Wasatch Front residents are all too aware of what often happens when our flow comes from the east: downslope winds. Indeed, we will be seeing a downslope wind event develop later today and amplify tonight as the large-scale flow between a developing ridge over northwest North America and a closed low near southern California strengthens and becomes more easterly. This easterly flow is quite apparent in the NAM forecast valid 8 am MDT tomorrow (Friday) morning (although I've elected to show tomorrow morning, strong easterlies expected tonight too).
|1200 UTC 21 November 2013 NAM 800 mb temperature and wind forecast valid 1500 UTC (0800 MST) 22 November 2013|
Flow across the northern Wasatch crest is expected to generate what meteorologists call a high-amplitude mountain wave, with strong flow from crest level plunging down the western face of the Wasatch Mountains and generating strong winds along the northern Wasatch Front as indicated schematically in the image below.
|Source: Whiteman (2000)|
One of the most challenging aspects of forecasting events of this type is determining the strength of the winds. Most of our computer models lack the resolution to fully resolve the influence of the Wasatch Mountains. We have some locally run models that do a better job, but these events are relatively rare, so we don't know how well calibrated that they are. Nevertheless, we glean what we can from the models, experience, and past events. Based on this knowledge, the National Weather Service High Wind Warning issued at 10 am this morning calls for easterly winds of 30–40 mph with gusts in excess of 70 mph.
Right now we don't think this event will be as strong as the December 1st, 2011 event which featured a maximum gust of just over 100 mph near Centerville. Let's hope that's the case, but don't use it as a reason to be complacent as this is still a strong event (and one can't rule out something stronger even if that's not a likely scenario). Secure those objects that can become airborne during strong winds.