Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Slow Start to Winter Snow Season

After the extraordinary early snow during the first half of October, many skiers and snowboarders were greasing their skies and prepping their gear for an early start of the snow recreation season.

But alas, things did not work out that way.  Warmer temperatures followed and then starting October 25th, we entered a 14-day dry streak.  Most of the snow melted, leaving us worse than a year ago.  To illustrate, compare the snow depth today and one year ago (see below).  The north Cascades and southern BC had much more snow at higher elevations in 2018.

 

So what about this year?  We have had a "problem"--persistent high pressure over the northeast Pacific.   To illustrate here is the height anomaly (difference from normal) at 500 hPa (about 18,000 ft) for the past 30 days.  Red indicates higher heights (higher pressure/ridging), blue indicates troughing (lower than normal heights).  A strong persistent pattern that explains the dryness and warmth of the West Coast and the cool/wet weather of the eastern US, since ridging brings drying and troughing, the opposite.


The forecast for the next five days for the same level?  A big ridge over the west coast (the shading is the anomaly, with orange being higher than normal).  This is a wetter pattern, but relatively warm.  Not good for snow.

The latest 7-day accumulated snow forecast from the UW system provides some snow at the highest elevations over the north Cascades, but even there only 6-12 inches.


Strangely enough the persistence of this ridge could be a good thing for snow later in the season--if the ridge moves back towards the west, we might be open to a trough coming from the north, like last February.  We will see. 

The media has been full of winter weather forecasts, the skill of which is marginal at best.

20 comments:

  1. cliff please awnser me on this are you syaing we will get a same pattern like it did last feburay

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    1. no he isn't... he is only saying it is possible

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  2. Queue the "It's gotta be climate change" comments.

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  3. It must be all that grease in the sky clogging up the snow jets ;-)

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  4. Leave it to a meteorologist to mention "greasing their skies", or, did you mean "waxing their skis"?

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    1. Unknown, A disparaging comment merits a writer leaving their name to be taken seriously.

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  5. Thank you for this update, the local folks here are basically freaking out (already) regarding the lack of snow. BTW, I seem to recall one forecaster that was fairly accurate in his winter predictions for the PNW, I think he worked for one of the native tribal councils. But I can't find his forecasts for this season.

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    1. This may help: https://oregonams.wordpress.com/2019/10/29/presentations-27th-annual-winter-weather-conference/
      The guy you described is Kyle Dittmer.

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  6. Personally, I LOVED the sunny streak we had! Save snow for December/Jan/Feb.

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  7. Feels like the same pattern from the blob year of 2015... that year just hammered the snow pack and then fish returns. Geez I hope that doesn't happen again. As a fisherman, I can attest it was brutal for a couple of years.

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  8. November in the Cascades is always a complete crapshoot. A transitional month - always - between fall and winter. Sometimes it snows early, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes (regularly) it barely snows at all.

    Fall of 2015: At the *end* of November there was 4" on the ground at Snoqualmie. Finished the year with 400"+ accum. Cliff, remember the panic in the fall? That "the climate deck may be stacked against us etc. etc...."?

    Fall of 2016: At the *end* of November there was 10" on the ground at Snoqualmie. Also finished the year with 400"+

    Fall of 2017: Oooh! It was good! 26" on the ground November 30th! But again, 400"+ accum at the end.

    Fall of 2018: Panic time again!! Only 7" on the ground!! 300"+ at the end. Ski areas open all winter and we ended up with 30 billion gallons left over in our reservoirs in Seattle but that didn't matter, still got an utterly ridiculous drought proclamation.

    November in the Cascades is not a barometer or indicator of anything... except these days you can set your watch to the fact someone will start talking about drought no matter what. Next one will be whatever dry spell - and we always have a few - in the December-February period. Drought. Then the meltout. Drought. Every year. Always the same.

    Want an accurate prediction? Predict we hear about drought anytime we are below 100% of normal in either precip or snowpack. Throw out everything you know about water supply, resource management, and truth. Because it's fear time. Guaranteed. Why is that?

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    1. Perhaps the growing influence of people moving here from a part of the country where drought is a normal part of life can account for the increased noise.

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    2. You're correct SunSnow. There are alot of intangibles but the fact that the ridiculous resilient ridge is returning (it's back next week) at what is supposed to be our wettest time of the year is a little concerning. The West coast ridge is not supposed to be so strong and persistent. Something ain't right with the large scale pattern and one of the concerns is it COULD lead to a future drought if the pattern remains so persistent but there's no reason to panic yet.

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  9. @ sunsnow12:
    and yet, in every single one of those years, there wasn't a drop of seasonal snow left on any glacier in the state before the next winter hit. no big deal, right?

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    1. Ok... what?

      We have been hearing for decades now that the Cascade snowpack is collapsing. They fired people who disagreed 13 years ago, that is how utterly dishonest and insane this has been. And yet the opposite has happened: snowpack has been either stable or in some locations increased since the 70's. So the people they fired were actually right. How about that. Oh... and meltout dates are trending later as well.

      But that's not enough. Then they tell us every year there will be a drought. Or we're in a drought. And every year they are wrong and no one says a word. Every. Single. Year. Seen any follow up to the Inslee "2019 Drought Proclamation" that was a complete joke? None.

      So you long for the days of the Little Ice Age (which btw ended 200 years ago and glaciers have been receding since)... and that excuses the stunning, public dishonesty on snowpack and water supply? That excuses the raw intimidation of scientists who are pointing out the truth (including Cliff Mass)? I don't get it.

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    2. https://www.unbc.ca/newsroom/unbc-stories/new-research-shows-significant-decline-glaciers-western-north-america

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  10. Well Whistler / Blackcomb is sitting on an 8cm base, with opening planned in 2 weeks and the forecast is bleak. Rain to the top of the mountain by Sunday and then long range forecast is bone dry until the end of Nov. We had more precip in July and Sept then we've had in October and Nov combined.

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  11. I've lived near Mt Baker for 45 years, and the Ski Area has not ALWAYS "opened by Thanksgiving," far from it. I've been observing weather here for decades, and I've seen (and documented) a local trend in recent years toward wetter and colder. There's weather, there are weather patterns, and there's climate. I've seen documentation of the Cascade glaciers and advances and retreats. Since "the drought of 2019" was declared for this watershed 186 days ago the average DAILY precipitation = .13048". In the last 60 days our average daily precip = .17583" Not a drought in my book. Oh - it's snowing in the mountains above us - not tons of snow, but I've seen snow and sub-freezing temperatures earlier this year than "ordinary" years. I don't get the panic.

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  12. @Cliff... Where'd that come from? Please note and address the strong and not that long storm of thunder just slapped the the North sound/S. Everett. Power skiped a beat. The booms were loud and rain pounded the ground. Appears to have come from the West. Your thoughts? Any more?

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  13. "The media has been full of winter weather forecasts, the skill of which is marginal at best."

    That is why I only trust the woolly bear caterpillar for my winter weather forecast.

    T

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