Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ruby Mountain Orographic Effects

The Ruby Mountains are a spectacular Wasatch-like range located southeast of Elko, NV that contain some great skiing (heli and backcountry) and frequently produce dramatic orographic precipitation effects.  As shown in the image below, the Ruby Mountains (center of image) are isolated, narrow, and elongated.  There are at least 10 peaks in the Ruby Mountains and the adjoining East Humbolt Range (the high topography immediately southeast of Wells) that reach over 11,000 feet.

The Ruby Mountains stand out like a sore thumb in the Nevada precipitation climatology.  Incredible gradients in precipitation are found on both the windward and leeward side of the range, with estimated average annual precipitation approaching 45" in the highest terrain (for comparison, Alta averages 54").

Source: OSU Prism Group and Wester Region Climate Center
This morning provides a remarkable example of the influence of the Ruby Mountains on precipitation.  With flow out of the west and northwest, check out the persistent area of windward orographic enhancement hanging over the barrier, and then the abrupt rainshadowing just downstream of the crest.

Impressive!  Good skiing to be had in the Rubys today for sure, but of course it is snowing in the Wasatch today as well.

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