Monday, September 22, 2014

A Look Inside Secrets


Click here for a look inside my forthcoming book Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth.  Utah State University Press did a great job putting it together.  It will be released in November, but you can advance purchase it at Utah State University Press or Amazon

I'm hoping to make use of figures and diagrams from the book as we explore mountain weather this winter.  Here's one to get you excited.  Do you remember October 2004, which produced 122 inches at Alta and enabled Brighton to open on October 29?  Many described October 31, 2004, when a major lake-effect snowstorm erupted, as the best day of October skiing ever.  Radar image below.

Source: Radar image from 9:24 am 31 October 2004.  Removal of ground
clutter causes the "holes" over the high ridges surrounding the Cottonwood
Canyons.  Source: Steenburgh (2014).

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Joy of Hiking in the Rain


Few things in life are as satisfying and enjoyable as a fall hike in the rain.

Until I moved to Utah, most of my life was spent hiking in the Adirondacks and Cascade Mountains, both of which are well known for wet misery.  I actually rate the Adirondacks higher than the Cascades on the wet misery scale, as the Cascades enjoy a pronounced dry season during the summer.  In contrast, suffering in the Adirondacks is a year round affair.  Nothing hardens you for outdoor pursuits like cross country skiing in freezing rain or forced marches in muggy, driving rain to black fly infested leantos.

So, when I woke this morning to the pitter-pat of rain, a smile ran across my face.  There's nothing better than a fall hike in the rain, especially since wet in the Wasatch is typically fairly tolerable. Below is the only patch of mud I ran into the entire morning.


And, with the mountains obscured, one's focus tends to turn to the wonderful fall colors.  


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Long Wait for Utes?

The Utah–Michigan game is delayed due to lightning.  It could be a long wait as there is mass of lightning producing storms moving toward Ann Arbor from the west and the west-southwest.

Source: http://www.lightningmaps.org/realtime?lang=en
I'm guessing is it will be at least an hour, maybe longer, until the teams can take the field.  At least the Utes are winning 26–10 and are poised for another score.

Let the Hype Begin

The latest (and some of the previous) GFS forecast is calling for a bonafide fall trough to move into Utah for next weekend.  The coveted 0ºC 700-mb temperature contour is draped across the Great Salt Lake at noon next Saturday.


Before waxing the skis, some recognition of the chaotic nature of these long-term forecasts is needed.  We start with the North American Ensemble Forecast System, which consists of 21 forecasts from the US Global Ensemble Forecast System and 21 forecasts from the Canadian Ensemble Forecast system.  The plot below is known as a spaghetti diagram and includes contours of 500-mb geopotential height from all the members, along with a thick red contour for the ensemble mean.  This chart shows that most ensemble members put a trough over the western U.S. but the coverage of spaghetti suggests quite a bit of variability in terms of placement and strength.  
Source: NWS
Moving to the gold standard ECMWF, I didn't have time to hunt down a spaghetti diagram this morning, but the mean of their ensemble also puts a trough in the west (note that there are slight variations in the time all these forecasts are valid).  

Source: ECMWF
My take on this is that it looks like we may have a deep trough entering the western U.S. late next week or next weekend, but we'll have to see how it shakes out in terms of strength and timing.  I suspect, however, that these forecasts are enough to jumpstart the weather hype machine.

Friday, September 19, 2014

That Was Largely a Bummer

Yesterday was a depressing day to be a meteorologist, with nothing but "cumulus patheticus" developing along the Wasatch Front and all the excitement to our northwest.

KMTX radar loop for 0000–0202 UTC 19 Sep (1800–2002 MDT 18 Sep) 
The storms shown above developed near a surface trough that was draped across the Intermountain West.  I thought something would bubble up ahead of that trough, but alas, it wasn't to be.  Even the strong outflow boundary that you can see pushing southeastward across the Great Salt Lake in the loop above couldn't get anything going.  What a pity.  The storms above did produce some severe weather, with 1-inch hail reported in Caribou, ID yesterday afternoon.  Mother Nature just seems to have Idaho's number this year.

On the other hand, we did have a nice rumbler move through the Salt Lake Valley early this morning and park over the Avenues.  It doesn't look like much on the radar, but the thunder was pretty regular and disturbed my sleep enough to make me grumpy this morning.

KMTX radar loop for 0939–1119 UTC (0339–0519 MDT) 19 Sep
The lightning map below provides a nice summary of yesterday and last night with a large number of strikes running from northeast Nevada to southeast Idaho and just some scattered stuff along the central and southern Wasatch Front.

Source: www.lightningmaps.org

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Record Heat Locally and Globally

Yesterday's maximum temperature of 94ºF at the Salt Lake City International Airport set a new record for the day.  In addition, the only higher maximum temperature record later in the year is 97ºF, set on Sep 19, 1956.  Thus, we were in rare but not unprecedented territory for so late in the year.

On a global scale, data released by the National Climatic Data Center shows that August 2014 was the hottest in the instrumented record.

Source: NCDC
You might recall that August was relatively cool here in Utah and this shows up well below.
Source: NCDC
Globally for the year to date, 2014 is now the 3rd warmest behind 1998 and 2010.

Source: NCDC
It will be interesting to see how things play out in the home stretch.