Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day Cynicism, Storm Optimism, and Other Tidbits

The sun has risen on a day that I awake feeling strangely conflicted by an emotional mix of Earth Day cynicism, meteorological optimism, and scientific excitement.  A few reasons why in rapid-fire mode:

Earth Day: So What?  
Sorry to be a cynic, but I don't think Earth Day has accomplished much.  It should be retired.  I'm not against what it stands for in any way, shape, or form, but we spend too much time discussing simple things that we can do to reduce our carbon footprint.  Youngsters out there – you can think much bigger and do what my generation couldn't.

Passing of Prince
Although I never was a big fan, I came of age when Prince truly was a mega star and we tip the hat to him today for Purple Rain.  It's always great to see hydrometeors referenced in album and movie titles.  

Wind and Dust?
We should see some south winds today and possibly some blowing dust around the state.  The frontal timing isn't quite right for a really big blow in the valleys as ideally you want the strongest flow to be phased with the peak in afternoon temperatures.  Instead, the maximum low-level flow, at least in the 0600 UTC NAM forecast, comes in later this evening and overnight as illustrated by the time-height section below.  

Nevertheless, the predicted flow for today is sufficient to support the NWS forecast of 25-35 mph south winds with gusts in excess of 45 for many of the valleys and basins of western Utah.

Closing Weekend Dumpage
Forecasts for mountain precipitation during and following the frontal passage have been fairly erratic, but we are going to get some of the white stuff.   The 0600 UTC NAM generates nearly an inch of water and 9 inches of snow at Alta from Saturday morning to Sunday morning.  Cream on crust seems likely for closing day at Alta.  If we get an inch of water or more, the skiing might even be decent.  Temperatures are such that most of this snow will be high density, but in late April, beggars can't be choosers.  


  1. Do you think the freezing level in the time-height chart is right. 800 mb Sat? What is that in feet, 8000? Rain Tram plaza, snow at Goldminers?

    1. That's the freezing level. The snow level is typically below that. Snow levels for this event should be below the base of Snowbird, but it will still be a warm event.

  2. Earth Day in its inception actually accomplished quite a bit, catalyzing the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, for example.

    But I do understand the "What have you done for me lately?" critique.

    I would argue Earth Day doesn't need to be retired, it needs to evolve. Anything that pulses us to reflect on our relationship with our life support system (i.e., total, utter dependence) has value in my book. I just think the pulses need to be bigger and more often...

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  4. Jim,

    With all the dust in the atmosphere right now, esp you think there could be an added particulate condensation factor for the wet side of this system? I'd have to "dust off" (pun intended) my old Physical Meteorology textbook from almost 30 years ago but thought I would get the short-order answer to that here. Were there any spring cases in the SLC Valley/Wasatch in the past where actual QPF ends up being significantly more than model forecasts when being preceded by widespread dust?