The Trifecta is dumping precipitation across the west. Snowbird Utah is one of the early winners. Snowbird and Alta are a couple of resorts on my “Watch-list” for this season. Based on conditions, I pick out a few areas that I intend to visit.
California has been bone dry for quite some time. No rain, a lot of fires–just about 2.5 million acres burned in California alone. Not to mention the Lake Tahoe fire that charred a number of ski resorts. So this moisture is really needed.
This first map is the total precipitation for the water year, last year. If you look closely you can notice a typical La Nina pattern.
You can see from the map where the rain fell. Compare the chart above to the water year prior below:
Now lets look at the moisture from the present storm system. Below are the last 3 days. This is an indication of the changing pattern for this winter. This storm, and a couple others, are going to fill in the gaps of previous years.
The next storm after the Trifecta is on its way, its a small wave that will hit the west coast Wednesday. A larger system will follow on the 19th. We will track these storms and keep you up to date. Thank you for spending a few moments reading the blog. As always if you have any questions please ask them in the comments section or shoot me an email to Mike@FutureSnow.CO.
A strong wave will approach Seattle and Vancouver BC impacting the coast overnight on October 8th. A rather large trough will develop and mature by the 10th with snow above 8,000 ft and rain below (generally speaking). It is still 250 hours out, but confidence is still high based on the last time the storm came through. This is one of three storms of this years cycling pattern and we will watch intently, like Peyton Manning watching a play with Eli, how this storm develops and spreads.
What we are looking at with this chart from Weather Bell is first, the circulation and flow around the hemisphere. It has an elongated shape due to the large ridge centered in Alaska. Often times last year when we had a similar setup, we would end up with an omega block, which would disrupt the flow keeping the energy north. If this continues to repeat it is good news for Northern California, Tahoe, Arizona and Colorado, as quite a few storms stayed north last winter.
I circled the cut-off system because in future cycles this won’t disconnect. That will result in strong storms in the Northeast. I don’t predict many storms for that region, because the flow pattern is harder to predict once it looses its grip through the “slick” parts of the country. Grip and slick parts? Now there are some scientific terms you won’t hear from NOAA. The mountains channel the patterns flow–grip. Once east of Denver its smooth for 1,500 miles–slick. Without the mountains to steer the current, the track, or flow varies by hundreds of miles. Making it hard to forecast. We accurately predicted the Nor’easter to repeat last year and it was posted on OpenSnow’s New England Daily Snow, by Jason Cordeira.
Now that we are getting closer to ski season I will post more frequently. If you have any questions, as always feel free to comment in the comment section or shoot 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.
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.
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.
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.