Friday, January 31, 2014

How Tough Is Your School?

Through a number of channels, including this one at The Blaze, you can access the map below by Redditor atrubetskoy approximating how much snow is needed to cancel school.

A map like this can be the source of pride (congrats northern New Englanders) or shame (bury your heads southerners).  Of course, like all estimates, this one has its shortcomings.  For example, having grown up in upstate NY in that area of dark blue where 24+ inches is allegedly needed to close school, I can tell you that schools closed regularly with less snow than that.  

Another shortcoming is that driving conditions and safety are not necessarily directly related to how much snow falls.  Winter storms are incredibly complicated.  They can include freezing drizzle, freezing rain, sleet, and snow of differing water contents and crystal types.  Road characteristics, such as temperatures, also vary from storm to storm and during storms.  Last year's freezing rain event here in Salt Lake City shows how a very small amount of precipitation can produce extremely hazardous driving conditions.  Conversely, I have driven on rural roads covered by several inches of low density snow with little or no problem.  The timing of the precipitation (e.g., relative to rush hour) and the quality and preparedness of winter road maintenance infrastructure and staffs further contribute to winter storm impacts.  It also doesn't help when our elected officials opt to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the forecast (you know who you are Georgia Governor Nathan Deal).  

Forecasting and communicating all these complexities is a major challenge for the weather prediction enterprise.  In addition, even a good forecast can be ineffective if the end user doesn't understand it, doesn't believe it, doesn't know what to do with it, or doesn't take effective action (see this excellent post on Chuck's Chatter).  Ultimately, good decisions regarding school closures are based on a lot more than just how much snow falls during a storm.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An Unusually Juicy January Storm

Things are going to be interesting in northern Utah through tomorrow (Thursday) as a tap of tropical air originating near Hawaii moves across northern California and southern Oregon and pushes into the state.  The moisture plume, known as an atmospheric river, is very apparent in the water vapor satellite image below, which includes an analysis of integrated water vapor (contours, with warmer colors indicating higher values).

Integrated water vapor is the total amount of water vapor in the atmosphere.  As this particular atmospheric river pushes into the Great Basin, integrated water values with reach values with a return interval over northern Utah of about once every five years during the three week period centered on today.  Thus, this is a fairly juicy airmass for this time of year.

Source: National Weather Service
In addition, the winds are quite strong and and therefore the transport of moisture accompanying this atmospheric river is especially high.  Moisture transport is a measure of how much water vapor is moving through a particular location at a given time.  The strength of the integrated vapor transport this afternoon is higher than seen at any time the 30 year period from 1979-2009.

Source: National Weather Service
So, there are a few things to expect in the next 30 hours.  First, we are going to see mild air moving in and snow levels rising today.  This rise is expected to be very rapid this afternoon.  This morning's NAM actually increases the snow level all the way to 9500 feet.  I think that's too high, but wouldn't be surprised if we saw the snow level push up to 8000 feet or even a bit higher.

Second, the snow we get at upper elevations through the first part of the overnight hours is probably going to be pretty high density.  That's good for base building and we will take it.  The NAM generates 0.84 inches of snow-water equivalent through midnight at Alta, which will probably produce snow with an average water content of 14%.  Yup, Cascade Concrete.  What should, however, help the skiing for tomorrow is that the storm gets colder and the snow water contents drop overnight, which should yield a right-side-up snowfall.

Third, there are some locations that are probably going to get a lot of water out of this storm, perhaps more than 2 inches in some locations.  Not all of this will fall as snow below 8000-8500 feet and, since some of the snow even in the upper elevations will be high density, it won't necessarily add up to as much snow as you might think.  Nevertheless, the weight of this snow is going to stress the snowpack and make for a wild ride in term of backcountry avalanche hazard (see also today's UAC advisory).  As I always say, beware when the atmosphere is in outlier mode and it will be in that mode through at least tomorrow afternoon—with the snowpack in outlier mode longer than that.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What Is That?

A rare weather phenomenon known as a cold front will be passing through northern Utah tomorrow night.  Be sure to get out and experience it first hand as cold frontal sightings are indeed quite rare these days.

Tomorrow looks to be an interesting day in the prefrontal environment as temperatures aloft remain quite mild and clouds and precipitation (valley rain, mountain snow above perhaps 7500 feet) drop into the state.  Looks like a good garbage-bag ski afternoon if you are headed to the mountains, especially if you are going to the northern Wasatch.  How quickly the inversion scours out is unclear, but assuming it goes, which I think is likely, we may see temperatures pop up into the upper 40s or near 50 in the Salt Lake Valley, which would be a wonderful change.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) night, the cold front pushes through and will be the death knell for any lingering remnants of the inversion (don't let the door hit you on the way out).  It will also bring more snow to the mountains.

How much snow you should expect depends on your model of choice.  The NAM is excited, going for 19 and 26 inches, respectively, at Alta in it's 12- and 4-km versions by 5 PM Thursday.  The GFS (pictured above) is somewhat less excited.  The gold standard EC is a bit slower on the front, but perhaps between the GFS and NAM on precip amounts.  A big issue for snowfall accumulations will be the temperatures, especially during the first part of the storm tomorrow afternoon and evening.  Accumulations will be limited below 8000 feet tomorrow afternoon and possibly evening before temperatures fall.   Above 8000 feet, this looks to be a decent base builder for the mountains, and while we normally like that in November, we will take it this year in January.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Remarkable Avalanche Video

Further evidence that civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice (quote from Will Durant).  The avalanche footage below, posted by YouTube user akiwiguy101 and shot near Valdez Alaska, is pretty mind boggling and enough entertainment for today!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Modest Pattern Change

In a typical year, this wouldn't be much to talk about, but this year is different.  The latest GFS (and EC) are hinting at a modest pattern change (I don't want to sell it as anything more than that) with some westerly flow breaking into the western United States and bringing some precipitation into the state midweek.

Much will depend on the details, but at least this will help stir up the air around here and maybe help freshen up the mountain snowpack a bit.  Right now the models lack agreement on the gory details, so we'll just have to see how things play out this week.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

End This Now!

Today was my first venture into the Wasatch since returning from New York.  Near as I can tell, nothing has changed in the 3 weeks since I left.  The winter of our discontent continues.

The quote of the day was provided by a 5 year old in the parking lot who said, "well, at least there is snow."  Indeed.  And a child shall lead them.  Despite extreme thirst for powder, most people I met today were smiling and enjoying the sun.  Attitude is everything.

The models are hinting at a pattern shift with some storminess perhaps coming our way midweek.  We'll take a closer look as it approaches.  Anything that will bring an end to this perverse inversion will be appreciated.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rumors of Global Warming's Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Although the western U.S. has been dominated by a ridge this winter, the eastern U.S. has seen the opposite end of the spectrum and has experienced a series of cold surges that have made it feel at times like a "real winter."  This has been great for our lake-effect project, OWLeS, as we have had plenty of storms to sample.

Today, however, our students on the Tug Hill Plateau woke up to temperatures of -21ºF.  They then had a little fun to see if throwing boiling water into air this cold can produce a cloud of supercooled liquid water droplets and ice crystals (WARNING: This can be a hazardous activity that can yield burns if you toss too much water, don't toss it properly away from you, or throw it on spectators).

Click here for the video (mp4 format, courtesy Derek Jensen and Peter Veals).

With such cold air in the east, I've heard a number of entirely unscientific comments about this finally being the end of global warming, which of course gave Jon Stewart plenty of material earlier this month.

The problem with these comments, to put it mathematically, is that weather ≠ climate.  Weather fluctuations are such that while one region of the world is relatively cold, another region is typically warm.  The image below shows an analysis of surface temperature (top) and the departure of surface temperature from climatology (bottom) on Jan 22nd.  You can see that most of the eastern U.S. and Canada observed below average temperatures, as did portions of Europe and northern Asia.

On the other hand, there are areas that observe above average temperatures, such as interior western Asia, Alaska, the western U.S., and the North Atlantic region.

This is why it is essential to take a global and long-term perspective.  For example, data from NCDC shows that 2013 was the fourth warmest year in the instrumented record (i.e., since 1880).  Thus, it is pretty easy to show that there has been no return to the climate of your grandparents.

Source: National Climatic Data Center
However, for younger Utahns, 2013 was a remarkably cool year.  It was the first year since 1993 that the statewide average temperature was below the 20th century average (by 0.2ºF).

Source: National Climatic Data Center
Of course, the year was marked by great variability, with well below average temperatures in January and above average temperatures for much of the summer.  It is easy to cherry pick the weather in a given period or area, but a global, long-term analysis shows that rumors of global warming's demise are greatly exaggerated.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Losing Ground

I'm sharing today some remarkable satellite images of Mount Shasta that were posted by a reader of the California Weather Blog.

A bad snow year is one thing, but losing ground is painful.  Here's the latest web cam from the Mount Shasta Ski (er Dust) Park.

Source: Mount Shasta Ski Park
One of our students who is working in California sent me this photo looking across Donner Pass from Judah Peak where they found 150 vertical feet of recrystalized snow on north aspects after a 3 hour drive.

Credit: Neil Lareau
Of course, there's no such thing as bad turns, only some turns are better than others.  Then again, there's nothing wrong with winter hiking.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Suffering and Misery

I'm going to have an interesting day today as I leave suffering for misery.   This morning, I'm in upstate New York.  It was -11F when I woke up this morning and was brutally cold.  Upstate New Yorkers like to say that there's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate dress.  However, they are a hardy lot.  My niece left for the bus this morning wearing a thin pair of slip on shoes.  Ah, teenagers...

Later tonight I arrive in Salt Lake City where misery awaits.  I've been watching the air quality there the past few days and it looks nasty as the PM2.5 concentrations have been flirting with the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for several days.  One thing that is interesting and that I don't understand are the huge fluctuations from day to night in PM2.5 concentration.  These are as large as I've seen.  Perhaps someone out there who knows more about air chemistry can comment.
PM2.5 concentrations in the Salt Lake Valley.  Source: Utah Division of Air Quality
The models hint that Salt Lake may get some relief tomorrow.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that happens as I've learned to enjoy breathing clean air the past couple of weeks.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

One of my Favorite Toys

Utah, SUNY-Albany, Center for Severe Weather Research, and Pulaski High staff and students with the Doppler on Wheels "DOW7".  Source: Oswego County Today.
One of the fun things we get to do when on field deployment is visit local schools.  Nothing gets them more excited than when we roll in with one of the Center for Severe Weather Research's Doppler on Wheels radars, which is one of my favorite toys for research and education.   Here's a great article from Oswego County Today discussing our outreach activities at Pulaski High School about a week ago.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Until We Meet Again

It was a bittersweet day today as I left the Tug Hill Plateau and began my return trip back to Salt Lake City.  I look forward to seeing the family, but it was hard leaving the great snow and the many friends I've made on the Tug Hill Plateau.

Mother Nature has treated us well and she gave me a great parting gift in the form of about 10 inches of beautiful low-density snow overnight.  It was nice to see the big snow blower in action once again.

We got more great data during last night's storm and I left a couple of couple of students on the Tug in case we are fortunate enough to see another storm or two in the next 10 days.  It has been so active during our field program, however, that we may run out of soundings and other resources before the 29th, which is the last scheduled day of operations.  If that happens, we'll be happy to pack up and head home early as the field program has been a huge success.

Of course, after successful sampling last night, I took my celebratory ski tour and let the beauty of the scene sink deep into my synapses and memory.  I remain blown away by how good the snow and cross country skiing are on the Tug.  If only it didn't rain so much between dumps!

I was also blessed when the clouds parted (a very rare occurrence during winter on the Tug) and gave me a bluebird scene as I departed.

To everyone on the Tug, thanks for making this such an enjoyable stay.  It was a career highlight for me.  Keep thinking snow!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Who Has the Best Snow in the East?

Cultivating snow snobbery at a young age.  The author's son at Alta, UT, April 30, 2011.
If there is one thing that skiers like to argue about it is who has the best snow (or terrain).  Living in Utah, a state that has trademarked the phrase Greatest Snow on Earth, I was infected by powder snobbery many years ago and have often participated vociferously in these arguments.

Of course "best" or "greatest" cannot be scientifically evaluated as they are ultimately a reflection of the eye of the beholder.  From a skiing perspective, if you are looking for great snow, there are probably three key factors to consider:

1. Quality: Typically determined by the water content of the snow, although there are other factors (see item 3 below)

2. Quantity: How much snow falls.

3. Intangibles: How does the snow fall?  How frequent and large are the storms?  Does the snow tend to fall right-side-up or upside down?  Is the area prone to rain-on-snow events? Etc.

The intangibles are important because contrary to popular belief, the best powder skiing is not found in the driest (i.e., low water content) snow, but in "snow with enough body to provide good flotation for the running ski" (a nod to the late Avalanche Hunter Ed LaChapelle for this quote).  Typically flotation is best in snowfalls that have decreasing water content with time, so that dry, lower water content snow sits on top of higher (but not too high) water content snow.  Such a snowfall, known to powder aficionados as right-side up, typically requires storms that start out warmer and get colder with time.

In contrast, more difficult powder skiing is produced by snowfalls that have increasing water content with time, so that wet, higher water content snow sits on top of lower water content snow.  Such a snowfall is called upside down and creates more difficult skiing conditions because the skis tend to punch or dive through the higher density snow and remain submerged in the low density snow.

Utah's "claim" on the Greatest Snow on Earth is based primarily on the snow climate of the Cottonwood Canyons east of Salt Lake City.  The Cottonwoods are special because they have a combination of quantity (500+ inches per year above about 8500 feet), quality (8.4% water content on average), and intangibles.  Those intangibles include a storm climatology that favors lots of goldilocks storms.  Goldilocks storms aren't too big (bad for avalanches), aren't too small (powder skiing requires at least 10 inches of fresh snow), but are just right (Alta averages 17.4 days per season with 10 inches or more of snow).  In addition, the storm climatology in the Cottonwoods favors right-side up snowfalls.  The 8.4% average water content of snow in the Cottonwoods is not unusually low.  You can find drier snow on average across much of Colorado.  The problem there and in many other regions that get drier snow is quantity – deep powder dumps are simply less common.

So, Utah has a pretty good claim on the Greatest Snow on Earth if powder skiing is your yardstick.  Of course, one can make a strong argument for a few other regions.  As discussed in my forthcoming book, Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth, which will be published next fall by the University Press of Colorado, portions of the Teton Range have a snow climatology very similar to that in the Cottonwoods.  Portions of Japan, especially Hokkaido Island, also have a remarkable snow climate due to exceptional sea-effect snowfalls produced by the Sea of Japan.  I personally like interior British Columbia, although it is a bit more susceptible to rain and rime events depending on elevation.

But the focus of this post is the eastern United States and natural snowfall (sorry Hunter Mountain, but your claim of Snowmaking Capitol of the World impresses me not).  We have been measuring snow here on the Tug Hill Plateau and during lake-effect storms we have found an average water content of only 5.8%.  I was so impressed by this that I quipped at one of our meetings last week that the Tug Hill was now home to the Greatest Snow in the World, which served as a great headline for an article by Syracuse Post-Standard reporter Glenn Coin.

Syracuse Post-Standard
Yup, that was a juicy quote, served up on a platter during a presentation with my usual gusto.  Of course, the Tug does get great snow and they have a legitimate claim to the most intense snow storms in the world.  However, the fickle climate of the northeast makes snow conditions on the Tug quite variable and the mean snowfall is not sufficient to knock Utah and others from their lofty perch as contenders for world champion (skiers might bemoan the lack of big mountains too).

On the other hand, the Tug has a very strong claim on the greatest snow in the eastern United States.  The other contenders are the Keweenaw Peninsula which extends northeastward into Lake Superior from Michigan's upper peninsula, and Jay Peak in northern Vermont.  One of the challenges in refereeing this eastern U.S. beat down is a lack of official weather records.  I will piece together what I can with what is available.  

Tug Hill Plateau, NY

Tug Hill Plateau provides what is probably the largest contiguous area in the eastern United States with an average annual snowfall of 200 inches or more.  According to data provided by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), the average annual snowfall at Hooker/Montague in the northern part of the Tug Hill Plateau was 240 inches from 1981-2010, and it is likely snowier in the area north of Redfield on the western slope of the Tug.  This abundant snowfall makes the Tug the most reliable region for natural snow in the northeast with the rolling terrain ideal for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.  The steepest, most abrupt topography is on the eastern side where Snow Ridge Ski Area claims an average snowfall of 230 inches, which seems reasonable.  Most of this snow is lake effect that typically features a relatively low water content.  

Snow Ridge: Modest vertical, but big snows.  Even in a poor snow year in the east, plenty of snow to ski here.  This photo was taken on 17 January.
Keweenaw Peninsula, MI

According to data provided by NCDC, the average annual snowfall at Hancock Houghton County Airport is 208 inches (F thumbnail below), and weather historian Christopher Burt reports an average annual snowfall in Herman of 236 inches, but snowfall is probably greater at upper elevations.  Mt. Bohemia near the upper tip of the peninsula (H thumbnail below) serves up 900 vertical feet and claims an average of 273 inches, which seems reasonable.

Source: Acme Mapper
Further, most of this snowfall is lake effect and likely has very low water content.  Long-term records collected by National Weather Service volunteer observers suggests this area receives some of the driest snow in the United States, comparable to that found over the western interior. 

Source: Steenburgh (2014), adapted from Baxter et al. (2005)
Jay Peak, etc.

Near the summits of the higher peaks of Vermont, New Hampshire (especially the Presidential Range), and Maine, snowfall likely exceeds 200 inches at many locations.   The only NCDC observing site that I am aware of near the summit of these peaks, however, is Mount Mansfield, with an average of 244 inches at nearly 4000 feet elevation.  Many ski areas do not report snowfall officially, but Tony Crocker has compiled quite a bit of miscellaneous data at (note his caveat about snow reporting not being an exact science).  These reports are unofficial and sometimes use non-standard recording practices.  The period of averaging likely varies, but there is sufficient evidence to conclude that most of the higher peaks in central and northern Vermont likely receive more than 200 inches.  Jay Peak is commonly cited as the snowiest eastern resort and Tony's data certainly suggests this is the case.  The resort suggests an annual snowfall of 377 inches.  That seems high to me, but something over 300 may be possible (Jay Peakers feel free to cast stones).  Jay sees a greater diversity of storms than Mt. Bohemia or Snow Ridge, and the net result of this is somewhat higher water content snow.  That's not always bad, but perhaps deep dumps of cold smoke are a bit more common at Mt. Bohemia or Snow Ridge, although as noted earlier, right-side-up snowfalls are the key to great powder skiing and it's tough to gauge that intangible from climatological averages.


So, for the eastern snow aficionados, you're looking at the Keweenaw Peninsula, Tug Hill Plateau, or the peaks of northern Vermont.  Who has the best snow?  I'll call it a toss up and let you argue in the comments.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sampling the Sky

Today we have been examining lake-effect snowfall in the area around Syracuse and the Finger Lakes. Since my team concentrates primarily on the Tug Hill Plateau, we essentially had a day off and opted to drive to the Penn Yan airport to check out the University of Wyoming King Air research aircraft before its scheduled noon departure.

The King Air is a really cool instrument for studying lake-effect and other storms.  It has a number of "probes" that sample small particles in clouds and help us to understand the small "microphysical" processes that contribute to snow formation.

It also has a cloud radar and cloud lidar, which tell us about the characteristics of the clouds and storm above and below the flight track.  The concept is similar to the weather radars you are familiar with, but we generally collect a "curtain" of data above and below the flight track rather than scanning the storm like a weather radar.

The inside is more cramped than Delta economy class.  The main reason for this is that most of the cabin is taken up by electronics, computers, and instruments.

We are hoping to examine snow on the Tug Hill Plateau tomorrow afternoon and evening.  As we drove home this evening, it snowed harder and harder as we ascended the plateau.

We're hoping this is a harbinger for things to come.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Grim Western Snowpack Picture

We are now approaching the half-way point of the winter snow accumulations season in the western mountains and the snowpack situation is looking pretty dire in most areas except those near the Continental Divide of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.

Basin average snow water content in nearly all major river basins of Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, southwest Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico are below average and, in many instances, well below average.  

In Utah, despite the recent storm cycle, the Wasatch are sitting solidly below average and, at least in the case of Snowbird, we are running behind last year's dismal showing.

Source: CBRFC
As one moves eastward, the situation improves.  Many locations near the Continental Divide are near average, including the Tower Snotel in the Park Range north of Steamboat in Colorado where the snowpack snow-water equivalent is roughly double that at Snowbird (Coloradoans gloat here…).  

On the other hand, a dire situation exists presently in the Sierra Nevada.  The KT-22 WebCam from Squaw Valley pretty much tells the tale.

With a huge ridge over the western U.S. the dry spell is expected to continue for at least the next week.  Seasonal prediction is of course more uncertain than weather prediction, and Mother Nature can flick the switch and bring a lot of snow quickly, but such large snowpack deficits are going to be difficult to overcome.  This is reflected in the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center which expects drought to persist or intensify (brown shading) or to develop (yellow shading) in the areas of the west and southwest currently with low mountain snowpacks.  

Source: Climate Prediction Center
A big late winter early spring storm pattern is going to be needed if we are to dig out of this hole. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Utah Loses When Tug Hill Wins (and Vice Versa)

An interesting aspect of jet stream behavior is that when the western U.S. is under a ridge, the eastern U.S. is usually under a trough (and vice versa).  This is because the typical distance between long-wave ridges and troughs at jet stream level is about the distance across the contiguous U.S.

This means that if you are a powder hound, when Utah loses (meaning it is dry and under a ridge), the Tug Hill Plateau wins (meaning it is getting lake-effect and under a trough).  It's now always that clean cut, especially since lake-effect on the Tug Hill Plateau is strongly dependent on wind direction, but it does often work out that way.

Case in point is the forecast for Friday.  As shown in the dynamic tropopause (jet level) analysis below, Utah and the western U.S. are under the influence of a very high amplitude upper level ridge.  It is not yet time for western U.S. water resource managers to panic, but if this pattern continues to persist, the runoff this spring is going to be very very meager.

In contrast, an upper-level trough is moving across the eastern U.S.  The blast of cold air accompanying the trough will hopefully yield some lake effect for us to sample both with our instruments and with our skis.  I'm up early this morning for a quick ski tour on what the easterners like to call frozen granular, which is a nice way to say the snowpack is frozen rock solid.  Thus, we are looking forward to seeing the white stuff flying again.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


If I hear polar vortex one more time, I'm going to snap!  If you want to know what this Polar Vortex stuff is all about and why the press has gone over the deep end, check out The Polar Vortex: Myth and Reality at The Cliff Mass Blog.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Evolution of an Eastern Snowpack

We've had some downtime here in upstate NY and are using the time to analyze some of the data we've collected in the last several weeks over the Tug Hill Plateau.  I wanted to share a very interesting graph that shows the dramatic impact that the Tug Hill Plateau has on winter storms and the love–hate relationship that Mother Nature has with snowpacks in the eastern U.S.

The graph shows the total snow depth at two sites.  The first is Sandy Creek (elevation 475 feet) at the foot of the Tug Hill Plateau.  The second is North Redfield (elevation 1275 feet) on the western slope of the Tug Hill Plateau.  These are the middle two sites in the image below.

These sites may be only 800 feet difference in elevation, but the contrast in storm intensity and snowpack is enormous and impressive even for a hardened mountain weather scientist and powder snob like myself.

Note first the dramatic increase in snow depth during nearly all winter storms, which I have identified with green or blue shading.  The green indicates periods where the increase in total snow depth and the new snowfall at North Redfield is substantially larger than at Sandy Creek.  This is largely a result of precipitation enhancement over the Tug Hill Plateau.  There is one curious exception to this and that is the storm that occurred on 12-15-2013 (indicated by blue shading) when the two sites received fairly similar snowfalls.  Understanding why some lake-effect storms bombard the lowlands as much as the uplands is one of the problems we hope to work on with the data we have collected in our field program.

Next we have the impressive snow depth of more than 1 meter (nearly 40 inches) achieved at North Redfield in December.  By eastern standards, that is an impressive snowpack, but we could have achieved much greater depths if Mother Nature wasn't so cruel.  She has beaten and battered the snowpack with three thaw and rain events.  These thaw and rain events are indicate by red shading and feature a much more rapid decline in total snow depth than produced by settlement of the new snow after storms.  Collectively the three thaw and rain events wipe out about 60 cm of snow depth (more if you include the graduate loss of snowpack during the first thaw event around 12-22-2013).  If we could only remove these thaw and rain events from the climate system!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fun for Kids with the Doppler on Wheels

Unfortunately it is warm and pouring rain on the Tug Hill Plateau today and we're watching the snow disappear before our eyes.

Yesterday, however, was a great day as we visited Pulaski High School and brought our friends from the Center for Severe Weather Research with us with their Doppler on Wheels (DOW).  

Courtesy Jamie Hefti/Pulaski High School
If you think teenagers don't think science is cool, drive this beastie into their parking lot sometime and you will see their eyes light up.  Especially when they go inside.

Sometimes you get lucky with visits like this.  If you want to take a bunch of kids outside to learn about snow crystals, it's best if it is snowing very lightly so that it is manageable.  That's what we found when we arrived, plus we learned that they had a bunch of small magnifying glasses in the classroom, so we did some crystal identification and some exercises in snow water content (a.k.a., density).

Courtesy Jamie Hefti/Pulaski High School
Courtesy Jamie Hefti/Pulaski High School
Turns out the students were interested in avalanches, so I ended up taking them on a virtual trip to Utah's Little Cottonwood Canyon and showed them all that goes on to keep the road open during winter.   This was perhaps my only hope of competing with the DOW!

Courtesy Jamie Hefti/Pulaski High School
Special thanks to all the Steenburgh and Center for Severe Weather Research groupies who made it such a great day for the Pulaski High students.

Back into the field tomorrow.  No rest for the weary!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Utah Gets Some, Barnes Corners Talk

Looks like about 18 new at Alta since yesterday morning.  Great news for Wasatch skiers as we've needed the snow and people have been getting ornery for powder.

Source: MesoWest
Meanwhile here on the Tug Hill Plateau today looks like the last day with cold powder.  A major rain event is on tap for Saturday.  If you are in the area on Saturday and are looking for something to do, you might consider coming to my talk on lake effect, snow, and the OWLeS field program at 10 am at the Barnes Corners United Methodist Church.  A $5 donation is requested.  Click here for more information.

Come and hear about lake-effect storms, snow, and our adventures on the Tug Hill Plateau tomorrow morning in Barnes Corners, NY.