Every year at the autumn equinox, September 21, the sun sets at the north pole and all that remains is twilight, until the first week of October. Then it becomes perpetual darkness for the winter. When the switch is flipped from twilight to perpetual darkness, a switch is also flipped beginning the new weather pattern for the next 12 months. This is exactly what is occurring now. We are beginning to see the new pattern, and along with it the new cycle length.
Although personally I have been using the cycling pattern for eight years now, it wasn’t until three years ago that I started getting organized by creating charts. They were crude at first, but they worked. I printed off blank calendars and pasted a couple together to create my first “cycle length” chart.
By using this chart I could track storms and snowfall amounts, then use the information in later cycles. The cycle length for the above chart, was 58 1/2 days for the 2019/20 season.
For the 2020/21 season, I started using spreadsheets. The spreadsheets were much easier to track from cycle the cycle. It also cut down on simple mistakes.
Pacific Oscillation PO
Now I am using XCel to create a powerful new tool that will help with forecasting. I am calling it the Pacific Oscillation (PO). The PO will index the Pattern similar to how the Arctic Oscillation charts it’s daily variability in winter. I will publish the PO index right here at FutureSnow. A good example of how it works will be forthcoming, however I can tell you that the storm that just came through Colorado, showed up very well on the index. The index will track the strength of the cycle against the other teleconnections.
Last year‘s La Niña winter produced below average snowfall for most of the country. The exception was the Pacific Northwest, specifically north of Oregon. There were two big systems that were about two weeks apart In the middle of this year’s 46.3 day cycle. I called them co-signature or CoSig storms because they were about equal in their production. They produced well in every cycle, with cycle 3, Feb 4th, being the biggest producer for CoSig 2 and cycle 4 March 14th for Co-Sig 1.
Below is the evolution of CoSig 1
The second signature storm occurred a little less than two weeks after CoSig 1 each cycle. A quick note about the second storm, when it came through in February, the energy from this system dislodged the polar vortex and caused it to wobble. A week later it hit Texas.
On April 10th I wrote a blog about how the pattern has the ability to predict hurricanes, you can find that post here. My peers have been developing this technology so I thought I would give it a go. So a little background on the previous blog post. When there is a hurricane during the new cycle, those hurricanes and their paths have a strong tendency to repeat the following hurricane season. The pattern sets up in the fall and then cycles regularly until the new pattern emerges in late summer.
On August 27th last year, Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana coast. Then on October 9th Hurricane Delta hit in nearly the same spot, the southwestern Louisiana coast, which was day 4 of the cycle (46.5 day cycle length). Fast forward to today there is a tropical storm forming in nearly the same place and is on target to hit the Louisiana coast on August 30th which is day 7 of this years cycle. Below is the charts of last years GFS and the predicted chart for August 30th. I chose September 4th as the likely date with a +/- of 7 days. Next year I will know that I can be sharper with my predicted dates. I won’t go into how I calculated the Sept 4 date with things like adding half days and lag, but I will say that I learned a lot from this experience. I will update with a new blog in the coming days. Thanks for spending a few moments reading the blog. If you have any questions be sure to ask them in the comments section or send me an email to Mike@FutureSnow.co.
Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and other Colorado Mountains
For skiers, snowboarders, and snow enthusiasts in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California, a La Nina or neutral winter can be an unwanted guest. During La Nina winters, the strength of storm systems are reduced meaning usually less snow accumulation. When comparing snowfall charts below for Vail Colorado, in the winter of 2018-19 (El Niño) versus 2020-21 (La Niña), there were 10 events over 6+ inches during El Niño , 7 for La Niña. Overall snowfall for the resort was 281” 18/19 and 192” 20/21 season. There were 77 snow events, in 18/19, where it snowed at least 1 inch vs. 56 events last season.
The Pattern for this Winter
The dynamic coupling of ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) and the cycling pattern, create the path and strength of storms throughout the northern hemisphere . Since ENSO is predicted to be either neutral or La Niña for this upcoming winter, we can expect a similar amount of snowfall events and accumulation like last year. Each year is different, however, and the positioning of the other Tele-connections, such as the Arctic oscillation (AO), the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO), Madden Julian oscillation (MJO), and the Pacific North American pattern (PNA) can change the results—good or bad. Think of a vehicle with the four teleconnections as tires. The size of the engine is ENSO, El Niño is like a giant SUV (Excursion or Hummer) La Niña is like a minivan and Neutral conditions are like the huge car your Grandpa drove (Picture 1970s Buick). Neutral years are wild cards. That’s why I use the grandpa reference. Some grandpas drive 30 in a 50 mph zone, while others, like my grandfather, didn’t know there was a speed limit.
Much more to come as we get a little closer to October. Stay tuned.
Weather forecast for Vail Colorado. Weather forecast for Summit county. Weather forecast for Beavercreek Colorado. Weather forecast for Breckenridge Colorado.
Pretty hazy in Colorado the past couple of weeks but there have been some spectacular sunsets. I will post a La Nina update on FutureSnow.CO soon. Will there be good snow for CO next season? Stay tuned!
Impressive numbers for a May storm. Eldora had over a foot, Vail 10, Winter Park 7, Breck 6, Copper and Snowmass 5, Arapahoe Basin a thick 4. Disappointing numbers at ABay, I thought they would at least get 8. I will investigate and see how well it skis today. Tons of terrain open and I’m thinking the Cornice and Beavers should be fantastic.
This puts a wrap on the predictions chart. This storm was a great punctuation mark for showcasing the Pattern.
Winter storm warning issued today until 3pm–that will be extended. Paltry totals for most mountains yesterday, but that will change today with 4-8″ at Breck and ABasin. Eldora was the winner yesterday with 4 or 5″(cam est) Eldora should do really well today, as well, but the bullseye of this storm is the RMNP area and Winter Park.
Expect snow showers today with heavy snow at times. Temps will be in the mid 20s with highs near 30 today. Tonight much colder air will move in with temps in the teens. RMNP and Winter Park area will have winds in the 5-10 range with gusts of 15 mph. ABasin and Breck areas will have stronger winds of 10-15 with 30-35 mph gusts. 3-5″ today with 4-8″ after the lifts close. The movement of this storm has slowed a little so expect snow showers to continue through the night and tomorrow morning. Below is the GFS projected totals.
We are wrapping our inaugural season of FutureSnow with a great storm that was predicted way back on February 21st. We predicted 10 storms on that day and had just 1 bust. 90% for the last 10 storms and 87% for the season (43/49 87.7%). Here is the link for our complete scorecard:
This ability to be able to predict storms months in advance allows you to ask off from work, or be able to book trips for the cheapest possible prices and not be let down by bad snow conditions. Busts still happen but with a record approaching 90% the odds are ever in your favor–much more than just throwing a dart. Also, there are better years than this La Nina season. El Nino years produce much larger snowfall totals with the same ability to predict “Pattern” systems.
Do you know that this year the same number of snowfall days occurred in Colorado than last year, but with 30% less snow? Its true, 58 snowfall days this year vs 58 snowfall days last year–example from Beaver Creek if it had the same season length due to last years shortened COVID season.
Forecast for Sunday 1-2″
Today expect scattered snow with an inch or two at ABasin, and Breck. The main energy will start after the lifts stop spinning Sunday night.
Monday 2-4″ Daytime and 4-8″ Overnight
Snow throughout the day Monday. Larger totals will be in the RCMP area so a good place to make powder turns at the old Hidden Valley Resort. They took the lifts out in the early 90’s but the runs are still there and not overgrown. You can skin up or carpool to the top (if the road is open).
Powder day. The bulk of the snowfall will occur before the lifts start spinning on Tuesday. However, there will be scattered snow throughout the day with a couple more inches possible.
We are tracking a large spring storm that will begin in Colorado’s southern mountains late Sunday night. As of now, expect snow, off and on, throughout the day Monday and then scattered snow showers on Tuesday. This is a cold storm, especially for this time of year, It has produced in every cycle and is part 2 of this years Co-Signature (CoSig) storms. Below is the results of this impressive repeating system. When we get a little closer I will dial in the amounts, but it looks like solid double digits as of now. This storm’s history tells us that the GFS can be trusted. Below are the results throughout cycles 1-4.
Last Cycle (4)
Wolf 14″, Telluride 14″ Vail 9″
Cycle 3 Storm a day early)
Vail 29″, Breckenridge 23″, Crested Butte 14″
Cycle 2 (Tracked more favorably for Utah)
Breckenridge 6″, Alta 20″
Wolf 25″, Vail 15″, Crested Butte 16″
Here is a look at the signature troughs that occur with this system. Notice the similarities with the position of the ridge and the shape of the trough. Remember, the teleconnections drive the shape and strength of the storm with ENSO (LaNina) being the biggest influence.
We have one last prediction, May 9th, that was predicted way back on February 21st. Presently it is looking like a good storm and we will go out with a bang–with some double digits!
We will keep an eye on this storm and I’ll update you in a few days. If it holds together I’ll head out to Arapahoe Basin one last time–or maybe not the last–we will see. The snowpack will definitely not make it to July and probably not even June either.
If all holds together we will finish the year with an average accuracy of 87%. In this La Nina year we got it mostly right. In fact, this year is similar to last year if you look at the number of days it snowed. It snowed at Beaver Creek 58 days this year compared to 58 days last year. I had to shorten this season to match the same length last season because of the shutdown. So it snowed a very similar amount of days but the snow was about 30% less.
Below is the updated chart or you can access the spreadsheet here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/9qkwjg6yxrrb3a1/Snow%20totals%202021revised.xlsx?dl=0
There are other ways you can use your knowledge of the pattern. It is useful for predicting severe weather outbreaks. Look for May 18-20th for this possible strong setup for tornados. Thanks for spending a few moments reading the blog. Mike
There are 4 predictions remaining for the first season of FutureSnow and all of the predicted storms are showing up on the GFS. This has been a fun year and it has been my pleasure to bring you this technology. Jerome Namias, in 1949, wrote that upper-level winds had asymmetric variations that repeated regularly. He used this knowledge to make 5-day, and later 30-day forecasts based on his “Index Cycle”. He was simply brilliant and wrote over 200 papers and received multiple awards, including the highest award from the American Meteorological Society. We are using his theory today, with modern technology, to give you forecasts over a month in advance so that YOU can have fresh snow when you go!
I got a chance to recharge the batteries this weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks. If you don’t know, the lake is huge spanning over 80 miles of winding turns and is featured in the Netflix show Ozark. If you have watched the series there are a lot of similarities—I’m just going to leave it there. This picture is from the cove next to Big Dicks Halfway Inn, which is about the middle of the lake at mile 47. Big Dicks is a popular restaurant and bar where you earn your stripes shooting a shot of liquor with a live minnow swimming in it. Ok so on to the next storm.
The storm that I coined CoSig back in cycle 2 (there are 2 main storms this year), is showing up on the models and is on time. Below is each 500 mb chart with vorticity of each cycle. Notice the similarities.
Do you notice how the projected Cycle five chart looks similar to cycle 1? It is because it is similar to the conditions and time of year. Cycle 1 was in the fall, cycle 5, present cycle is in the spring, with similar teleconnection patterns. I will be monitoring this storm and update you in a couple of days. Thanks for taking time to read the blog. Mike
Back on February 21st, the storm that is approaching Colorado for this coming Monday, was predicted by FutureSnow. It is part of the 46.5 day cycle length of this years repeating pattern. Monday’s storm has hit, on time, in every cycle with cycle 2 being the precipitation winner to date with 10” each at Vail and Keystone. The 5th cycle began on April 8th. Below is the GFS snapshot of the 500 hPa charts for each cycle. You can see plenty of similarities and differences due to the different teleconnections. There are several things to compare and contrast but I’ll mention a couple. First the remnants of hurricane Delta are in cycle 1–the red dot near Washington DC. I mention this because one aspect of the repeating pattern is useful in predicting future hurricanes. You won’t know in which cycle they will come, but whatever hurricanes that occur during the new cycling pattern, their path will reoccur in the same date of the cycle, with similar locations the following hurricane season. So in this instance, hurricane Delta hit the Gulf of Mexico around Texas and Louisiana—so it will hit that same region this hurricane season during the same day of the cycle (day 4 cycle 1), so look for a possible hurricane hitting the Gulf June 3rd, July 20th, or Sept 4t: probability 75% +/- 5 days. Second, you can also see how the polar vortex, in cycle 4, effected the pattern. Look at the location of the polar vortex and how that changed the look of the chart. The PV is an teleconnection so this is a clear example of how just one connection can change the outcome.
The next pattern storms will arrive towards the end of April. I will give you an update when we get a little closer. Thanks for spending time reading the FutureSnow/FutureHurricane blog, as always if you have any questions please ask in the comments section or send an email to Mike@FutureSnow.co.
Spring like conditions throughout the lower 48 and the boring part of the pattern spells corn harvesting–for now. There is one little system that should come in around the 5-7th beginning in the PNW and continuing through Utah and N Colorado.
The boring part of the pattern continues until April 12th when the next pattern storm arrives for Colorado. It is showing up on the models but looks warm–still a long ways off so I’ll keep you posted. This storm is storm 1 of the co-signature storms with part 2 arriving 13 days later. These storms have been regular throughout each cycle with the present cycle being the strongest. The two storms combined dumped 46″ at Telluride, over half of their 82″ in the entire cycle (46 days) from the Co-Sig storms. Below is a picture of an 2006 trip to Telluride. We flew in from Kansas City coming from around 950 feet above sea level to hiking up to Palmyra Peak (13,313 feet). Our lungs were burning–we could walk for a couple of minutes and had to stop to rest. The hike was worth it, of course, Telluride is a world class mountain.
We have received several trip reports from readers of FutureSnow and those are the best comments of all, and why we do this. The pure joy from skiing and Snowboarding on a powder day is so addictive. Its awesome to hear that joy expressed by hoots and hollers from all over the run. If you haven’t experienced that yet keep reading FutureSnow and you will know when to find powder. It can even happen with what’s left of this season. I had one of my best powder days ever at Arapahoe Basin in early May with knee-deep blower pow.
There is a recurring Ridge that shows up at the same time every cycle. I bring this up because it is a day and a half early. The storms have generally been, on average, a half a day early. So this isn’t too out of the ordinary but we will keep an eye on it. This is usually an active part of the pattern, but with the weakening jetstream, it’s beginning to look more like it did in cycle 1 and cycle 0 (cycle 0 is the transformation from last years pattern)–weak.
The next Pattern storm predicted is for Crystal Mountain on April 2-3rd, that storm looks like it’s going to miss north with the retreating jet stream indicated by the blue line. Stay tuned.
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Those of you who live in the Tahoe area and follow Bryan Allegretto on OpenSnow know that I listed a few “chance” dates in the comments section a few weeks ago before model range. The second date, April 7-8, looks likely. This method, Wave Theory, as Mike Korotkin described on The Flakes Podcast, is really incredible. I don’t understand how it works. I have heard scientist try to describe what they think happens–the polar regions get covered in snow and the north pole goes into perpetual darkness until spring. Triggering some mechanism that anchors troughs in permanent positions until summer. The atmospheric flow follows those anchors and repeats. How? I sure don’t know! I’m sopping up as much knowledge as I can to better understand this phenomenon. All I know is it works.
So back to Tahoe. The first chance is a “Bowling Ball” event, as Bryan describes it, is scheduled for April 7-8th. A bowling ball is a cut-off low that spins of the coast until it gets sucked into the flow of the Jetstream. I had seen these cut-off lows in the early setup of this seasons Pattern so I thought I could go back through the data and predict one. I picked a couple of likely dates, according to the Pattern, and chose Feb 27th. April 7-8th was another likely date to pick a cut-off low, but I chose the 27th and it happened within 1.5 days of said prediction. I couldn’t get Bryan to bite on the challenge.
Below is the projected snowfall as of today–still a long ways off. I will keep monitoring the incoming system as it approaches.
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Our storm that is predicted for Crystal Mountain (#52) on March 30th is looking like a powerful storm. It looks like it is arriving a half a day early. This storm was predicted on February 21st, 37 days in advance. Check out the 5oomb projected energy below.
Now let’s take a look at the projected 24 hour snowfall total. This image is valid at 18Z Monday the 29th. The “z” stands for Zulu time so you add 7 hours for Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), or 1 a.m. on the 30th.
This would be a good storm to chase because you could fly in to Seattle Monday and get to the mountain for first chair Tuesday. They have a reservation system at Crystal and the weekends have been sold out for months. One positive thing about the pandemic is the incredibly cheap flights that you can get last minute. Check out this flight on Southwest from Denver round-trip. You could book this today!
Finally, here’s a couple of shots of my last trip to Crystal Mountain Resort. We found our car buried in the parking lot, it was pretty dicey travel the night before, I would suggest a four-wheel-drive and not a van! Crystal is a cool mountain because there is a very limited number of on mountain places to stay. But, during the week there will be no problem finding a place. So just saying, if you want to go….crystalmountainresort.com
Thank you for taking a few minutes to read the blog, if you have any questions feel free to submit it in the comments below or shoot me an email to Mike@FutureSnow.CO
The present storm is directly related to the pattern. It just hits Squaw (Tahoe) which was predicted by FutureSnow 54 days ago on January 26. There will be a couple of good systems coming through this week. The storms predicted for the 26th and 27th, 61 days ago, is right on schedule. That storm will be followed by another one the 26-27th. We just had the equinox to welcome spring in with a much higher sun angle. We still gain about 2 1/2 minutes of daylight a day. The jetstream is weakening and beginning to reseed to the north. It will take the storms further north and reduce the width of the “pattern path”. Looking at the predictions page for the end of March, you see a lot of dates for northern storms, this isn’t a coincidence with the receding jetstream. When I made the spring predictions on February 21, I was guessing that this would be the correct bet. That does not mean that the storms will not drop down and hit Tahoe, Utah, and Colorado. The stronger storms, like the co-signature storms, are big enough to come through. We could miss every prediction for the rest of the year, our point would still be made, this system is real and it works. Looking at the long range models the temperatures do not look favorable into April. Hopefully the models are wrong and will get a turnaround. Stay tuned. Thank you for spending a few minutes reading the blog.
This year we have two main storm systems that I call co-signature storms. They are 13 days apart and have hit every cycle. Part two of the cosignature storm begins on March 26 for Colorado. Below is the two day snowfall total valid for Sunday the 28th. This kicks off the second active part of the pattern towards the end of cycle 4.
The next sequence of photos represent the energy and vorticity of the 500mb chart. Noticed the similarities and differences. Where the ridges are as well as the troughs. Teleconnections and the values that those teleconnections, positive or negative, affect the shape and energy.
Below is the projected GFS for the 27th. Again, look at the similarities and differences. Most of the teleconnections this cycle are positive, the AO, AAO, NAO, and we are still in a moderate La Niña. The jetstream is beginning to weaken and will eventually recede north.
I was hopeful the storm would be strong enough to include the Tahoe region, but it’s not looking good. The weakening jetstream looks like it’s going to keep the storm north, like it did in cycle 1. Thanks for spending a few minutes reading the blog and as always if you have any questions submit them in the comment section or shoot me an email to mike@FutureSnow.com.
It has been a great first season for Future Snow. We are presently 92% accurate beyond model range. We have hacked the weather and long range forecasting will never be the same. Now you will be able to plan a ski or snowboard trip months in advance and be confident you will have fresh snow. This lass storm that hit Colorado was officially 43 days in advance, but if you saw my post on the Colorado Daily Snow Jan 10th it was more than 2 months in advance.
Thanks for making FutureSnow a success and as always if you have any questions please ask in the comments below or send me an email to Mike@FutureSnow.CO.
Well this is a first for FutureSnow, a video blog today. It is a little rough around the edges, I will work out the kinks in future productions, but I wanted to show you the repeating pattern from a time-lapse perspective. Watch the systems repeat in the same spots over and over.
The dry or boring part of the pattern it’s coming to a close and finally we’re moving into the active part again. The low pressure system spinning off the coast is headed towards Tahoe and will arrive overnight Tuesday. This should be a good kick-off to the active pattern and should bring double digits at least along the crest. Once the storm passes it heads towards Alta, right on time. Below is the energy and vorticity GFS.
As the low continues to move east, Washington and Oregon Resorts will get snow from the backside of the Low/Northwest flow. The system has occurred every cycle. With the last couple of cycles being stronger and affecting a larger path. The genesis of this system was way back in August when the new pattern was in its infancy. Colorado is next with snow snow beginning on the 11th, right on time (predicted Jan 26th). Because of the position of the low, this could be the biggest storm that Colorado has all season. It’s been a down year because of the La Niña pattern, but I expect to finish strong in March and April to end the season at, or above average, like I predicted back in December. The picture below is the next storm is spinning off the BC coast. That is the next system that’s going to affect Banff Lake Louise, Big Sky and Jackson Hole. This prediction was made on Feb 3rd.
We are entering the active phase of the pattern with Saturday nights Storm beginning at the Lake Tahoe region. Every cycle there are a different lineup of forces (AO, NAO, MJO, ENSO, etc.). Those differences relate to the outcome shown on the 500mb charts. Let’s look at those charts of this years La Niña dominant pattern. 45-46 day pattern
You can see that these charts have a similar look to them. The differences, again, are the strength of the different teleconnections. All of these snapshots have a second round of energy following the first round come with the exception of the October snapshot. The pattern was still developing in October. Tomorrow will get into the next trough that sets up 13 days after this one.
There are a few subtle differences to the boring stretch this time through compared to last time through. Below is a couple of charts that compare snapshots of the same day but different cycles. The elements that make the pattern different are the teleconnections (AO, NAO, MJO, PNA, ENSO, etc.). When the pattern has a similar tele the outcome will be similar.
You can see some similarities and also some differences between the two cycles. Below is an example of a storm last year that had an almost perfect agreement on teleconnections and the storm produced similar results, with the exception that the October storm produced a lot of snow. That is what I look for to predict future snow events. I watch these storms develop in the fall to figure out what storms can produce in later cycles.
That October storm was the genesis of the best week of powder that I can remember for Summit and Eagle counties. Legs were burning for a week afterwards.
I have known for a handful of years now that the weather repeats. I learned the theory from local Kansas City meteorologist Gary Lezak and expanded my understanding later with meteorologist Doug Heady about the cycling pattern. Then a natural progression occurred with first finding patterns in snowfall and later learning to read weather charts to make accurate forecasts. Last year I made a leap and started to get organized thanks to the prodding of Joel Gratz Founder and forecaster of OpenSnow, I put together a list of snow predictions and filled my photo stream with GFS snapshots, snow reports etc. I would shoot Joel emails pestering him with a snowstorm that I predicted and then when the storm would hit I would email him back “do you believe yet”. The answer was usually “not really” or something like “I kind of see what your looking at” but still skeptical. Larry Schick, OpenSnow Northwest and British Columbia forecaster had a great line “weather has no memory”. This guy worked for 20 years in Seattle TV as a meteorologist and now works for the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Below is the greatest long-range forecast ever predicted. Ok, I know it belabors the point to continually brag about forecasts, but it is not intended to be pompous, rather it is about this incredible force that is in the beginning stages of being understood.
Decoding the Chart
So about the chart: this was what I put together, Cycle 3 chart of predictions for January 25th through March 21. Last year was an 58 and a half day cycle. I ran out of room so I put day 58 at the top left. Yellow meant that I thought there would be a storm from the pattern based on previous cycles, Pink meant probable storms–official predictions. To me, the short hand was obvious, Squaw, Park, Heav, Banff–obvious mountains. Cry=Crystal, MH=Mt. Hood, JH=Jackson Hole, WB=Whistler, LL=Lake Louise, Kicking Horse (Canada–great place no crowds), BS=Big Sky, Alta and Vail. During the cycle I would record snowfall with the corresponding predictions. Below is the completed chart. The Date in in the box and the right upper corner the day of the cycle.
So looking at the chart on Day 3 was January 27th and in the yellow the predicted areas were Park City, Heavenly, then on day 4 Crystal, Mt. Hood, Jackson Hole, Whistler and Heavenly. So what I thought at the time was the system coming in would begin in the PNW, divide into a northern and southern track. the Southern track hitting California’s Heavenly sliding across hitting Park City with the northern track hitting Big Sky and Jackson hole. It was almost perfect, except that, as it turns out, Heavenly and the Tahoe region were not “in” the path of the pattern last year. I would later figure that out and take them off the grid–later though the cycle grew in strength (cycle path footprint expanded) and Tahoe would get a months worth of snow in a week right when the lockdown hit.
These area a few tools in my toolbox now. My photo folders are littered with screen shots of weather charts. It takes hours to pour through the charts figuring out the pattern, but it has its rewards of catching deep powder on occasion and always catching fresh snow on any ski/snowboard trip. I just got back from a trip to the PNW and also a Colorado trip. For Colorado, I booked this trip to take my son before his High School baseball begins–after which he will be busy until fall. We rode fresh snow at Beaver Creek and were lucky to get a mid-week rope drop off Birds of Prey lift, and our luck continued at Breckenridge getting to ride the Imperial Express lift, just opened for the first time of the season, after 3 failed attempts off the T-Bar–don’t worry buddy, it is really hard for snowboarders, you’ll get it next time! Then it was on to Crystal for the real powder chase.
As always feel free to email me or ask a question in the comments box. I’m happy to answer! Finally, below is a chart of upcoming Pattern Storms predicted out until May. Probably won’t go out any farther than that, but Powder Days late in the season can happen. I rode a storm at Arapahoe Basin in late April a few years back that was on my top ten list of all-time trip lists–18″ of cold blower pow. I got white-out vertigo sitting on the Cornice Jump run. White-out vertigo is a really cool experience if it has never happened to you, the only thing you can see is white. You can’t get any perspective at all and you get dizzy. Luckily for me someone came and jumped off the cornice so I quickly followed close enough until I got down to tree line.
It has been an amazing year so far, FutureSnow has accurately predicted 23 out of 27 events, that’s 85%. That is really an amazing statistic because all of the predictions have been made at least 25 days in advance before any models are in range. The longest was 56 days for Colorado where Vail had 13 inches. There is an even longer prediction coming up, 67 days, for March 9-11th. I would love to end the ski season with 90%. This is not meant as a brag, I just simply interpret the data, it more of how cool it is to know when these systems will come through.
The 4th cycle is under way. At the beginning of each cycle the storms favor the Pacific Northwest and Canada. This has occurred in each of the previous three cycles and GFS verifies same for the beginning of this cycle. The cycle is 45 1/2 to 45.8 days in length. I have adjusted the upcoming predictions by a couple of days to correct this offset.
When talking about the cycle, every year is different. Last year had a longer cycle, La Nina favors shorter cycles. Presently this La Niña is weakening, the Arctic Oscillation is neutral, the north Atlantic Oscillation is neutral, and the Madden Julian Oscillation is in phase 7 in the western pacific. All of these tele-connections influence the strength and path of storms. However, the framework, or structure of the storm path, remains the same throughout the spring and it weakens in the summer until it is wiped out in late summer.
February 27th Colorado Prediction
This forecasted storm was made on January 26th as I dove back into the history of the previous cycles. I missed this “pattern storm” and discovered it through a little forensic analysis.
Historyof the storm
Day 6 of last cycle, a small wave hit Colorado, followed by a large wave impacting the PNW. In cycle 2, again a small wave hit Colorado followed by a small wave hitting the PNW. In cycle 1 on day 7 a small wave hit CO followed by a large wave in the PNW. So when I decided to add this to the prediction grid I decided to add it on day 7, probably not a smart choice because it hit on day 6 twice but my thinking was it hit late on 6 both times and the day 7 storm it was during the day. The GFS has this storm arriving at about 6 am on Thursday the 25th. This is actually right on time—if I would have been “on it” and adjusted the cycle length to reflect the uneven cycle (45 1/2-45.8 days).
I have adjusted all future predictions by 2 days to correct the cycle to match the storm cycles. I am not going to update the existing storm forecast for February but the March schedule has been adjusted. Below us the updated predictions spreadsheet.
January 3rd, or 46 days ago, we predicted the week of storms that will be hitting the PNW (Crystal MT) this week. We specifically used Crystal because it centered on the storms that have occurred in each cycle. Sometimes the Oregon mountains were hit, and other times the British Columbia mountains were hit, but Crystal was hit each time. GFS looks solid for this week. Next up is Colorado, Feb 27th, this has been a small storm that has teetered on day 6 and 7 of the last 3 cycles. Its quite possible this could be a technical bust for my prediction because I only have a day as a variance, but I wanted to get this storm into the forecast because I missed it in the first two cycles.
I published the spring break forecast a few weeks ago so you can check it out here.
There are so many examples of Recurring Pattern that happen each year. This is just another one of them. If you look at this present storm and then you look at the storm from 46 days ago they are almost identical. Meteorologists, climatologists, atmospheric scientists all miss this. We have cycles everywhere, oscillations, etc. and yet they still miss it. Why, it looks like it’s so easy? It’s not, it’s very subtle. Gary Lezak, a leading meteorologist on the subject, once said to me “the artist will see the pattern much faster than the scientist”. That is so true, it took me years just to convince Joel Gratz, of OpenSnow.com—and he’s still skeptical. Doug Heady, an incredible expert and Founder in this field says, I’m paraphrasing, even when you know the cycle length, there is so many variables that go into each and every storm. That’s why it’s so hard to understand. Someday though it will be understood and modeled.
Ok so let’s dive in. Look at these two pictures. The flow, the storm, the ridging all match. Now this doesn’t happen very often. But when it does it makes you understand that the cycles can set up the same.
The flow is signified in blue, the red squiggly lines are the ridges, and the green circle is the particular wave, or storm coming on shore. In the December snapshot you can see right where the polar vortex is going to go. Fits right into the puzzle. When you look back to the teleconnections in December and look at the teleconnections today, they are similar. When all the variables lineup the same the outcome is the same—roughly.
The storm that I have forecasted for February 18th is on the way. The last few storms have been trending about 12 hours early, that is because the cycle length is about 45.8 days and we are in the tail end of cycle 3.
Here is an update on the bombcyclone, back on January 1 I posted that the bomb cyclone that was hitting Alaska at the Aleutian Islands would return on Presidents’ Day. Well it’s Presidents’ Day and the storm is right on time. Not a bomb cyclone this time but a nice low. It’ll come back around April 3.
This is pretty cool what’s happening right now. The polar vortex, and sometimes bi-polar, is affecting the track of the storm systems. I’ve never seen this before. The storms are still right on schedule but it looks like they will track further south then the regular track. This is good news for Tahoe, Utah, and Colorado because this is one of the slow period where storms track further north. This picture below shows the flow of the jet stream. There is still the ridge off the west coast, but that will soon break down.
The next pattern storm begins with a weeklong system that starts in the Pacific north west with Crystal Mountain in the center. Previous cycles it would hit Crystal and slide across Idaho and Wyoming and Jackson Hole. This time the polar vortex has pushed it south heading directly for Colorado and Utah. Bonus!
Looks like the PV will get kicked out somewhere the 15th or 16th. Colorado an Tahoe likely will get at least 2 extra systems they would not have got—that should help the snowpack numbers.
Ok, so let’s keep the hits coming. Our next prediction begins with the PNW and specifically Crystal Mountain. A weeks worth of storms are getting ready to slam BC, Washington and Oregon. This system should be large enough to skirt the Tahoe region, so fingers crossed for you guys. This is one of the dry stretches for Tahoe but it will return to an active pattern in March. Back to the PNW, this part of the pattern favors a northern track through Canada, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. The larger systems will drop to Colorado. I have the 21st in yellow which means it has reached CO in previous, but not all, cycles. This is the peak strength of the year so the last storm that came through was the best storm so far. The set of pictures below are the last time the system came through on January 3, and the project GFS for the 18th.
if you have any questions feel free to comment in the comment section, or shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well we got a big hit! We were thinking that the cycle will strengthen due to a weakening La Niña and it has come through strong. We had 2 predictions. Utah’s Alta, and all CO mountains. Alta 15” today with more on the way, second, we forecasted for all Colorado mountains.
Beaver Creek 7”
The last time through on December 23, we had a huge ridge off the West Coast that did produce both in Utah and Colorado. This time through we have a more linear pattern with no rigging. This allowed more energy from the stronger jet that propagated down through the PNW. This pattern should continue in the next cycle. These next couple of pictures show the difference between where are the ridges in place, and the flow.
OK so let’s take a look at the next predictions.
February 18-22nd. Active week in the PNW Crystal Mountain
February 24-25 Alyeska Alaska
February 25th PNW Crystal Mountain
February 27th Colorado Mountains
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If you were to just pick a date to go skiing this year, at Breckenridge, you have a 40% chance it will snow. With FutureSnow, your odds improve to 82%. So let’s dive in to our spring break predictions. there are some good storms that lineup around that time. Let’s start off with Crystal Mountain Washington. There will be a good storm on March 10 and 11th. That same storm arrives in Colorado March 12-13th. For our spring breakers in Tahoe, there should be a good system that comes through on March 19-20th, and then another system the 24-26th. Colorado gets hit during the end of the month, during aN active week March 26-31.
March 10-11 Crystal Mountain
March 12-13 Colorado Mountains
March 19-20 and 24-26th Tahoe
March 26-31 Colorado Mountains
We have 20 days left in the present cycle (3). The March Predictions are in cycle 4. Looking back over the first three cycles, the first set of storms in the March predictions, cycle 2 was the winner. The latter part of the storms of the month Cycle 1 produced the strongest returns. What will the end of cycle 3 and 4 bring? I expect the end of three and cycle forward to be the strongest cycle of the snow year. La Niña should weaken as we move into March and that should alter the storm path to be more favorable for Colorado. The present cycle will begin to become more active is this coming weekend. Last Cycle the Colorado Mountains were active on days 37-40 that puts us February 11 through Valentine’s Day. So look for that week to be solid. We wrap up the last week of the cycle with storms for the western mountains. From Lake Tahoe all the way up to British Columbia saw big totals last Cycle, so Feb 18-20 should repeat.
We are in the middle of the predicted storm and the next storm system is coming through on the 7-8th. The winners so far are the southern Mountains of Colorado and Lake Tahoe region. The storm for February 7-8th is showing up on GFS and looks correct, meaning the models have the correct solution. This is one of the features of the Cycling Pattern is you know when the models are right or wrong based on the template of what has happened before. The influences (AO, NAO, PNA, MJO etc) are different and have to be factored in, but the general picture is similar. The last time this system came through was on day 33 and 34 of last cycle which was December 23 and 24th. Canadian resorts were favored with Kickinghorse reporting 13”, Banff 16”, Crystal Mountain 9” and Mount Hood 8”. Alta had a great powder day of 18+. Tahoe did get snow but not very much Squaw had 4”. The Colorado resorts were all in single digits with Arapaho Basin and Breckenridge reporting 6”. this time around the cycle is stronger so I expect the totals to be higher. Stay tuned.
The Storm door opens this weekend and the system predicted 42 days ago will begin Monday morning for mountains in Washington and Oregon. The storm that was predicted on December 13th. We have been talking about the storm door opening up and it is finally here! The storm predicted for Colorado impacts the west coast early on the 24th arriving in the southern mountains of Colorado Monday morning. For Lake Tahoe region it has been an especially long wait. The picture above is the first wave coming through. It’s not very impressive, but it kicks the door open for better things to come behind it. So back to that storm that begins on the 24th. The first wave actually begins on the 23rd and materializes through the southwest hitting Utah and western Colorado. This happened in the second cycle and the current cycle is taking a similar track. Park City 13” last cycle on days 22-23. Squaw had 10” over a 4-day stretch—days 22-25. Below is last cycle and this coming Saturday.
Once that wave moves through the trough digs deep into the Rockies. A little more linear this time through with the next wave behind just like cycle 2.
With the storm door open, here is the precipitation forecast for snow depth change over the rest of the month. You’ll notice some light grays in there, those are in the 3 to 4 feet range.
Well we are in the boring stretch of “the pattern“. we are beginning to see signs of life. In both cycles to date, there was a 13 day stretch where very little precipitation occurred in the western US. There were a few storms that stayed well to the north and it is happening again in cycle 3. However the weak systems that came through in past cycles are gaining strength in the present cycle, because January and February are the strongest months of the Pattern. The ridge in the west is right on schedule but is in slightly more favorable location, this cycle, for storms to reach Colorado. They won’t be much but at least they will get something. ‘The storm door should be open around the 20th with a more linear flow of the coast. So that gets us to the signature storm of the 20/21 pattern. I expect it to dig further south this time through and I expect it to hit the Tahoe area with a more direct path instead of a glancing blow. I can’t guarantee it will hit, because Tahoe is on the southern edge of this years pattern, but I think it will—fingers crossed. The storm system coming the 23-24th should loo similar to the last 2 times it came through, positively tilted with energy extending deep into Canada. I have it projected ti hit Whistler beginning on the 22nd.
This last picture is just another version of the December 11 system. The circle in blue is part two. So if the set-up is similar to the December storm then we could have two pretty nice systems a day apart, or if it’s like the first time through, we need the energy to dig deeper south. The Cycling Pattern usually mirrors itself, meaning cycle 1 resembles cycle 3 and cycle 2 resembles cycle 4 and so on. So my main inclination is that it’ll be more like the first time through. However, early in the first cycle the pattern is “finding its identity”. So this next time through will set the stage for how the present cycle will behave. The next Pattern system after that is February 7-8th.
We are in the part of the pattern where the Heady/LRC becomes clear. We have completed 2 cycles and have compiled 92 days (1,152 GFS snapshots) worth of data, snow totals from resorts and not to mention all of the data from August and September where the pattern developed. I am releasing Future Snows predictions out to March 12th, as well as the results from every prediction to date.
January 25-26 Let’s dive into the predictions for the upcoming storms. January 25-26 for Colorado. This prediction was made back on December 13th. This storm occurs on days 21-23 of each cycle. The first time through back on December 26 Vail received 10” snow and additional rain, the second time through 12”. January and February are usually the strongest producing cycles, so let’s hope in this La Niña year it comes through. When I compiled this report I added Utah resorts, specifically Alta for January 25-26. I don’t have resort need it for the first cycle, however it’s clear by GFS that they received precipitation. The second time through they get 15”. Lake Tahoe was missed the first cycle, but did receive snow on the second cycle. So I will give Lake Tahoe a “maybe” as they are on the edge of this year’s pattern.
The storm is for Utah resorts, specifically Alta February 7-8. Alta received 12” during the first cycle, and 20” during the second cycle. For Colorado resorts the first cycle kicked off a week of storms on days 34 through 41. Vail received 25” during that week with the southern resort of Wolf Creek 28” of powder over 3days. The second time through four Colorado resorts was not as productive. They’ll get a paltry 4” during the first wave and an additional 9” with the second wave. In past years, cycle three has been more like cycle 1, but stronger—let’s hope that continues but either way, it will be an active period. Lake Tahoe was missed on the first wave, but picked up 13 inches at Sugar Bowl on dates 36 and 37. Lake Tahoeyou get a strong maybe—I’ll give you a heads up if it appears the storm is big enough on the model runs.
February 18 –19
The February 18 storm kicks off in the Pacific Northwest. I added this storm January 3 which is 46 days out from this publication. The Pacific Northwest is getting the snow this year. The snow goes somewhere every year and obviously this year it’s PNW and Canada. In the first cycle Crystal Mountain received snow from days 41 through 46 of the pattern. The only reported Snowfall came on day 45 and 46 when they started recording at the resort (15”). During the second cycle over the same time period hey received 33”. It’s a safe bet that Valentine’s Day is when the storm will begin but the best days should be the 18-19th for Crystal Mountain.
Colorado Resorts. Cycle 4 storm on days 21-22 of the cycle. I’ll update this prediction after cycle 3.
OK so our predictions were three for three but, they weren’t huge storms this cycle. The second cycle has under performed compared to the first cycle. What does that mean? There are lots of influences on the repeating pattern. The strength of La Niña, what phase the MJO is in, the AO, etc. LaNiña is strengthening, and that’s a big influence on the pattern. So as we go into cycle 3, The main storms of the pattern will still come through each time. I expect cycle 3 to be more like the first cycle so we should expect better performing storm systems in January and February.
Tahoe Prediction Jan 3rd
First let’s start off with the January 3rd storm for Tahoe. It is showing up on the models and is still running a day late—which is normal for the pattern. Sometimes it’s early and sometimes it’s late due to the circulation around the hemisphere. This storm is a 2-part storm and the first wave of energy is not very impressive. The second wave is looking more favorable, that will move through early on January 7th.
So you can see with these two snapshots that there is more energy in cycle 2, but the storm is farther north. In cycle 1 the main energy was in the first wave, cycle 2 it flipped. Now this system will move to the south, just like last time through in cycle one. When that happens that energy will produce. So look for Thursday or Friday as the best chance for powder. This still could be the signature storm, but it won’t be this cycle to when it delivers, but it is looking better than a week ago.
Colorado Jan 25-26th
Of the three major systems that occur each cycle, the storm for January 25 and 26th produced double digits in each cycle. When that happens it’s almost guaranteed to pay off. The first cycle the storm track had started in the Pacific Northwest and moved down through Utah and Colorado exiting in New Mexico. The second storm track took a more southern route through Tahoe. One of the characteristics of “the pattern” is that every other cycle mirrors. That means that cycle one and three are similar, and cycles two and four are similar – – each though, however, has the same systems coming through.
Colorado February 7-9th
This storm will be very interesting to watch in cycle three. In cycle one there was no blocking, meaning there was no ridge over the West Coast. In the second cycle the PNA (Pacific N.American Pattern)was positive and the main energy of the storm was blocked—see below. So if my theory holds true, cycle three should mirror cycle one and there should be no blocking.
OK so why does the pattern speed up and slow down? The picture below is a great example of how the path of the storms are affected by the ridges that can develop. These large ridges make the energy go around instead of through taking more time. When there are a lack of ridges the pattern can speed up.
We just correctly predicted 2 storms one 18 days and the other 31 days in advance. How did we do it? The weather is cycling. It repeats. Not every storm—some are wildcards, but there are the main parts of energy get entangled in the pattern and return regularly until summer. We have 3 predictions presently. Christmas Eve, New Year’s, and Tahoe with more to come.
Our predictions have been spot on. On November 14th, we said our first 2 storms would be on December 4th and December 17th with a variance of 2 days. We have adjusted the timeline and have reduced the +/- of 1 day for future storms. The Dec 4 system was about a day and a half early and so was the incoming Dec 17 Storm.
Our next prediction is the Christmas Eve storm. This one is right on schedule as I believe we have locked in on the cycle length. This storm is still days out but I believe the GFS has the right solution. Click the “Welcome to Future Snow“ button from the menu to learn about cycle length and the recurring pattern.
Finally, our most recent predictions are the New Years Eve Storm for British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon and the Tahoe Powder Day January 3rd. I will keep you updated on these systems. The picture of the Christmas Eve storm is a snapshot of the 500 mbar pattern with vorticity and wind. This level in the atmosphere makes it easier to spot the recurring systems. In the picture below, this is what it looked like the last time it came through.
Now remember the Dec 24 pic is still over a week out from what it will actually look like, but this is how we use computer models to verify what we know will happen. In the frame above there is that secondary wave that follows the large wave. The last time through that secondary wave sent powder alerts to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and just skirted Northern Colorado. This time through the secondary wave is being gobbled up by the ridge that is establishing. We are in the second cycle of this year‘s pattern. Remember, it begins in October and it sets up in August and September. Once we have logged the first two cycles, we can make solid predictions for the rest of the winter. Because what happens in two cycles is almost guaranteed to repeat in every cycle afterwards. So we will lock in on the big storms, and will keep an eye on the ones that hit once, or seemed to have some variability. The first cycle was definitely stronger than the second cycle (it ain’t over yet). Typically every other cycle mirrors each other, but every years weather pattern is unique so there is now guarantee. This years cycle “winners” are Western Canada and Pacific Northwest. So if you like to chase, that’s the place to go this year. I expect Colorado to have average to above average precipitation this year, but I admit I don’t like the trend that we are in.
We are back to the active part of the pattern, after the refresh of snow the southern mountains of Colorado, like Wolf mountain are at or above average and northern mountains like summit county are below average. The central mountains are in the 90’s.