Friday, May 10, 2024

The 2023-2024 winter, it's ups and downs and fairy tale ending !

What a crazy winter 2023-2024 evolved into. It was persistently warm after November, as many winters have been during this recent negative PDO cycle combined with the additional push in the background from the impacts of climate change. Unlike the 2015-2016 Super Nino debauchery, it was snowy and there were periods of deep snow cover on the mountains both early, middle and later part of the winter. It all culminated with the incredible resurgence of winter in March and early April. I apologize for the overuse of sports parlance in the blog, but has Vermont weather ever had a more clutch weather performance in the 75-year history of Mad River Glen than what occurred  in the first 8 days of April. The elusive April 2-foot snowstorm happens and then mostly clear skies for solar eclipse viewing was like hitting two grand slams in the same inning. I still have trouble believing it actually happened ! 

As expected, the strong El Nino was the most critical driving factor locally, nationally and globally. With the exception of Alaska, North America was warm as a whole and the area comprised of the Great Lakes, Upper Midwest, Northern Plains and Central Canada was historically warm. Strong prevailing westerlies in the jet stream made it difficult for pools of arctic cold to build, expand and push southward. Clouds were very prevalent especially across the eastern U.S. and this acted as a blanket during the long overnights. Just quickly glancing through some daily weather data, it is very evident that clouds and warm overnight low temperatures statistically powered the milder than average temperatures throughout the winter over a broad area, New England included. 

For the purposes of a weather blog, I try and simplify things with nonacademic analysis (don't think i am capable of anything else anyway) and lots of context. With that mind, we can assess the strength of the recent El Nino with one number, a SST anomaly in a critical region of the equatorial Pacific. This came in at +1.69 C this past winter which makes it substantially weaker than the +2.28 C El Nino of 2015-2016.   We certainly know that the recent winter was a lot snowier than 2015-16, but it was only marginally colder by about 1.5 degrees F during the period beginning in November and ending in March. If you throw April in there the difference would certainly increase. Every significant El Nino brings global temperatures up and when added to the impacts of climate change, the warmth will set monthly land and sea temperature records and set off alarms and this certainly happened this winter. It is common for a healthy El Nino event to warm global temperatures by a very statistically significant quarter of a degree C. This allows the climate denialists to play their favorite game. Take a big El Nino from 30 years and compare it to a recent neutral ENSO winter and like magic, one can make our warming global temperatures disappear ! Climate change, by way of comparison is warming the earth by an estimated few hundredths of a degree C annually, which is scary, but still can very overpowered by a strong ENSO event, particularly an El Nino. 

A bigger distinction I have made regarding this recent El Nino was the state of the PDO. More typically, El Nino's are accompanied by a positive PDO state in the Pacific though it is not an especially dependable rule and there have been exceptions, this year being one of them. The -1.11 and -1.02 PDO that was posted in November and December respectively represents a PDO in a decisively negative state. As the winter progressed, that number weakened but remains slightly negative as of April and has been so now for every winter month dating back to December of 2019. The word decadal is used for a reason and the state of the PDO comes in streaks that can extend out to a decade in length. What makes the recent streak a little more unusual is the persistent negative strength of the PDO which finally weakened to -0.41 as of March, the weakest its been in any winter month since 2019. I bring this up because, I've been of the opinion that the PDO has made weather pattern life a little difficult in Vermont during both this and other recent winters. It has been difficult during this stretch to maintain a cold, wintry pattern for longer than 2 or 3 weeks and the El Nino further limited the reach of arctic chill across both North America and Europe. All that said, it was also my opinion that the PDO would provide us with an assist on snowfall and help guide storms in our direction at the expense of the coast. This turned out to be true and we ended with the warm and snowy winter that was advertised. 

So lets go through it ! November was one of the two months in 2023 that saw below normal temperatures, in Vermont. It also was a month that foreshadowed the personality of the forthcoming winter almost perfectly, especially the March and April section. Snow whitened the mountains initially on November 8th and a cold ensuing week kept that snow in place for several days before a mid-month mild surge melted it away. More snow and cold returned in the days before Thanksgiving and much of it survived through the holiday and weekend when Killington hosted the World Cup skiing events. Three significant elevation events got the lift service part of Vermont's ski season off the ground over the two weeks between November 26th and December 11th. I scored a good forecast over the National Weather service on the first one, Tim Kelley of Jay Peak owned me on the last one and the high country of northern Vermont was in amazing shape in terms of building an early season base. The first event on November 26th-27th resulted in widespread power outages, but the snow was mostly powdery above 2,500 feet. We saw this repeat on numerous occasional throughout the winter and especially during the spring. It was the most elevation sensitive snow year I've experienced in the 20 years of doing the blog. The 2nd event which begin on Sunday, December 3rd had better cold air support on the back end and modest snow though a little less than I had anticipated. The third event really too me by surprise as the pattern appears poised to turn mild by December 10th, but the storm in question managed to entrain enough cold while re-consolidate along the New England coastline. Rain turned to snow by Monday, December 11th and its often events such as those that really make you think the winter would serve up something special. 


Once again, just when it seems that nothing can go wrong, it all crashes to the ground. The weather pattern did indeed shift and arctic air went into retreat mode as the Arctic Oscillation (AO) turned very positive. I've lost count of how many iterations of this movie we have seen in Vermont.  An amazing week of weather in the early or middle part of December gives way to a lousy, rainy holiday. In this version, the rain came, way too early, fast, heavy and was accompanied by the ugly combination of wind and high dewpoints. The 2nd of two major flooding events in 2023 hit the state on Monday, December 18th. bringing local rivers above flood stage and causing more damage to low lying areas. Much of the snow melted away, though some did remain across the highest elevations. The holiday weather was dominated by clouds, rain, mild weather and some of the worst skiing of the season. The start of 2024 was to start almost from scratch though MRG managed to keep it going in limited capacity, throughout this very ugly stretch. 

Bridge St, Waitsfield - December 18, 2023

January of 2024 wasn't exactly an epic month, but was a nice bounce-back from the holiday. Jet stream blocking at high latitudes powered the AO and NAO well into negative territory for much of the first two thirds of the month and arctic air became a significant part of the weather picture during that stretch. Garden variety cold early in the month set the stage for a nice dry snowfall on the first Sunday of 2024. I had higher hopes for the subsequent storm around the time of January 10th and 11th, a really juicy southern streamer that was consistently predicted to track toward the Great Lakes and bring a surge of milder temperatures and rainfall. I recall thinking that the downstream blocking would ultimately win the day and possibly turn this event into a big snow producer. The southward shift never materialized really but the snow fell anyway, a heavy base building event that exceeded even my lofty expectations. Another snow/sleet conglomeration early on the MLK holiday weekend added more density to an already hefty snowpack ahead of what would be the coldest period of the year. 

The arctic outbreak in the middle of January generated a lot of news and was especially intense over the western high plains and then the central plains and Texas. It brought -10 degree temperatures to Kansas City for a NFL playoff game, but the coldest temperatures recorded in the MRV were in the vicinity of -5 that week which marked the coldest readings of the season. That is the warmest "coldest day of the winter" I can remember and a more rigorous academic analysis might show that the 2024 winter featured the least amount of extreme cold in recorded history in Vermont. Still, the week beginning January 15th was chilly and snowy with snow squalls finally giving skiers some dry more skiable friendly snow. Arctic air went into retreat mode beginning January 22nd but we still managed to squeeze out some winter weather over the last 8 days of the month including some mixed precipitation around the 25th and some snowfall on the last Sunday of January. 

February was a very different kind of month relative to the other winter months in 2023-2024. It was mild much like December but also very dry unlike December. Most of Vermont, even the mountains, saw less than an inch of melted precipitation which is way below average. The dominant weather feature was a jet stream ridge, a very large one, that established itself not far far from the same area that received the arctic cold. The result was a blow torch across the central part of the North American continent with excessive temperatures stretching well into Canada on multiple occasions. The torching wasn't centered over Vermont so although it was milder month, we managed to avoid a total scouring of our snow pack. There were several instances where the torching enveloped all of upstate New York and the Adirondacks, making it as far east as the Champlain Valley only to stop at the Long Trail. This happened on 2 days early and then again later in the month. All that said, it was a quiet month from the standpoint of storminess and this allowed for more sunny days and better visibility following a brutally cloudy December and January. 

I can recall two moments when both the weather conditions and projected weather pattern going forward appeared especially bleak. The first was the December 18th flooding since that event was coupled with the realization that another Christmas holiday was going to be mild, damp and dreary. The 2nd and an even worse moment came during the back half of February. Though colder weather and a bit of new snow finally buried the crust, the EPO index surged in later February and forced any arctic air back into retreat mode while providing western ski areas with a barrage of storminess. With less than 2 feet of snowfall in February, and mild air melting much of that during the last  6 days of the month, winter 2024 appeared poised fade out altogether by early March when more mild weather was expected to arrive. Indeed, the torching in the Midwest was relentless with 70-degree temperatures surging into the Great Lakes on multiple occasions. Once again, that mild air would push eastward into the Champlain Valley and then abruptly weakened before crossing the Long Trail. It was an ugly scene around March 8th with, only limited terrain surviving at MRG, but the weather pattern took a dramatic and surprising March turn as split flow emerged in the jet stream overall while a storm system manage to defy the conventional wisdom of what typically happens with such an energetic Pacific Jet Stream 

The Monday March 11th event was probably the best of the season and it also marked the beginning of an incredible late season 4-week stretch. Though it didn't quite land on the  Ides of March storm, the 30 inch snow on March 11th was yet another season saving event and one that followed a miserable stretch of weather. The initial storm took shape while all of New England was enveloped in mild air and this event would have brought more rain were it not for the ability of robust southern branch energy  in the jet stream to re-consolidate the storm over the Mid Atlantic. Cold air was limited but the newly energized coastal system managed to suck enough cold air to create a powdery event for the northern Green Mountains. It was the first of many very elevation sensitive events over this stretch with only a few gloppy inches falling in the Champlain Valley. 


Following a succession of more spring-like day prior to St Patrick's Day, the weather pattern turned cold as blocking reemerged at high latitudes, mainly over upstream areas of Alaska and portions of the Arctic this time. Both Sugarbush and Mad River Glen were hit with snow squalls on multiple days beginning on the 19th. It was fascinating weather actually because any snow that fell in valley locations would melt with a few hours of partial sunshine while the snowfall continued to pile up over the mountains with fresh powder on a ski succession of days. A reinforcing shot of even colder air enveloped northern New England appropriately on the first day of spring. This was timed perfectly with an incoming weather system that produced widespread snow for the entire state of Vermont on Saturday March 23rd. This was probably the least elevation sensitive event of the season and one of the coldest with over a foot of snow falling at MRG atop the powder that fell during the week.

The receding El Nino and weakening PDO certainly seemed to help revive an ailing winter season, but who was to expect what was to happen on the first full week of April. It's hard to get Vermont weather to cooperate fully in any season and the only good bet for April typically is clouds and mud. After a pretty innocuous start of the month on the 1st and 2nd, with afternoon temperatures approaching 50, colder arctic air moved south out ahead of a big approaching late-season winter storm. Like many of our bigger snow producers, a good snowfall was contingent on a strong low pressure area located over Lake Michigan, transferring energy to an ideal coastal position and then having that storm lead us to glory. There were some questions as to how efficiently that transfer would take place but it all worked out in the end with heavy snow falling on April 4th while conditions continued to turn colder as snowfall piled up. The snow over performed on the front-end but disappointed a little on the back end with snow showers confined to the Adirondacks at the expense of the northern Green Mountains. Still, the elusive April storm was in the bag and the snow was deep from top to bottom, albeit a little dense at the bottom. 

Like magic, clouds vanished on Sunday April 7th making for a beautiful spring day of skiing atop almost two feet of new snow. Clear skies continued for the big day on April 8th and the scattered high cirrus clouds remained scattered creating a near perfect situation for the solar eclipse. Lots of corn snow, terrific visibility and afternoon temperatures in excess of 50. Just an incredible stretch of weather in what is typically not a very incredible time of the year. Clutch !  


The season concluded with well over 200 inches of snow at most of the northern Vermont resorts and well over 300 inches at Jay. What stands out more about the 2023-2024 winter was the elevation sensitivity of most of the snow. Burlington which serves as the most reliable first order station in the state recorded 61 inches of snow, well below the normal 87 inches. Meanwhile, the Mt Mansfield snow stake peaked well above average, recording a depth of over 90 inches prior to the April 8th solar eclipse. Warmth centered over the Midwest/Great Lakes/central Canada region and even stronger warmth across western Europe was another major headline. The strong El Nino is a known contributer to high latitude warmth while climate change continues to push land and sea temperatures higher. With all these warm weather headlines, it might seem as if it wasn't cold anywhere in the world and that's not quite true. Portions of Scandinavia had a cold winter while eastern areas of the Eurasian Continent saw multiple outbreaks of brutally cold air. I bring this up because SST forcing in the Pacific, stemming somewhat from the state of the PDO has been very unfavorable for North American cold in recent winters. I was encouraged to see the PDO index weaken over the past few months and hope we can go into next season in a more neutralized state. The extremely positive PDO values have been a consistent theme over the last several winters and when added to the headwinds of climate change and a big ENSO year (in any direction) attaining sustainable cold weather is challenging. With that, I can sign off for the 2023-2024 winter. Hope everyone enjoys the summer weather and returns to MRG in good health for another good ski season in 2024-2025 ! 

Friday, April 5, 2024

Snow showers will continue with a final round Saturday afternoon while Monday weather continues to appear outstanding

It never sat right with me that Mad River Glen hadn't recorded the two-foot April storm that seem to occur so frequently in March. Climatologically speaking, it feels like something that should happen once or twice a decade and yet it hasn't in the 20 years I've been doing this, that is until the last two days. It's a challenge to overcome the power of the April sun angle, which, even with temperatures remaining below freezing on the mountain, managed to make for some wetter snow conditions below 2,500 feet. I thought we might perform better Friday with the snow shower machine, but the disorganized remnants of our recent storm's moist conveyor targeted the Adirondacks and only grazed parts of the Green Mountains. Still this is expected to continue for a time Friday night, break for a bit early Saturday and then more snow showers, some heavy, appear likely Saturday afternoon. Temperatures on Saturday will behave much as they did Friday. Sunday is expected to be a little warmer with the snow having departed and sunshine making a late day appearance. When will the corn show up ? That typically happens after the wet snow gets a chance to freeze with a chilly overnight and subsequently softens to corn with a warm day. Very good chance that happens on Monday, but parts of the mountain could see that on Sunday as well. 

Solar eclipse Monday just looks outstanding and we are almost figuratively and literally in the clear. 25-30 degree temperatures in the morning will become 50-55 degree temperatures during the afternoon and almost 60 in valley locations. We should see clear blue skies in the morning and light winds. 3 computer simulations and one package of statistical guidance suggests that sunshine continues through evening. 1 computer model simulations brings a thin layer of high cloudiness to Vermont Monday afternoon. Not every run of this European model has suggested this outcome, but it was suggested Friday afternoon so I don't want to mislead the reader and guarantee good viewing. The potential clouds are the innocuous high cirrus kind, blowing off the top of a rainy weather system in Wisconsin. They would have to power jet stream ridge to our west which doesn't seem likely to me yet weather will always manage to suprise you. 

Following our eclipse day we will take another big step into spring. Cool high pressure will slip in from for the north after Tuesday, putting a stop to the 50-60 degree weather. That said, we are looking at a lot of above freezing temperatures and a surge of warmth and potentially heavy rain Thursday night into Friday (April 11-12). We will have to keep an eye on this one for flooding because the mountains have some deep late season snow pack and this system late next week is capable of bringing high winds and higher dewpoints with it. Cooler weather is being advertised on the ensembles after April 13 and that should include some below freezing overnights even if our days continue to see a mix of 40's and 50's. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Total accumulations appear lower for the northern Vermont high country, but hard to complain about 20-40 inches and a promising solar eclipse outlook !

Our April winter storm forecast is in need of an update and our solar eclipse forecast always needs attention and I will work to provide both. Not sure there has ever been a period in early April where weather intel is in such high demand in Vermont. 

Our storm has been coming together early Wednesday as is expected to track in between Cape Cod and Boston Thursday evening. That's a damn good trajectory for any winter storm and when this is combined with the expected slow speed of this weather system, snow totals in the northern Vermont high country continue to have an extraordinary ceiling. All that good stuff said, some complicating issues have emerged to keep the loftiest of my expectations in check. 

The first concern is a tiny warm layer that high resolution models are projecting will impact precipitation type Wednesday evening. The layer of above freezing is way up above 10,000 feet and it remains pretty small, small enough in fact that the snow could fall right through it so long as its falling at a decent rate. This feature is only present for a small part of the storm and is expected to be gone by around midnight Thursday. Snow, sleet and near 32 degree temperatures will allow for a messy few inches of base layer accumulations before snow begins falling heavily early Thursday morning with temperatures dropping into the high 20's. The snow is expected to continue for much of the day Thursday, falling heavily at times with gusty northeast winds. The base layer of sleet with drier snow falling on top should be pretty ideal for afternoon skiing. 

The 2nd concern is less concern and more of a limiting factor. The initial Great Lakes low proved to be a formidable storm and is expected to compete with the slow moving coastal low for dominance Thursday and Thursday night. Ultimately we continue to expect a consolidated system to take shape, albeit an occluded one, in the Gulf of Maine Friday, but this process is now expected to take a little longer than I initially anticipated. With the remnants of the initial low pressure area expected to slowly sag southeast over Pennsylvania Thursday, the storm will have a more elongated shape and this makes me a little nervous about any assumption that we will just sit in the moist conveyor for two days and easily procure 50 inches. Regardless, I still have some very optimistic assumptions and continue to think that we sit in an ideal area for continuous elevation snowfall Thursday night, Friday and early Saturday. The sleet Wednesday evening combined with some less giddy expectations Thursday night, Friday and Saturday lower my total snowfall accumulations yet this remains the best snow event I've seen in April in the 20 years of doing this. 

Snow Outlook 

Wednesday evening/night valley: Snow/sleet 3-6 dense accumulation by morning

Wednesday evening night mountains: Snow/sleet 4-8 dense accumulation by morning

Thursday day valley: Occasional snow with 3-6 wet inches

Thursday day mountain: Snow, sometimes heavy, drier accumulation above 2,500 feet 6-12 inches

Thursday night valley: Occasional snow 1-2 inches

Thursday night mountain: Occasional snow 3-6 inches 

Friday day valley: Periodic snow showers as existing snow melts. Not much accumulation

Friday day mountains: Occasional snow with another 3-6 inches and powdery above 2,500 feet

Friday night into Saturday valley: Flurries and snow showers, just a light accumulation. 

Friday night into Saturday mountains: Snow Showers and another 4-8 inches. 


Valley areas: Snow/sleet late Wednesday, thump snow early Thursday and snow melt Friday and Saturday even as mountains continue to add to totals. 8-16" expected total

Mountains: Snow/sleet early, more powdery above 2,500 feet Thursday, Friday and into early Saturday with 20-40" expected over the 3-4 days.

Solar eclipse Monday still looks pretty good. Sunshine is expected to return for Sunday and clear skies Sunday night should allow temperatures to dip into the 20's Monday morning. The morning hours on the 8th are expected to be nearly cloudless. During the afternoon hours there's some risk that a decaying area of clouds can have a presence but a total overcast appears unlikely. It looks like an outstanding for outdoor activities with temperatures in the low 50's and low winds.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Over 30 inches of high elevation snow Wednesday through early Saturday and a high risk of sunshine on April 8

When it comes to April weather conditions in Vermont, I usually don't get a chance to say a lot of nice things. Snow-melt, mud, clouds, wind, low visibility and sometimes a combination of all 5 are often a major part of our outlook. With that in mind, I will put out the disclaimer that this particular forecast is no April Fool's joke and might be the best I have given for any part of Vermont during this slog of a spring month. There's a lot at stake with our late-blooming ski season still going strong and a full solar eclipse expected on April 8th, but we appear to be ready with our A-game so lets go ! 

Our upcoming winter storm has moved out into the central plains Monday. Warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico is feeding a strengthening low pressure area as it makes its initial push toward the western Great Lakes by Tuesday. This primary low pressure area is formidable and will bring both wind and accumulating snow to much of Wisconsin Tuesday and Tuesday night. Meanwhile, cold dry is in the process of wedging itself underneath a Davis Strait jet stream block. This key feature will help ultimately reconfigure the weather map in a very winter-friendly way for northern Vermont. The initial Great Lakes low pressure area will occlude and a new coastal low quickly intensify somewhere in the vicinity of the Delaware Bay by Wednesday and proceed northeastward from there. Snow will develop by midday Wednesday and be heavy enough to accumulate, even below 1,000 feet. 

I don't want to kid myself or the reader. Early April is early April and multiple feet of powdery snow in the river valleys is a very difficult ask. Wet snowfall will be substantial however and could again bring with it some power outage risk  during the "thump" portion of this upcoming storm late Wednesday and Wednesday night. Higher elevations will also see wetter snowfall late on Wednesday, but conditions appear to be cold enough at high elevations first and lower basebox elevations later to support a drier snowfall, especially as it gets darker Wednesday evening. Accumulations will be substantial in this early portion of the storm, exceeding a foot on the mountains and reaching the 6-12 category in lower elevations.

Late Wednesday is just the beginning. The elevation sensitive and colder part of our programming begins Thursday and it is an impressive setup. The coastal low near Cape Cod will continue to push northeast, but at a very, very low speed. This will allow the upper air support and decayed occluded Midwest low to catch up and allow for a more consolidated east coast storm by midday Thursday. Even as valley locations continue to see occasional bursts of wet snowfall with above-freezing temperatures, the mountains will be receiving heavier, even drier snowfall with colder temperatures. Valley areas are unlikely to see more than a foot of snow on the ground at any point during the storm even as snowfall amounts approach 2 feet at and above 3000 feet by late Thursday. Furthermore, the very slow-footed personality of this storm will allow snowfall to keep going and going. Thursday night, Friday, Friday night into early Saturday the snow will continue to fall, finally tapering off with some sun potentially returning for late Saturday which is just incredible. Snowfall, which again, is unlikely to ever produce a snow cover of more than a foot in valley areas, is likely to exceed 30 inches at 3,000 feet with much of it relatively dry and falling over a span of 3 days. As one ski's toward the base on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, snow consistency is certainly subject to change, but I don't expect temperatures on the upper mountain to reach above-freezing levels in a material way until Sunday. Here is my more detailed view of snow accumulations with valley locations defined as areas as areas near the Waitsfield covered bridge and mountains defined as areas around 3,000 feet. I'll leave it to the reader to extrapolate on the in-between. 

Snow Outlook 

Wednesday afternoon valley: Late Day snow wet 2-4 " 

Wednesday afternoon mountain: Late Day snow wet 3-6" 

Wednesday night valley: Thump wet 4-8" 

Wednesday night mountain: Thump powder/some wet 6-12" 

Thursday day valley: Occasional snow 1-3" wet inches with melting

Thursday day mountain: Snow, sometimes heavy and a more powdery 6-12" 

Thursday night valley: Occasional snow 1-3 wet inches 

Thursday night mountain:Snow, sometimes heavy and a more powdery 6-12" 

Friday day valley: Snow showers, little to no accumulations, melting and mud 

Friday day mountains: Snow showers, sometimes heavy and a more powdery 3-6" 

Friday night into Saturday valley: Flurries and snow showers, just a light accumulation. 

Friday night into Saturday mountains: Snow Showers and another 3-6 inches. 


Valley areas a very wet 8-16 with never more than a foot on the ground 

Mountains: Some wet snow early, more powder Thursday, Friday and into early Saturday with 27-54 inches.

And I won't neglect the promising solar eclipse outlook for April 8. We are checking a lot of the right boxes, the most important of which is a well defined jet stream ridge axis that is setting up to our west. The conglomeration of clouds and unsettled weather is finally expected to push off shore by Sunday allowing for a nearly full day of sunshine and warmer afternoon temperatures. Monday has the potential to be even better atop some deep snow cover across the high country. Temperatures on Monday should approach 50 and exceed that in valley areas with plenty of sunshine to start the day. My only concern is the lack of unsettled weather in the south which does keep the door open a tad for a pesky jet disturbance to bring some scattered cloudiness to northern New England during the afternoon. If I had to forecast cloudcover in percentages (with 100 percent being overcast) right now, I would put Monday at no more than 30 percent which is pretty darn good this time of the year. I would rather be us than areas in the path of the solar eclipse to our south and west. 

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Major early April snow event is very possible during the middle part of next week !

The doubters were out there on social media and the declarations were made. To be fair some of them covered regions that are farther south or closer to the coast and that's fine. At least up in our neck of skiable woods, winter is most certainly not over and the prevailing weather pattern continues to consist of a large blocking feature centered over the Davis Strait and this feature is actually expected to strengthen over the next 5 days and support what could be a sizeable early April winter weather event in northern Vermont. More on that in a minute ! 

Our upcoming holiday Easter weekend is a quiet one in the meantime.Clouds give way to some sunshine for Friday with some strong northwest winds. These winds will diminish somewhat on Saturday while a weak weather impulse manages to focus clouds and precipitation far enough to our south to allow for some sunshine on Saturday. Easter Sunday will feature sunshine in valley locations but more clouds and snow flurries over the high country. All three days will feature some above freezing temperatures during the day, sub-freezing temperatures during the night and only a minimal amount of snow melt thanks to dry air. Enjoy our periods of sun because the upcoming week following Easter promises to be a cloudy one. 

Cold air over the arctic and across Canada has weakened as it always does by late March into April, but what's left is expected to establish a presence in Vermont Sunday night and remain  in place through much of the week. A large low pressure area is expected to emerge out of the eastern Rockies on Monday. It is assuredly going to create outbreaks of severe weather in the early part of next week in the Lower Mississippi Valley and points east. The storm is on a collision course with the Great Lakes and New England and the Davis Straight blocking is keeping us in play for a major winter weather event even as temperatures continue to rise above freezing during the day Monday and Tuesday following more sub-freezing nights.  Lots of particulars need to be sorted and details will evolve gradually yet there are early indications of precipitation beginning in the back half of  Tuesday as snow or mixed precipitation. The storm is expected to slow in speed while intensifying near the New England coastline. It's a classic New England  hang on to your hang-ups scenario and presents ski country (at least the one we care about) with amazing possibilities late Wednesday into Thursday, perhaps one of the best April snow events in recent memory. It's still early in this forecasting game and things do tend to to change, shift, evolve and so forth so we should expect that, but stay tuned and don't put your ski's away ! 

Even more encouraging news relates to the cloud cover. As cloudy as the first week in April appears, a more promising picture is starting to emerge for the first full weekend in April and most importantly April 8. The ideal scenario for minimal cloud cover for early spring Vermont is for northwest flow aloft at jet stream level with more potent areas of unsettled weather well south and east of us. That is somewhat of the picture being drawn in the varying ensemble packages though its always close. Certainly there is a stronger signal for a high pressure area to clear the cloudiness away for April 7th and we can only hope that continues into April 8th as well. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

More snow is "possible" Thursday night into Friday as cooler weather pattern expected to prevail through our solar eclipse day of April 8

Deep snow now covers all of the northern Vermont high country and I had anticipated a relatively tranquil more spring-like week including some warm afternoons and not more than one day with some light precipitation. Some of what was described continues to be a part of the current weather picture, but I would describe the outlook as a whole as being cooler and more unsettled and this includes additional chances for snowfall across the mountains. 

The deep snow cover has brought some chilly nights to Vermont. Readings fell to the single numbers Monday morning and are expected to fall into the teens once again early on Tuesday morning before southerly winds power readings back into the 40's in spite of more cloudiness during the ski day.  These clouds will keep readings warmer Tuesday night and also prevent temperatures from rising beyond the 40's on Wednesday as our next storm system begins to take shape. Moisture from this initially disorganized storm will stream northward and bring some occasional light rain to Vermont during the day, before moving eastward toward the coastline Wednesday night. This general outcome has been the consensus expectation for a few days now, but recent models are suggesting that the coastal low pressure center will strengthen more dramatically, attain a negative tilt  and position itself near Cape Cod Thursday night. If this trend continues we will see more rain on Thursday with that rain changing to snowfall Thursday night into Friday. I've yet to see enough conclusive confirmation of this change in the outlook to suggest another significant snowfall is likely, but it certainly has my attention and another elevation sensitive snowfall is certainly a slight possibility before the last full weekend of March. 

The aforementioned last full weekend in March looks cool with sub-freezing nights and only slightly above freezing days on the mountain and this general theme is expected to continue through much of the first full week in April.  The week also appears unsettled with at least one opportunity for mixed precipitation or snow (likely Monday or Tuesday). I see no opportunity through April 5th where readings will climb above 50 on the mountain and several are likely to stay below 40. 

 The time has also come for some early April 8th prognostications. It will be around that time when the focal point for cool, unsettled weather is expected to shift offshore yet there remains some lingering ridging in the Davis Strait region and forcing in the Pacific continues to favor cooler weather in mid-latitude weather more generally. I am pretty convinced that the ski season will be alive and well in the MRV with deep snow pack prevailing above 2,000 feet and more patchy snow cover enduring below that. If we can achieve some northwest flow at jet stream level, a real possibility if we can push the unsettled weather off the coast, we really improve our prospects for a clearer sky.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Storm to deliver 1-2 feet of powder during the ski day on Saturday

What an incredible week it's been already at Mad River Glen. It's been both productive in the snowfall department and entertaining one to experience as a weather enthusiast. It's a been a warm year and a warm month with temperatures across the state averaging at least 7 above the climatologal average. Snowfall has been especially elevation sensitive throughout the entire year and that trend only amplified both this month and week. Snow showers and squalls continue to dust valley locations with an inch or two and then repeatedly the sun would come out and melt everything down to the bare ground. The mountains have gotten a lot more than a few inches from these snow bursts and very little has melted and the powder pretty deep over a solid base of existing snow. The wintry scenes over the mountains parlay nicely with the anticipation of a big grand finale this Saturday, a storm that appears locked in for the entirety of northern Vermont. Even valley areas will find a hard time avoiding accumulating snow out of this one.

The big ingredient Saturday's storm has which many other events have lacked is cold air. The polar vortex lives in late March and has spent the week chilling in the vicinity of the Hudson Bay. A big southern streamer, still fueled by the weakening El Nino, will be pushing eastward Friday through the lower Mississippi and Tennessee valleys. To the naked eye, it doesn't appear as if the polar and southern branch of the jet stream can come into phase and produce a storm of any significance, yet Vermont will get big snow anyway. Rather then suppress moisture, a polar jet impulse will have the effect of pulling moisture from this storm northward into the cold air and  creating a large area of heavy overrunning snowfall for northern New England and rainfall for southern New England. It all begins in the predawn hours Saturday as steady snow quickly becomes heavy snow and persists throughout the ski day. There's enough warm air above us for some sleet to mix in with the snow from time to time, but enough cold air at the surface to keep the snow consistency powdery on the mountain. Snow should taper off rather abruptly just as it gets dark on Saturday with accumulations of 1-2 feet. I am glad I didn't overthink this one else, I might have written it off a few days ago. Weather can always defy conventional wisdom if given enough opportunities and this one appears to be one of those instances. 

Temperatures should remain in the 20's on the mountain through Saturday and winds are expected to be a modest 10-20 mph. A east to southeast direction has had a history of being a little problematic and this is expected during the morning before winds shift and become northeast then north during the afternoon. This is certainly not a historically strong storm, but we appear to be in a great spot for heavy snowfall. 

Sunshine is expected to return for Sunday and continue into Monday. Sub-freezing temperatures most of Sunday should keep the snow drier across high elevations before milder temperatures Monday afternoon bring on another round of spring conditions. This weather pattern continues to be capable of producing some cold though the focus will shift westward over the middle of the continent and milder temperatures are thus expected to prevail over Vermont for the duration of the week. This means 40's on the mountain every day and the possibility of rain in the middle of the week. Ensembles suggest some colder weather and snowfall could return early in April. 

The upcoming week promises to be the best of the season for us and I hope everyone can enjoy it !