad River Glen this season. And it wouldn't be right if it didn't involve another late inning northward shift. 

We are obviously way out of our climatological winter and the storm in question is not working with any impressive area of polar chill.  But this is an impressive storm and a supportive, very blocked weather pattern and we have a northward shift so its game on. As of Wednesday (April 14), we already have a closed upper level low slowly advancing eastward out of the western Great Lakes and now feel very good about an infusion of sub-tropical synoptic energy early Thursday. Temperatures will still be mild for most of Thursday across the MRV and all of Vermont for that matter but as the storm phases and deepens throughout the day, it will manufacture its own kind of cold air, the kind that allows it to snow in mid-April. So, we can expect rain during the afternoon and evening hours and then start seeing some snow, first at high elevations and eventually even at lower elevations during the evening hours, just as it begins to get dark. The best zone for snow is in Vermont but still appears to be in central and southern Vermont and into the Berkshires for now. This favorable snow zone however has been shifting north with each succession of model runs however and the MRV high country is only about 40-50 miles away from the bullseye zone as of Wednesday afternoon.

Because the cold air is very "storm manufactured", the snow will be very gloppy in nature, even at high elevations. Atmospheric cross-sections reveal very little change in temperature with elevation but there will be some (heck there is always some). Taking some of the high res data at face value would indicate that temperatures Friday morning are 32-34 below 1500 feet and maybe 28-30 above 3000 feet. So, we could at least get close to some drier snow if one can themselves up toward the summits. The snow Thursday night into Friday is no joke however. Can you believe this could be the biggest accumulating snow event of the season ? I will never not welcome such a storm but there's a little SMH in all this since we just saw one of the earliest Rt 108 >Smuggs opening in a while and are currently working with very limited open skiable terrain in VT. Mother nature doesn't care however, it will do what it wants to do. In valley locations up to the base of MRG this appears to be a 4-12 inch event, but above 2000 feet, 10-20 inches is looking more and more likely. In this best "snow zone" across central and southern Vermont, upwards of 2 feet or more appears likely in some of the high elevation areas. The snow is expected to be heaviest early Friday morning and taper off to snow showers or snow flurries by late Friday afternoon. 

The storm will also put an end to a rather impressive run of mild weather that we saw through much of early April. The weather pattern appears to be a bit more unsettled generally and more seasonable on the temperatures side. This essentially means a bunch of sub-freezing nights and above freezing days. The upcoming storm will  help with our precipitation deficit and models indicate that we could sea a bit more in the next 10 days though there are no glaring indications of heavy rain or snow after Friday. 

Enjoy the spring snow

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

April Fools storm update and a cooler outlook for the first two weeks of the month

 So, one of the better snow events over the past month continues to headline the forecast for the start of April. The outlook for the first 2 weeks of the month generally continues to cool but the April 1-3 period is almost certainly going to be the coldest, most wintry period of the month with not just snow but powder snow falling not only over the high country but low lying locations as well. 

Mild weather and some much needed rain is expected for Wednesday evening. Many locations in northern Vermont are still below an inch of for the month and running deficits now can cause problems later in the summer. The rain Wednesday evening should place many of those same locations above an inch for the month but of more significance is a regenerated area of low pressure that is expected to take shape near Cape Cold early Thursday as temperatures turn abruptly colder in Vermont. Looking at some atmospheric soundings, rain could actually turn to a period of sleet during the morning and then moderate to occasionally heavy snow during the midday and afternoon hours. Temperatures will drop close to the freezing mark during the morning but continue to fall during the afternoon supporting the aforementioned colder snow consistency throughout the MRV. The steady snow will taper to snow showers Thursday night and I still like the of a 4-8 inch grand total by Friday morning at Mad River Glen and Sugarbush. From Stowe, northward to Jay Peak, 6-10 inches appears more likely. Friday is a blustery, cold almost January-like day with temperatures in the teens during the morning and mostly in the twenties during the day, in spite of some sunny intervals. You never say never in northern New England but I would guess Friday is the last true sub-freezing day we see this winter. The outlook does look colder as I mentioned beyond April 3 but not that cold. 

We can expect some strong winds of 20-30 mph across high elevations late Thursday and into Friday and although that will subside over the weekend, the wind will not die out altogether. Temperatures are also expected to moderate more gradually, only readings the high 30's Saturday and 40's on Sunday. Our expected weather pattern has shifted a little thanks to the reemergence of an old friend, a blocking structure across the Labrador Sea and Davis Strait region. This is similar to a feature that dominated the weather pattern for 6 weeks in December and through a good part of January this past year. In this case, storms are expected to tunnel underneath this structure and the question relates to what particular region of mid-latitude North America gets impacted by such storminess. It could be northern New England which would mean perhaps an elevation sensitive snowfall and some needed precipitation or it could be further south impacting the Mid-Atlantic states. In either case, the weather looks cooler in Vermont though not necessarily cold. A storm is retrograde westward late this weekend into early next week, ultimately positioning itself south of Nova Scotia Monday and Tuesday before finally being swept eastward. The presence of this feature will keep wind and some cloudiness over Vermont in this period and will also keep temperatures generally in the 40's most days. Storminess, if we get it, could arrive by late in the week but models are very split on that idea. It looked unlikely in the last update however, at least through April 9 and it's at least possible now. Beyond April 9th, much of eastern North America looks normal to cool which is certainly a change relative to what was expected in early April a week ago. 

Going to do one more general update (unless a storm shows up) early next week so I'll wish everyone a happy Easter now and thanks for the outpouring a well wishes in the last update. Was very surprised to see so many responses there and I certainly appreciate it.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Winter set to deliver us one more big blast late this week following a mild Tuesday/Wednesday

 The snow was flying once again early Monday across the northern Vermont high country accompanied by strong northwest winds and it won't be the last time we see these types of weather conditions this week. That said, the strong dose of spring last week was a bit too much for the snowpack on the mountain to endure and lift operations at MRG have come to a close for 2021. Though the outlook has trended a little colder for early April, with interior New England perhaps one of the few regions of the country that could experience winter weather over the next week, there isn't evidence of a "bring us back from the dead" type of storm in the outlook. If you miss real winter weather however, you will get at least one good last shot late Thursday into Friday and it won't just be wet gloppy, spring snow. 

In the near term, we will see a classic March roller coaster ride. The wind and cold is here Monday and gone by midday Tuesday, displaced by calmer winds, sunshine and temperatures near 60. Another warm day is set to follow for Wednesday though we can expect clouds to be on the increase and rain to arrive late in the day along with brisk southerly winds.  The surge of cold late this week though is impressive and early April is known for such a wide variety of weather conditions almost anywhere in the northeast. The mild Wednesday temperatures will linger into Wednesday night and even into very early Thursday as another 0.25-0.50 of rain falls across northern Vermont. Colder air then arrives quite dramatically with temperatures nosediving into the 20's during the day Thursday and even into the teens across the high country by late in the day. Along with those falling temperatures, we will see gusty northwest winds and snowfall. Once again we have a late-blooming coastal system that is responsible for a good part of our expected weather conditions late Thursday. If we can get this system energized and more organized a bit sooner, we might see more impressive amounts of snow but for now it looks like a 4-8 inch situation above 2000 feet  by Friday morning with lesser amounts in the valley. I might point out however that the snow consistency will be powdery and should stay that way through most of a sub-freezing and windy day Friday, a day when snow showers could actually continue through most of the ski day. 

The outlook going forward has shifted to the colder side for the early part of April. Mild air is still expected to dominate much of North America but those warmer temperatures are shown to impact northern New England less, and portions of the mid-continent more. In spite of that, sustaining sub-freezing temperatures is very difficult this time of the year and after a very winter-like day Friday, readings should again reach 40 degrees on both weekend days. Disagreement has then emerged with the European showing a sizable and stagnated weather system over the Canadian martimes keeping the weather both cool and somewhat unsettled throughout New England while the American is showing a more progressive and milder outlook beginning late this weekend and extending through much of next week. Using the Canadian ensembles as the tiebreaker here, one would have to favor the cooler and slightly more unsettled outlook in the April 4-9 time frame but in either case, there is no major precipitation producer indicated through April 9 aside from the rain/snow indicated for late Wednesday into Thursday of this week. 

With Mad River closing lift operations, I have about enough energy for 1-2 more updates before we conclude with an end of season summary. Covid restrictions certainly hurt my ski day count this year but our 1 month old daughter had plenty of demands also and kept me pretty busy. Hope everyone enjoyed the season and I will extend my thanks to all the operational staff for making a season possible.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Potential snow event early next week belly flops but at least we get some much needed rain

The weather this month is proving yet again that March is the time for the widest variety of weather conditions. It feels as if it's been pretty mild especially considering the glaring lack of snowfall or any kind of "fall" but temperatures are still just a touch below average thanks to 2 days where readings failed to break the 15 degree mark. So March 2021 will likely turn out relatively close to average including the aforementioned bitterly cold mid-winter type days and a day (Thursday, March 25th) where readings approached 70. May of last year continues to fascinate me and why not. We saw a day, May 9th, where temperatures remained sub-freezing across the northern Vermont high country and we also saw 90 degrees 18 days later in the MRV. May of 2020 is also likely to go down as a snowier month at MRG than this month with the potential storm early next week looking more like a belly flop, SMH. Though I would certainly hesitate to call this winter season a bad one, I will always remember it as a giant "what could have been". 

As mentioned we have also been exceptionally dry this month and we manage to miss out on more rainfall late Wednesday leaving many places with less than a quarter of an inch for the month. I know this is a concern for many outside of our skiing and recreational life as we enter the growing season. Fortunately, the month, for all its lackluster performance on snowfall, will finish on the wetter side with two decent rainfall events. The first tomorrow, stems from the powerful severe weather producing system in the southeast. As a weather enthusiast in college, I found the tornado outbreak of 1974 known as the "Super outbreak" to be utterly fascinating and this setup has many similarities. Being that we will remain in the warm air tomorrow, we could also see thunderstorms on Friday though models suggest much of our rainfall (0.25-0.50) comes from lighter rain as cooler temperatures begin to ooze southward Friday evening. 

Saturday appears to be a very ho hum late March day. Temperatures will get cold enough to firm things up across the highest elevations but temperatures should remain generally above freezing below 2500 feet as clouds give way to limited amounts of sunshine. More cloudiness is then expected for Sunday as the main weather producing storm in this outlook gathers strength. This had the potential to be a snow producer but the pattern will simply not allow this storm to phase along the coast where it would need to. Instead, an elongated area of low pressure will consolidate over interior New England and temperatures will simply not be cold enough to support snow, even across the highest elevations. We should, however, see a decent amount of rainfall, as much an an inch late in the day Sunday into Sunday evening. Snow showers are then possible Monday morning but this is of little consolation. 

Any snow early Monday begins what will be a very typical and tumultuous week of temperature swings. Some cold weather Monday into early Tuesday gives way to milder weather late Tuesday into Wednesday. Ensembles have now converged on the idea that we get a rather impressive push of cold to start April (Thursday-Saturday April 1-3) but there are no indications of significant snow yet and the pattern does not support sustained cold. By April 4-5, another round of spring-like weather is likely to begin.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Even with near record breaking warmth Thursday, legitimate storm/snowfall potential has emerged for early next week

As far as non-powdery weather goes, it's hard to beat what happened on Sunday when a full dose of late March sunshine boosted temperatures to 60 degrees in valley areas and 50's across the high country.  At the risk of telling folks what is already well known, we can go long stretches during the spring without weather like this and we've gotten a bunch of it this March including Monday (today) Tuesday and most of Wednesday. Winter it seems, has made a decisive retreat with much of this week looking very warm and the first several days of April also looking very warm. The one exception to the warm outlook would be the last three days of March; when, a surge of colder temperatures now has some accompanying big storm potential. More on that in a bit. 

Ahead of any cold weather during the early part of next week comes comes even milder weather at the end of this week. The sunshine and warm afternoons have been magnificent but could also be described as garden variety early spring warmth. Balmier, tropical-like temperatures will build across the southeast early this week and make a very impressive push northward late this week. A warm front marking the advance of this more intense version of warmth will bring clouds to the region late Wednesday and a few hours of much needed rain Wednesday evening.   If the clouds break on Thursday as models now suggest then El Torchy will envelop all of Vermont in record-breaking style with temperatures soaring to near 70 degrees in low lying areas (away from the chilled Lake Champlain),  and well into the 60's even at 2000 feet. El Torchy will also keep temperatures mostly in the 50's Thursday night into early Friday  when at that time a significant weather system from our southwest brings clouds and rainfall to all of northern New England. 

Colder Canadian air will be trying to work its way southward during the weather event on Friday leaving temperatures a bit uncertain during the day. Those colder temperatures, which will arrive early Saturday a the latest are only likely to bring temperatures back to sub-freezing levels above 2500 feet or so with readings hovering closer at 2000 feet or less. Readings will fall back to sub-freezing levels Saturday night as the pattern puts the pieces in place for one more big March amplification late on Sunday and into Monday. 

The situation early next week does not include any widespread surge of arctic cold but rather two benign looking weather disturbances that appear poised for a major league phase along the northeast coast on Monday, March 29th. I was skeptical when seeing hints of this over the weekend but the idea of a big storm now has support from all three major ensemble packages with uncertainly relating more to the track/positioning of the phased and rapidly intensifying storm early Monday. So yes, the situation early next week could all fall apart as many of the big storm setups have for northern Vermont this year but I will venture to say that it will be the track of the storm that would fail us rather than the presence of said storm. If a phased storm bombs either right on top of us or too far to our south (as a few have this year) we would certainly end up on the short end of the snowfall measuring stick. I will also point out that El Torchy will put a massive dent in our snowpack Thursday and will leave conditions pretty thin in many places this weekend. North-facing and shady locations can survive sunshine, calm winds and low dewpoints even when temperatures are warm but the airmass this Thursday will have higher dewpoints and some stronger snow-eating winds.  

More warmth is also showing up in the outlook for early April, powered by the suddenly continued presence of a positive AO. The +AO can have an early April bash as far as I am concerned so long as it retreats by next winter.                                                                                                                                                         

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Winter appears ready for a major retreat following one last blustery/chilly Friday

 Less than a tenth of an inch of mixed precipitation fell Thursday morning, adding very little to what has been a very dry month so far and a mostly snowless one as well. Plug the forecast in for the next two weeks and not much will change. Most of next week looks very dry and warm and though the last 5 days of the month (beginning Saturday March 27th) appear cooler and a bit more unsettled, there are no indications of a return to mid-winter conditions or a big storm. 

The big severe weather producing storm that ravaged parts of the south with a tornado outbreak Wednesday night will get suppressed by a quicker moving polar jet disturbance. The two weather features are not in phase and thus another potential big winter storm goes by the wayside. Though this has been anticipated for several days, it is no less frustrating for those hoping for the big March storm we've become accustomed to. Friday could be one of the final mostly sub-freezing days of the season with gusty north winds (15-30 mph) and temperatures remaining in the 20's. Those that appreciate the sunshine and excellent visibility should be happy with Friday, the start of what we expect to be succession of very sunny March days. 

Temperatures will moderate as the weekend progresses. Winds will soften a bit for Saturday as temperatures rise toward the 40 degree mark. Sunday then looks outstanding with minimal wind and afternoon temperatures up around 50 with a full dose of sunshine and perfect visibility. Sunday is actually the beginning of a spring weather setup that should feature several days (through Wednesday 3/24) where readings reach or exceed 50. This setup along the east coast will include some clouds, but those clouds should be confined to the Mid-Atlantic or coastal/southern New England while interior areas bask in sunshine. I've gotten pretty accustomed to seeing this type of weather in April and especially May in Vermont and it is clearly one of our most effective ways of steering clear of rotten spring east coast weather. In 2021 it looks like such a setup is coming early. One change from the Monday update relates to the intensity of the warmth. Though almost every day in the Monday-Friday time frame looks to be at least 50 at the base, 60-degrees looks elusive and we are likely to avoid the El Torchy like conditions capable of producing the stronger warmth. Though this will assuredly be magnificent early spring weather in Vermont, each of these mornings will feature sub-freezing temperatures and it will thus take a few hours for snow conditions to soften. As for the sunshine, we should see plenty of that through Wednesday as I mentioned, more clouds are likely late in the week with the best chance for any rainfall coming Friday. 

A return to some form of colder temperatures is likely during the weekend of the 27th and 28th appears likely but this appears to consist of very ordinary late March weather conditions including 40-45 degree days along with sub-freezing nights. Ahead of April 1st, I expect maybe one more day with accumulating snowfall but that is about the best I can give readers. Spring appears to be coming in hard and fast this year.