State of the Winter Address: Update 1/25/13

Let’s try a game called Guess Which Winter:

Winter A (through January 25th): Significant snowfall around 8 inches just before Thanksgiving (Good for a lawn jockey ride!). Warm December with little snow. January also warm with nickel and dime snow events that constantly got negated by thaw and rain. But a couple of modest snows got us on the board, enough to spring Mr for 2 rides worth 160 miles. On a historical footnote, Lake George had not frozen over and would not for the entire winter.

Winter B (through January 25th): Very little snow November and most of December. Very warm for much of December. But the central Adirondacks got blitzed with over 30 inches of snow to close out December, highlighted by a major snowstorm around the 27th. Although little snow falls through the first half of January, conditions remained great until a thaw hit mid month. After January 15th, the North Country got dusted by a parade of light snows and then got nailed with a major league Arctic siege the week of Martin Luther King’s birthday during which Lake George froze over. Mr had tallied nearly 600 miles for the season to date.

By now, you’ve figured out that “A” was last winter and “B” is this winter.

Not convinced?

Like I always say: “The snow pack never lies!” You can compare the January 25th snow pack between 2013 and 2012:

Snow pack comparison

Snow Pack Comparison

There is absolutely no question that the snow pack is thicker over the Adirondacks and Tug Hill this year! Unfortunately, for the lower elevation places along the outer edges of the Adirondacks the snow pack between this winter and last is pretty similar. I’m not trying to sell you on the notion this winter has been a world-beater. But there have been significant differences between this winter and last winter.

What going on?

Back on the 15th, I presented the case that winter would begin redeem itself. To be sure, I nailed the cold part. The snow part: not so well. Although we got a bunch of light snow events, we never got the significant snow storm to fully recover what we lost. We’ve been dominated by the Polar jet stream since mid-January. Unless disturbances in the Polar jet are strong, they cannot spin up good snowstorms unless they can phase with the subtropical jet stream. In the case of the Martin Luther King and January 25th potential snow events that went bust, the medium range computer models greatly overestimated the strength of the Polar jet disturbances and the Subtropical jet was missing in action. Here what ACTUALLY happened:

Martin Luther King chart

Martin Luther King Day

January 25th Chart

January 25th

After this weekend, we’ll have a significant warm-up as the Polar Vortex retreats toward the Arctic Circle. A light to modest snow accumulation is possible on Monday as the encroaching warm air mass butts against the departing Arctic siege. There is some uncertainty as to how warm it will actually get on Tuesday and Wednesday. No matter what happens, it won’t be good for us. We can only hope to minimize the damage.

Fast forward to Thursday the 31st, the Arctic Express is back in town on the strength of a strong eastern Canadian Vortex (CV) underneath the Polar Vortex (PV). The positive Pacific North American Oscillation (PNA+) manifested by the western United States ridge will reinforce the cold over the eastern United States into early February:

January 31st Upper Air

January 31st

Great! But when are going to get big snow?

The easy answer: Not for a while. Taking a look further down the road, the “Euro” ensembles show what may be the harbinger of something important:

February 4th Upper Air

February 4th

The developing split flow pattern approaching the western United States could spawn a significant snowfall before mid-February IF it holds together. This configuration would draw the subtropical jet into a more favorable position to merge with Polar jet disturbances. I’ll be the first to tell you this is a reach, but forecasting anything over 10 days away is a reach.

Was the December snow blitz an indication of what could happen later this winter, or was it the highlight of an otherwise dud winter? I can’t say, but I still think the fact that 2012 had the 5th greatest October Eurasian snow cover in the past 20 years still means something. There is plenty of winter left and we’ve seen big turnarounds before.

Comments welcomed!


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