Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Snow Plumes

This morning we have a wonderful display of snow plumes that are emerging from most of the high peaks and ridges of the Wasatch Mountains.  They can be seen clearly from the Salt Lake Valley, and also downstream (south) of Mount Superior on the Alta web cam.

Source: Alta.com
While waiting for the bus and watching the plumes, the first thought that came to mind was that it must be blowing really hard up on the ridges, but that really isn't the case.  The Mount Baldy wind sensor is out, but  the sensor at the top of the Snowbird Tram (i.e., Hidden Peak) is gusting to only 30 mph.

Similarly, it's gusting to only 33 mph on Cardiff Peak.

Now that's still a stiff wind and it's going to feel mighty cold on the ridges, but these are locations that can gust over 60 mph (Hidden Peak sometimes over 80), so we're not talking about winds that are unusually strong.

What is unique is that there is fresh, dry snow to transport and clear skies so we can see it happening.  The Utah Avalanche Center reports the overnight snow had a 6-8% water content.  Such snow is easily lofted by the wind.  However, that lofting can only last for so long.  The wind will eventually scour off all the easily transported snow and the snow plumes will become more localized and less widespread.   Until then, enjoy the show.

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