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Forecast challenges are lining up...


We’re just about to turn the page from January into February, and as far as I’m concerned, it can’t happen soon enough…the Patriots are done for the season, I turned a year older this past weekend and oh by the way, it was the warmest January on record in North America! A large part of that deviation came from Canada, where temperatures averaged about 3 standard deviations above normal, nationwide, for the entire month! IF Canada is that warm in January, it is very difficult for any sizable beachhead of cold air to get established in the United States. Most of the cold east of the Mississippi was home grown, having been generated by upward motion in the vicinity of the storms that passed through, and dragged to the surface by the precipitation that they produced. Most any snow that fell this past month was returned to its liquid state by subsequent warm temperatures, rainfall, or both. During the month, I know that I have been talking about the return of cold air, and to this date, it hasn’t happened with any degree of staying power. I may sound like a modern day version of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, but I still firmly believe that it is coming. When it does, it could very well produce a stretch of weather that is remembered for quite some time…more on that shortly.

First of all, I am going to try and get my hands around the system that will impact the east over then next 36 hours, through early Wednesday. As I mentioned late last week, it is actually comprised of two impulses. The first was really just a return of milder air, and that process set off some light snow the last 24 hours over northern New York and northern New England…rain elsewhere. The warm advection snows amounted to 2-4 in the Adirondacks and Greens, with 4-8 falling in the Whites of New Hampshire and on into Maine. The southern edges of the mountains ended up with less, and just about everybody got a little light rain/drizzle at the tail end. Part two will take shape tonight, as a surface low forms near the Chesapeake Bay, in response to an upper impulse diving southeastward from the Great Lakes. The upper energy is strong enough to create cold air deep enough to turn rain over to snow in the central Appalachians, so I believe that the resorts of West Virginia, Maryland, and perhaps even Virginia will see several inches of heavy wet snow on the tail end of the storm during Tuesday. Further north, rain will change to snow from the Poconos northeastward through the Catskills into the Berkshires on Tuesday, and a light wet accumulation of 2 to 3inches looks like the best bet. Further north, it will be cold enough for just snow in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. You might wonder where the cold air came from, after rain and drizzle fell on Monday afternoon. Well, the first impulse has combined with an area of high pressure in Quebec to draw low level cold air southward, and as that process continued Tuesday, rain will change to snow in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and here in the ski/ride capital of the east, Rhode Island.

The middle of the week in the east will be relatively quiet, with a weak system passing off the mid Atlantic coastline without too much fuss…and then forecasters’ eyes will turn to the lower Mississippi Valley, where a storm will take shape late this week and head northeast. The big question is whether or not the surface low will go up west of the Appalachians, or stay on the coastal side. Right now, and I must admit that this is an extremely hard call from 5 days out, I believe it will go just west of the mountains, which is not the best news for the southern and central Appalachians, or for the resorts further north, for that matter. With such a track, which would continue onto the eastern end of Lake Ontario and into western Quebec, rain will fall to the east of the track, into the mountains of northern New England, where it should at least start as snow. This will be a Friday/Saturday affair, and when we get to Sunday, the upper level low will be parking over Quebec, and that will promote strong, cooling northwesterly winds, and rain will change to backlash snows in the mountains of New York and New England. The upper low isn’t going to go anywhere for a while, and it will become a fairly strong, cold vortex that will tap into some Arctic air. That will be the first of many cold shots to come in the next few weeks, I believe, so next week will start out colder than normal from Ohio eastward, complete with lake effect snows. Keep in mind that if the system comes up east of the mountains, the Appalachians will get blasted with snow, and upstate New York, the Adirondacks, and perhaps the Green Mountains of Vermont could squeeze out wet, wind driven snow, (as opposed to wet, wind driven rain!). The more easterly track would produce a quicker change back to snow over the rest of New England, as well as more backlash snow. Stay tuned on this one…somebody east of a Cleveland/Columbus/Louisville line is going to have a helluva winter storm. The western fringe of the storm will have dry enough snow and strong enough winds to produce some real travel problems, too.

Next week is when the real fun begins…the upper low over Quebec is going to help pump up an upper level ridge over Greenland, which will enhance the high latitude blocking that eventually is going to lead to a direct discharge of air from Siberia, over the pole and down into the U.S. That’s about ten days or so away, at a minimum, but I am growing increasingly confident that the cold is coming. But next week, with colder air in place north of the Mason Dixon line, an upper level system that will make landfall in Washington state late this weekend will traverse the country in an east-southeastward direction, and I can easily see this turning into a good sized storm from Chicago to New York and Washington. It won’t be the last one, either, as the Pacific jet looks as though it is going to pass underneath the pressing cold for a while thereafter and that will give us more opportunities at a good sized dump in the east. As I mentioned late last week, I think the prospects for February and March are very good, and everything that I have seen in weather data since I wrote that missive only reinforces my confidence that the cold is coming, and it’s coming with snow. Short term, we have to deal with a messy transitional system the next 36 hours, and then keep our fingers crossed for the weekend event…if it makes a run for the east coast, and not Toronto, that could tip the scales a little ahead of schedule toward what I think is going to be a decidedly skier-friendly February.

I am hoping for some good snow next weekend. I am coming to Sugar the 10th-12 and I have been hoping for some fresh powder. :lol:
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Mr. Weatherman I need to know what this comming sat, feb. 4th is going to be like. It looks like nc is getting some crazy stuff, snow today, 50's tomorrow! What is really going to happen thurs and friday that will affect me having a great ski saturday?

Colder weather now in sight...


Keep the faith, boys and girls…the cold is coming…as I write this piece, the rain is pouring down, the temperature is in the low 40’s, and the damn lawn has a substantial tinge of green! The storm that is causing this rain is going to bring wet weather all the way into southern Quebec, and there is another wet storm on its’ heels…now the good news…the second storm is also going to produce some fairly substantial snow on its west side, and once the second storm moves into Canada later this weekend, colder air will rush into the northeast and provide snowmakers with their best window of opportunity in many weeks. Once the colder air arrives, it will dominate for at least a couple weeks, and likely through the month and into March.

The first system is rushing northward across far western New York…it has very little cold air with which to work, and snow is limited to far northern New Hampshire and the mountains of Maine. After an accumulation of 2 to 4 inches, the precipitation will change to rain all the way to the St. Lawrence River, as the low moves up into central Ontario. There will be a lull of 18 to 24 hours before the next low, which is forming right now in the lower Mississippi Valley, heads northeastward. The second surface low is the product of an upper level short wave of low pressure that is circulating through a larger scale trough that is moving toward the eastern United States, and the long wave trough is growing stronger as it does. Earlier this week I mentioned that the toughest part of any weekend forecast was going to be the track of the low…east or west of the Appalachians…right now it looks as though it will come up just to the east of the spine of the mountains. That track will be too close to produce all snow in North Carolina’s and West Virginia’s resorts, but it will allow for a quicker changeover on the backside, and those areas can expect 5 to 7 inches of windblown snow after an initial shot of rain. The changeover will come during the midday hours on Saturday. As the low heads north, it will be strengthening, and that means that amounts of snow further north will likely grow. The ski areas of Ohio close to Cleveland will likely get 6+ inches, and Seven Springs and Hidden Valley in southwest Pennsylvania are in the same situation…rain to start, followed by meaningful snow on the backside. In western New York, Holiday Valley and Peek N Peak are positioned to do very well in the storm, not only as the low passes by, but also from lake effect snow, which will kick in as the winds shift into the northwest. Lake Erie is around 40 degrees, and fully open (it usually is frozen to a significant degree by this time in the winter), so when the cold air rushes in from Canada the next couple of weeks, the squalls will be persistent, and occasionally intense. Resorts in western Pennsylvania, western Maryland, and West Virginia will also tap into lake effect in the coming weeks.

The low will pass over eastern Lake Ontario later Saturday, and that puts Swain and Bristol Mountain right on the edge with respect to snow vs. rain. A slight jog of the track to the east will produce a dump on those resorts…otherwise, it’ll be a rain to snow scenario with 4 to 6 inches. Further east, rain will fall once again, but it will end as snow late Saturday night and Sunday…the Adirondacks and northern Greens stand the best chance of accumulating backlash snow, due to the relative proximity to the low center.

By early next week, an upper level low will become anchored in eastern Canada, and the northwesterly flow of colder air will continue. It won’t be pure arctic air…that will come later next week, but it will knock temperatures back to, or slightly below normal. The core of the cold shot will actually move southeastward across Ohio, into the mountains of West Virginia, where Sunday promises to be a wild one, with fresh winds and snow showers and squalls. The cold air will enable mountain crews throughout the east to start to rebuild bases next week, and to reopen some trails that had gotten a little too thin for skiing and riding lately. Midweek, a short wave will move southeastward and produce light snow in the central and southern Appalachians. Late in the week, or perhaps next weekend, I believe that a short wave in the northern branch of the jet is going to swing southeastward and spin up a storm in the northeast. The big question will be whether or not it can turn the corner and tap into the excess warmth of the northwest Atlantic or it moves out to sea after spreading a swath of light snow.

In the short run, the weather is pretty depressing, but in the longer run, there is plenty of reason for optimism. If you have plans to ski or ride during Presidents’ Week, don’t worry…by that time there will be plenty of snow. Okay, February will belong to winter, but what about March? Well, past analogs of cold starts to winter, warm Januarys, and cold Februarys have shown little in the way of letups in March. The 1934 analog, which I have used for guidance much of this winter, is consistent with that scenario, so I am going to ride that pony right into spring. I think that March will be colder than normal in the east, at least into mid month, but it won’t be as cold, with respect to normals, as February. Snowfall will also be above normal, so it does appear as though much of March will also belong to winter, just as it did in 2005. There are some indications that the southern plains will be warmer than normal in March, and that could provide an earlier release from winter in the Ohio Valley, and that is something that I will be studying this month. And for those of you who enjoy sliding in April…when it is cold well into March, generally it is tough to get it warmer than normal early…right now, I’m favoring an April that is close to normal in terms of temperature and precipitation…in the meantime, don’t let the rain get you down…the extended January thaw is just about history…
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well since i dont have the attention span to read all that, im assuming its saying the high country is going to recieve 500 inches of snow before may and the rest of the season will be powder days?
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"You mean there is Two of them??"
"it's about 10 very heavy inches. I can drive it but it sure will be slow"

The waiting is over...winter is back!


Out long regional nightmare is over! After a weekend storm that brought rain to just about every ski area north of Atlanta and east of the Mississippi River, cold air has become re-established in the eastern third of the country. The good news is…it looks as though it will control the region’s weather map for the foreseeable future. While it certainly has seemed cold over the east early this week, the air that has moved in is really just normally cold air…it just seems like a slap in the face after a January that was anywhere from 6 to 10 degrees above normal.

The air that arrived has been cold enough, relative to the temperature of the Great Lakes, to turn on the lake effect machine. The beneficiaries of the localized effect were the areas in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, upstate New York and the Adirondacks, as well as the resorts of Vermont and the Berkshires. The big winners, with more than a foot of new snow, are Holiday Valley, NY, Snow Ridge, NY, Whiteface, NY, and Jay Peak, VT. Stowe and Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont got in line with a nice Lake Ontario plume on Tuesday, and picked up around 10 inches. Elsewhere, the cold air has allowed the mountain crews to crank up the snow guns once again. As the week goes on, a reinforcing shot of cold air will arrive from Canada, and that will lengthen the snowmaking window at lower elevation New England resorts as well as the areas in Pennsylvania and points south. Those areas have been limited to nighttime snowmaking thus far, as daytime temps have risen into the 30’s. The next shot of chilled air will extend the snowmaking hours to include the early mornings and early evenings…in general, it will be a good idea to make sure you have your goggles until further notice, as resorts resurface open runs, and build base snow in anticipation of the upcoming Presidents Day holiday crowds. They don’t like to make snow during daytime skiing/riding hours, but let’s face it…the bases in the east right now are not nearly deep enough to provide any sort of staying power into late winter/early spring.

In the last couple of days, if I have been asked once, I have been asked fifteen times…”It’s great that it’s cold again, but when is it going to REALLY snow?” We now have a trough in the east at the upper levels of the atmosphere, and that is one key ingredient for a significant storm along the east coast. There is plenty of cold air now, both near the surface and aloft. And with a strong ridge along the west coast, there is a nice mechanism to direct any short wave energy that comes over the top of the ridge toward the lower Great lakes, and on to the east coast. If a short wave does come cascading southeastward, as several are likely to do in the next week to ten days, the question then becomes whether or not any surface system that spins up can turn the corner sharply enough to come up the east cost, as opposed to gliding out to sea. The first such forecasting challenge will come late this week, and right now, it looks to me as though one piece of shortwave energy will pass through upstate New York and central New England, with a few inches of fluffy snow north of the track, and a couple of inches to the south…for 100-125 miles or so. A southern track short wave will round the base of the trough and set off the creation of a surface system off the east coast on Friday and it looks to me as though the upper level trough won’t be quite sharp enough to allow for a hard left turn up the coast. Rather, it will graze southern New England with the threat of a couple more inches of snow on Saturday. It is a situation that bears watching, because it wouldn’t take much of a track shift to bring more snow to more people…one “X factor” in this is the persistence of above normal sea surface temps in the northwest Atlantic…January’s warmth didn’t do much to diminish the anomaly, and that warmer than normal water is still capable of enhancing the circulation of any storm that passes near or over it. A negative factor in this scenario is the absence of a negative NAO, or North Atlantic Oscillation, which would produce a blocking mechanism over the North Atlantic. The blocking would tend to force any coastal system to make a sharper turn to the north, thereby producing a better snow-producing track. The NAO is currently very close to neutral, which makes it easier for a coastal system to escape offshore. There are signs that the NAO may go negative in the next couple of weeks…if so, the cold in the east will deepen further and perhaps to the extent that it disrupts Presidents’ Day skiing and riding…a classic case of “be careful what you wish for…”

Next week, the cold over the Northeast and eastern Great Lakes will be reinforced again, and it will expand to the west, as the western lakes and northern Plains will get a taste of arctic air. The snowmaking effort will continue in the east, although it should be pointed out that the roller coaster ride that we endured in late December and January put a dent in the snowmaking budgets of some resorts. If a resort has budgeted X number of days of snowmaking in a season, and they are close to, or have already reached X, they are faced with a tough business decision…should we keep making snow, and if we do, will crowds come to our hill and give us a return on our investment in new crystals. As I say, it is a tough decision, when you consider that an all-out overnight snowmaking assault at a medium sized resort can cost 50 to 100 thousand dollars! That’s right, 50 to 100 K…per night! The cold will be in place, and after the multiple rains and melting temps of January, there will be plenty of water, and overall, I think that resorts will bite the bullet and crank out the crystals, so we can all count on a steady improvement of surface conditions for the foreseeable future. Just think of what could happen if Mother Nature kicked in with a dump or two!!! Stay tuned…

A quick spike, followed by the Arctic hammer...


The Lincoln’s Day Blizzard of 2006 is now in the history books, and it turned out to be a pretty productive storm for some folks, while most of the major resorts in the east could only sit and watch with envy, as low moisture content crystals piled up from Washington D.C. northeastward to Boston and the coast of Maine. The biggest winner appears to have been Wachusett Mountain, Massachusetts…20 inches piled up there. The northern edge of the snow was a very sharp line, as less than six inches fell in Keene, New Hampshire…located no more than about 35 miles north, as the crow flies, from Wachusett. Thirty more miles to the north, and all the storm amounted to was flurries. Nashoba Valley, a ski area about 25 northwest of downtown Boston, picked up 16 inches, while Mt. Southington and Ski Sundown in Connecticut each got more than a foot. Mountain Creek New Jersey checked in with 12 inches, Windham Mountain, NY, 10 inches, and more than a foot at tall Snowshoe in West Virginia.

Now, I wish I could report that we’ll enjoy uninterrupted packed powder for as long as once can look into the future, but it looks as though the atmosphere is going to warm up for a couple of days this week, and that will convert some of the packed powder to more of a granular consistency. The reason that a brief warm-up is coming is that the trough that spawned the eastern storm is going to weaken rapidly, a trough will setup in the west and the flow from the Mississippi Valley to the east coast will become zonal, or west to east and temperatures will moderate. A short wave will come out of the western trough by midweek, and it will spread snow across the upper Midwest, but because it looks as though it will take a path toward the St. Lawrence Valley, it will produce rain for most areas when it moves into the east on Thursday. The rain doesn’t look heavy, mind you, but it will help to change the surface snow. Now, up the Adirondacks and northern mountains of New England, there doesn’t look to be much warm air for rain, and it could just work out to be a snow shower/rain shower mix as the front goes through. The front will be a strong one, and the temperature drop on the backside will be dramatic…and quick. Even though the east is going to turn milder, there will still be a large chunk of very cold air just to the north, and it will rush back in on Friday and become firmly established this weekend, all the way into the southern Appalachians. Lake effect snow will be very productive again in the wake of the frontal passage, and persistent mountain snow showers from the central Appalachians to northern New York and northern New England will help to soften up what will become a firm surface later this week.

Just a few weeks ago, virtually all of the cold air in North America was over Asia…now almost all of it is over North America and the adjacent waters of the Atlantic. The next surge will be most dramatic in the northern Plains and Pacific Northwest. I point that out because even though it will be very cold on the slopes of New York and New England this weekend, it could be worse…if you are headed for Montana or Idaho resorts this weekend or early next week, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. I believe that, starting Saturday, much of the United States will experience its coldest ten day stretch of this winter, as the arctic cold spreads out to easily encompass much of the nation. With the cold air in place again by this weekend, the question becomes…”what about snow?”. Well, with a trough in the west ejecting short waves every 24-36 hours or so, the forecast challenges are going to come east at a rapid pace next week, as the short wave energy feeds off the thermal boundary set up the press of arctic air. There will be several fast moving systems next week, and each one will be capable of putting down several inches of fresh snow on its quick trip east. Right now I favor the first one in the PA/WV/NJ/southern New England corridor late in the weekend, with the next one further south, more in the mid Atlantic states, with the potential for a “cleanup hitter” to form late next week. The “cleanup hitter” would be capable of producing more snow for more people, with a run up the coast not out of the question.

If you can grab a day out of work to go skiing/riding, and you live in the northeast, I would heartily recommend the next couple of days…comfortable temps, light mountain snows with abundant sunshine elsewhere, and nice snow…things will get a little sloppy by Thursday and scratchy by Friday, due to the dramatic return of cold air, so the next two days are your best bets. The President’s Week holiday looks to be an active one, as I spelled out in the previous paragraph, and we could easily end the month with a fairly extensive snow cover over the eastern U.S.

Out west, it is going to be turning cold…something folks in that part of the country don’t especially like, and the cold air will extend well down into the central Rockies. As it arrives later this week, it will set off a pretty good mountain snowstorm from Montana southward into Colorado. It won’t be a major dump because the impetus will be arriving from the north, and not the west, where upper air impulses come to the table with plenty of moisture picked up from the Pacific. This developing western trough will be in the right place for a storm, with plenty of cold air, but moisture will be a bit on the lean side.

There you have it…another stretch of track on the roller coaster that is this winter‘s weather…overall, though, the picture is a positive one as we head through the second half of February and on into March.

Thanks for the report.. I was wondering what the weekend was calling for.
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