Thursday, January 12, 2017

The "Steenburgh Effect"

Today's guest post is lifted from an e-mail sent from a friend and meteorologist who shall remain anonymous to protect the innocent.  It provides a clear explanation for the recent Wasatch storm cycle.
If you’ve been following Jim Steenburgh’s excellent blog, Wasatch Weather Weenies, then you know Jim is in Japan collaborating with researchers on Sea Effect Snow.  Jim is one of the world’s foremost experts on Lake Effect Snow, and the Sea of Japan is really a big lake to a meteorologist like Jim.

Although Lake Effect and Sea Effect are awesome phenomena, I think the most impressive snow producing phenomenon is the Steenburgh Effect.

Jim has told me for years that whenever he leaves Utah in the winter it tends to snow, and often it snows a lot.  At the National Weather Service we used to keep a calendar on the wall and indicate when Jim was going to be gone, so we could factor it into our forecasts (jk).  And, of course the avalanche center and the ski areas were keenly interested in Jim’s travel schedule.

Jim left for Japan on the morning of January 2nd.  Here are some water totals for the period January 2-11 from some SNOTEL sites along the Wasatch from north to south:

Tony Grove (near Logan) 12.6 inches
Ben Lomand Peak (near Ogden)  12.1 inches
Mill D (in Big Cottonwood) 6.5   inches
Snowbird 8.1 inches
Timp Divide 9.2 inches

Most of these totals represent approximately 25% of the total average winter snow water, and at Timp Divide the value represents nearly 50% of the average winter snow water.

As much as we all enjoy Jim’s company on ski tours, I’m hoping he has some more trips planned.
So, you see my collaborations here in Japan have already proven successful for quality of life in the US.  And, you shouldn't feel bad for me as the snow sampling here has been going very well, both scientifically and personally.

Photo: Miles Peterson, Dancing Snow Myoko Outdoor Adventures
I am, however, heading back to Utah this weekend, so get your powder skiing in now.


  1. Are you sure you can't extend your stay?

  2. Steenburgh returns from Japan; sunny high pressure follows in the Wasatch. Maybe correlation *is* causation after all.

  3. when's the next out of town trip? ;-)