We have been pouring through charts and analyzing data to verify the pattern. A lot of work goes into deciphering the cycle length. The length of the cycle is critical to accurate long range forecasts. Remember, every fall a new pattern begins and repeats, or cycles, until late summer. The old pattern dissolves and the new pattern becomes established. The new pattern, for this season, was sent back in September.
This year‘s pattern will be longer than last years 46 day pattern. The 20-21 season had two main storms that I called Co-Sig 1 and 2, for cosignature storms. It also had a large inactive stretches that lasted for about two weeks. That helped us explain the pattern, because at FutureSnow, we knew when those stretches would occur and most importantly, when the active part of the pattern would return.
If you follow the Tahoe Daily Snow, with Bryan Allegretto, or the Colorado Daily Snow, by Joel Gratz, you’ve seen my comments. It’s not easy convincing people, especially meteorologists, that what they have been told, through years of school and certifications, is wrong. In the comments section of these blogs, I would make predictions and get grilled from other commenters. As the season wore on though, the tide began to turn. Thanks to the Pattern.
The fact that the weather repeats, will someday be taught. For now, you have FutureSnow. My first prediction, this year, was made on Bryan’s blog on October 4th for November 6th. I have never made a prediction this early. Last years first prediction was December 4th. The November 6th storm is just showing up on the models (over 350 hours out). It has the correct look, and most importantly the correct timing. Last time through it hit the PNW—a solid storm that tracked through Whistler down to Mt. Hood and across to Montana and Jackson Hole. It just clipped NorCal, Utah and Colorado. I am hoping with a stronger Jet that if will drop down further. Will keep an eye on this one. Mike
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Christmas storm is showing up on the models, right on schedule. It begins with Tahoe on the 22nd.
The pacific northwest will be blasted with this storm, it will then move across Utah and finally into Colorado and New Mexico. Hopefully it’s as big as I am expecting it to be and it gives us two solid Powder days of double digit numbers.