Monday, January 20, 2020

Greed Is Good

One of the "worst" days I've had this year.  Photo: Erik Steenburgh.
It's been a pretty good ski season thus far and, thinking like Gordon Gecko, I think our motto going forward should be "Greed Is Good."  

NRCS SNOTEL data as of 18 January shows that most northern Utah observing sites are at or above median.  In the Wasatch Range, only Timpanogos Divide (93% of median) and Cascade Mountain (82%) are below median.  

The Snowbird SNOTEL has both the highest water equivalent (23.8") and percentage above median  (143%) in the Wasatch Range.  A look at this water year's trace (blue line below) compared to water years since 2011 shows we are running well above all water years except 2019 and 2011 (year denotes the last year of the water year — i.e., 2019 = 2018/19).  Further, we were ahead of 2019 during much of December and are only a little behind, so the difference is negligible.  

Source: CBRFC
The bottom line is that this year is pretty good by recent standards.  We've discussed how the 2010s were pretty "meh" for snowfall compared to the 1980s and 1990s in previous posts (see Your Parents Had More Powder Than You).  A look at the the traces above shows that the 2010s were characterized by either really big snow years or really bad snow years.  There's no middle ground and no seasons that end up near median maximum SWE, which is 43 inches. 

How the rest of the year ends up is anyone's guess, but we can look forward to the week ahead and see what is likely.  We have a system passing to the south tonight and tomorrow and then another system passing to the north Tuesday night and Wednesday.  While not a direct hit, the Wasatch should see some periods of snow tonight through Wednesday morning.  Through 11 AM Wednesday (22/18Z in the plumes below), the SREF generates a mean of about 8 inches of snow at Alta-Collins, with most members between about 3 and 12 inches.  

After that, it's a bit of a dirty ridge scenario for Thursday, but accumulations, if it snows, will probably be light.  Thus, a reset this week depends on coming in on the high end of projections through Wednesday morning.  The most likely scenario is 4-8 inches in upper Little Cottonwood this week.  Let's hope we do better than that and get a real reset.  Greed is good.

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