After our storm Sunday into yesterday, we are left with cold air and fresh snow. A strong ridge of high pressure will build into the region now, leaving us without any chances for snow for the foreseeable future. Strengthening inversions will lead to worsening valley air quality.
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Short Term Forecast
Storm is now completely out of the area. We saw snow showers continue for much of the day yesterday in LCC and a few other areas. Snowbird and Alta saw additional accumulations to bring storm totals up to 17 and 18 inches respectively. Not a bad haul! NW flow did its job as expected. Other areas without the orographic benefits such as PC saw far less snow with generally 5-6". The good news is that it is cold today and tomorrow so snow-making can continue. The bad news is that we are staring down the barrel of a long dry spell as a very strong ridge builds over the entire western half of the continent. That means warmer-than-average temps will return to the mountains, a strengthening inversion with worsening valley air quality, and no chances for snow for awhile.
This latest storm helped northern Utah a bit in our fight to stay within touching distance of a normal snowpack:
Far northern Utah is just a shade below average at 99%, then it generally drops as you go farther south. Northern and Central Wasatch averaging about half of normal, then very discouraging numbers for southern Utah. Obviously, we are not alone. Most of Nevada, Oregon, and Colorado are also below normal. Only Eastern Idaho, Western Wyo, and southwestern Montana seem to still be ahead of normal. Unfortunately, all these areas will see substantial drops as no significant snow is forecasted for any of them any time soon.
The mega ridge looks like it will hold through at least mid-month. I don't see it breaking down at this time, but there have been some hints that it could retrograde enough for a backdoor system to maybe clip the area at some point. Ensemble means still keep it going strong for most of the next 15-days. This could change, but at the moment not too much in the way of encouraging signs. We'll keep watching.
As for what our snowpack could look like, let's take a look at Snowbird:
This is our 29th season of records at the Snowbird snotel site. Above, the line for this year (light green) is shown on the graph, although it might be hard to see. Currently it sits just over 4" of SWE (snow water equivalent). That makes this the 3rd driest year since the '89-90 season. I added the bold black line as a future point to extend out our current level assuming no additional precip. By mid-month, we would be in last place. By the end of the month, we would be in last by a couple inches which is about two medium storms or one big storm. Now, I don't think we'll go the whole rest of the month without storms. I have to think the pattern will change before then, but this is just to give you an idea.
It sounds bleak, but if you look at the graph, you can see that the majority of years are all bunched together within just a few inches of SWE at the New Years (12-31) line. That means that one good storm cycle would get us right back into the thick of things with more typical Utah years. The vast majority of our snow in the winter falls after January 1, so don't despair. We have plenty of time left to catch up.
I am keeping a close watch on the long-range and will let you all know as soon as I see a concrete sign of change.
Evan | OpenSnow