Monday, May 21, 2012

A Lesson in Weather and Climate Variability

The contrast between spring 2011 and spring 2012 is mind boggling.  Can you believe that on this day last year the Wasatch had just experienced another storm cycle and the snow depth at Alta-Collins reached 197 inches?

This year?  It is at 50 inches and falling.

The Snowbird SNOTEL is down to about 4 inches of SWE, whereas last year we were sitting at about 75.
In the past two years, we have experienced pretty close to the full range of variability that exists in the Wasatch snow climate during spring.  2011 was a huge snow year, followed by a cold, snowy spring.  This year we've had "drought", followed by a warm spring.  From a best-case scenario (for skiers and runoff) to a worst-case scenario in 366 days (it a leap year after all).

Drought conditions in Utah now range from abnormally dry to severe.
What Mother Nature giveth, Mother Nature taketh away.

1 comment:

  1. As part of my work I look at snow data for some project areas in California (Sierra Range) and the situation there is similar to the Wasatch, if not even more dramatic, between the two seasons. What is interesting is that both seasons were classified as "La Nina", but the 2011-2012 season had a very strong split jet stream pattern in Dec-Feb which I normally would associate more with the El Nino phase. This shows again how difficult seasonal forecasting really is.