Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Dribs and Drabs Will Continue Until Morale Improves

In times like these, one learns to appreciate the smaller dumps in life.  My usual definition of a deep-powder day is a 24-hour snowfall of at least 10 inches, but we've only had one of those at Alta since December 3rd!

On the other hand, recent dribs and drabs have certainly helped the skiing some, even as we continue to lose ground to climatology for snowfall amount and snowpack water equivalent.  The 6" of quick snow Saturday afternoon and 7.5" yesterday did create some smiles.  Maybe 6" is the new deep powder day.

You'll be hearing some talk of a pattern shift probably in the coming days, and indeed there are some changes afoot.  The GFS forecast valid 5 AM MST next Tuesday, for example, has a trough over the northwest U.S. and a ridge over the east, something we haven't seen a lot of this winter.

Similarly, the ECMWF model has a trough in the west (with some differing details) as do most (but not all) GEFS ensemble members.

Penn State E-wall
However, the overall pattern is one that remains high amplitude.  Note, for example, the strong ridging over the eastern Pacific and the north Atlantic in the GFS forecast above.  Given the characteristics of this flow pattern over the eastern Pacific and western North America, I'm still not enthused about this pattern opening up the spigot from now through the President's weekend.

Instead, dribs and drabs are likely.  As shown in the NAEFS plume below for Alta, the next round of dribs and drabs looks to be late Wednesday through Thursday AM.  After that, there's a break and then a great range in the timing of possible dribs and drabs Saturday night through Monday.  As usual, there's a couple of more excited ensemble members, so my usual line of keep expectations low and hope for the best applies. 

There is one non-scientific reason for you to be optimistic.  I took a surprisingly hard fall skate skiing on Saturday and learned yesterday that I fractured a bone in my hand.  They tell me I can continue to ski with a splint, but this is likely to slow me down a bit more than usual.  Thus, there may be a partial Steenburgh Effect that increases the likelihood of a deep powder day, although perhaps not as much as when I'm out of town.  This effect, if it exists, will only last 6 weeks, so be ready.  


  1. Heal up Professor!

  2. Sorry to hear about the broken hand, glad it's just 6 weeks.

    If broken hand Steenburgh Effect appears, we will be hope your hand heals swiftly so you can leave town appreciative.

    I've resigned myself to a repeat of 1992 or 2003, two years of drib/drab epitome.

    2003 was a not too far below average spring powder.

    1992 was a total bust.

    Nice winter for my bicycle commuting.

    I'm shifting my prayers to next year.

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  4. Thank you for taking one for the team. The Steenburgh effect has been pretty reliable the past few years.

  5. Sorry to hear about that hand. Guess those are the lumps we take for lack of inspiration on the hills.

  6. Hopefully your doctor has advised your hands be pressed and held in prayerful posture to facilitate rapid recovery from your fracture. Heal up weatherman;)

  7. Hey I have a question about saturday's drib and/or drab (I dont know the difference since I didnt go to meteorology school). The forecast was for it to clear during the day, and after the temperature drop, it certainly seemed like it was going to brake up. Instead it kinda started dumping. A few of us said it felt like "lake effect" snow. Is this at all accurate? Thanks.

    1. It wasn't lake-effect snow, but it was 5" of 5%.

      Dribs and drabs is not a science term, but since the motto of this blog is "Mountain Meteorology and Snow Snobbery", the 5" that fell Saturday counts as a drib or a drab (your choice). From a water standpoint (.26"), it barely counted as a drop in the bucket.