Friday, February 13, 2015

Could This Be a Record Low-Snow February?

All the skiers in our mountain meteorology group are catatonic.  Some of what I heard them mumbling about as they looked at the computer models today:

"The GFS run is the worst I've ever seen."

"We're on to 2015/16."

"I'm going to the desert."

How bad is it?  Well, here is the total accumulated precipitation for the next 384 hours (16 days) through March 1st from today's GFS.  Much of Utah has no precipitation, with just a sliver of the northern portion observing something between 0.01 and 0.10 inches.
Source: NCEP
Even the chances of snow this Sunday and Monday are evaporating before our eyes.  The models have shifted the trough eastward and are generally keeping the precipitation to our east.  Perhaps we'll get a few snow showers in the mountains, but not much more.  Here's our downscaled NAEFS ensemble forecast for Alta-Collins for the next 7 days.  Most of the ensemble members give us nothing.  A handful call for a couple of inches Sunday to Monday.  Then there's an outlier member of the Canadian Ensemble giving us nearly 20 inches.  I guess there's always hope, but counting on that ensemble member to come through is like hitting on 20 when the dealer has two face cards.  

It's a bit dangerous to look at that GFS forecast above and assume we'll be skunked for the rest of the month.  These ultra-long-term forecasts have limited skill, but nearly all the models are calling for the "death ridge" to remain in control for the period.  Just for kicks, let's suppose we really do get skunked for the rest of the month.  In fact,  I'm going to assume this is going to happen just so that the forecast gods get ticked off and throw a big storm our way just to prove me wrong.  The Alta National Weather Service Cooperative Observer has recorded 9.5 inches of snow so far this month, roughly 25% of average through Feb 13.  According to records at the Utah Avalanche Center, the lowest snowfall ever recorded at Alta previously during February is 34 inches in 1950.  So, we could be heading into rare territory.  In case you are wondering, the lowest winter-month snowfall at Alta is 1 inch in Jan 1961.  Assuming that's not a typo or bad report, we're at least not going to touch that.  


  1. Is this because I put in that steep skin track in December. I'm sorry! At least I didn't fart in the tram.

    1. I hope you have learned your lesson. It's a good thing you are anonymous. I suggest moving and changing your phone number anyway!

  2. Now I'm hoping it won't snow this month. If it's going to be crappy, I'd rather it be the crappiest ever. The GFS was on a remarkable run of showing promise 8-10 days out and killing dreams at 5-7 days out. Now that's it's showing nothing, I bet the forecast will be dead on for 384 hours.

  3. What? Me worry?
    I'm sitting here reading this with a knee brace on my right leg -- the resultant of my board going left of the little sapling and my torso going right.

    Come April (and good snow) I'm playing 16 performances (plus a few long rehearsals) of "Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" at the Babcock Theatre.