Monday, December 10, 2018

When Snow Prayers Work Too Well

The boundary between meteorology and religion has always been an amorphous one, with considerable overlap.

In ancient times, Gods were considered the prime movers of weather events, and societies were always looking for the proper supplication to the get rain, snow, or whatever else they hoped for.


But even today, with all our technology and science, folks desperately hoping for a specific weather outcome  frequently turn to praying to the powers up high.

And so it was, last Friday, when a group of snow-hungry skiers, egged on by the management of Snoqualmie Summit ski area, held a prayer vigil in North Bend at Compass Sports (see below).   They prayed, drank libations to certain weather gods, and attempted well-rehearsed weather dances. 


And it worked.  It appears that the gods heard the plaintive cries, and snow has begun to fall in the Cascades.  Before the week is up, there will be feet of white stuff in the mountains and most ski areas will be open for business.

Consider the the forecast total snowfall over the next 72h over Washington. Wow.  2-3 feet over the Washington Cascades and Olympics


Now take a deep breath before you look at the next image.  Here is the total snowfall for the next 72h.   More heavy snow in the mountains.  But there is something even more shocking....snow reaching the lowlands, something not seen since last December.  Our ski friends are going to go powder crazy.


But now the real shocker.  The latest model runs suggest the snow is not going to end.  Now take three deep breaths. 

Here is the ensemble (many model) forecast for total snowfall at Stampede Pass (4000 ft on the eastern side of the central WA Cascades) from the NWS GFS model.   The gray lines are many lower-resolution model forecasts and the blue line is a single higher resolution.  The black lines is the ensemble mean...the average of all the gray lines--normally a very good forecast. 

WOW...just continuous accumulation.
What about the best global model in the world, the European Center model?  Here is the total snowfall during the next 7 days from that vaunted forecast system:

3-4 feet of snow about roughly 3500 ft.  But no lowland snow.


The ski community is going to be ecstatic about what is going to happen.  Great skiing from next weekend through the holiday season.  The snowpack needed for summer water resources will get a huge enhancement.

But might we have too much of a good thing?  Could the prayers move in the opposite direction?  Pleading to the snow gods to turn down onslaught?  Trust me, it has happened before.



21 comments:

  1. As Mark Twain said, "Before you pray for rain, check the forecast."

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  2. Instead of snow prayers working, perhaps it is regression toward the mean. Maybe the those who prayed for snow are statisticians in disguise.

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  3. It's already happening east of the mountains.Almost 2" last night over here in Spokane.First snow shovel day of the winter over here.

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  4. Always, always, Pray 4 Snow. The gift that keeps on giving.

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  5. Please consider extending images such as those snowfall predictions to include Oregon.

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    Replies
    1. Mark Nelson at Fox 12 Portland runs an excellent blog you can check out

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  6. Early season Powder starved Backcountry skiers, lots of new snow over old wind and rain crusts with spatially variable facets that grew during the previous cold clear weather.

    That's the formula for skier triggered avalanches.

    Pray everyone stays smart and desire doesn't override objective risk analysis.

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  7. I know I keep asking this all the time, BUT WHAT’S WITH THE BLOB?

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    1. Looks like the storms that churned the Gulf of Alaska and NE Pacific in late October, November and during this current storm cycle did a number on it.

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  8. @Aram,

    Check here: https://www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/ocean/sst/contour/ (appears to be no "blob")

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  9. In addition to snow, I am also praying for easterly flow :)

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  10. Cliff, in one of your blogs can you explain why today (12/11) has the earliest sunset of the year, and that close to New Year's day is the earliest sunrise of the year?

    Curious minds and all! Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. This website gives a pretty good explanation.

      https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/equation-of-time.html

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  11. South okanagan is getting skunked by these storms. Little to no snow.

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  12. Reminds me of the legend of Heikki Lunta...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heikki_Lunta

    Just be careful of the snow blower parade!

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  13. Its taking a while to build up the snow levels. As of today you folks up there have only one NRCS reporting basin over 90%: Walla Walla at 94% A number such as the Olympic and the various Puget Sound areas range from 52% to 61%.

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  14. Came across this paper from Oregon State's Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (out of their great College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences):
    "Dramatic declines in snowpack in the western US" (https://tinyurl.com/ycmxdtuh). Tiny url obscures that it was published in a Nature journal last year. The study is over decades with of course a lot of scatter in data fit to their trend lines.

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  15. gnolan - re: "Dramatic declines in snowpack..."

    And this was Cliff last spring directly calling it out - http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2018/03/is-western-us-snowpack-declining.html. And if OSU is publishing garbage like that then I would obviously debate this statement: "out of their great College of Earth... etc."

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  16. Thanks for that reminder sunsnow12. I remembered some of the discussion you cite but did not recall that it was around this particular paper.

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  17. (Oregon State's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences nonetheless is a good institution)

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  18. "And if OSU is publishing garbage like that...."

    Cliff didn't contest the paper's methods or findings, just the use of the adjective "dramatic" in the title, and an argument could be made that a 2% /decade decline in snowpack IS dramatic.

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