We take a look at our record snowpack, which continues to grow. We have a break today (Saturday) before the next system begins to move in Sunday with heavy snow Sunday night through Tuesday. A drier pattern is likely for late week into next weekend.
Short Term Forecast
We are going to start today by looking at our snowpack numbers as it's the first of the month. Simply put, they are great. Record snow depths in many areas and a statewide average that is the highest we've ever seen since 1980 when we started putting in snotel sites. You can see us at record levels here.
The previous highest we ever reached was a statewide average of 26" of SWE. Right now we sit at 28" of SWE. The NRCS, which puts out this map, posted that they have done some work to make estimates on years with potentially more snow prior to the snotel era (1980). The winter of 1951-52 is estimated to have had a statewide SWE average of 28.8". However this estimate is using only monthly, manual measurements from a few sites and then the rest is trying to extrapolate an average based on that which is difficult to do accurately to say the least.
With these record numbers, it may come as no surprise that the entire state is seeing a killer snow pack with some areas 200% of median or more -- which is mind-boggling for this date which is often the peak snowpack time:
Looking at individual sites, we can start up north. Tony Grove Lake near Beaver Mountain has somewhat lagged behind all year. When I say that, I mean that when other areas have been >200% of median, it has been in the 130% of median range. Still, well above normal, but not in record territory. A good last few weeks has allowed it to climb a bit, but not to record.
It is at 156% of median which is only good enough for the 3rd best year there. What an embarrassment!
A bit farther south and we are back to record territory with Ben Lomond Peak showing HUGE snowpack numbers:
It's their snowiest season ever. They are nearly to 80" of SWE which is the highest in the state. It's also 240% of median! Jim Steenburgh of the U of U posted yesterday that he believed this might be the single highest snowpack reading ever in the state of Utah -- and it's only going to go up in the next few days!
What may be even more impressive is that Ben Lomond Trail on the eastern base of the mountain has more than 45" of SWE at an elevation of less than 6000 feet:
To put that in perspective, that's a bigger snowpack than Snowbird snotel site typically sees in an average year! And this site is at 5800 ft! Wow!
Speaking of Snowbird, let's look at this site:
It's the biggest snow pack to-date, but you may be surprised to know that this is not the biggest snowpack ever at Snowbird. In fact, there are a few years that peaked bigger that where we currently sit:
The king of snowpacks was still 2011 when we plateaued up at around 75" of SWE for a month. Right now, we are at 66.8", so we need another 8" of SWE to get to 2011 levels -- might be a tough ask if I'm honest. I think we will come up short, even if we get 3+" of that this week.
Farther south, record snowpack at Timpanogos Divide with an astonishing 272% of median:
No surprise, as neighboring Sundance has had a record snow year. Farther south, Big Flat near Eagle Point also on a record pace:
...and finally, Midway Valley nearish to Brian Head:
Both of these southern Utah sites are at >200% of median for the date. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this year's snowpack is how widely distributed it is across the entire state. It would have been one thing for one section of the state to set records, but for almost everybody to be setting individual site records is impressive -- and speaks to why we are crushing the statewide average record.
I have been fielding a lot of questions regarding runoff and what this will mean for flooding. I am not an expert. However, I think a repeat of 1983 is quite unlikely. Better infrustructure for one, and that year featured a snowpack that peaked in mid-to-late May, then saw summer arrive all at once. It was the perfect storm. I doubt that will happen again. Rather, I expect this to be a lot like 2011 when we saw a couple of months of nuisance flooding for many areas, but major flooding was largely averted. The best case scenario for us is that we see a couple of weeks in April of warm temps so we can start melting out the mid to lower elevations first, then the upper elevations will melt out mostly in May.
Yesterday's storm continued to bring snow through much of the morning and even afternoon hours. Another 6-15" of snow was picked up. Snowfall totals in northern Utah ranged from 20-46" from Wednesday PM through Friday PM. Alta and Snowbird were unable to open yesterday. Alta and Brighton both went over 800" of snow on the season and now sit at 809" and 815" respectively.
Mind-blowing statistic: Since the first snow at Alta on October 22, 2022. They have averaged over 5" of snow per day! Or, about 3 FEET of snow per week since the first snow of the season.
We have a MONSTER storm that could impact us for the start of the upcoming week. Today (Saturday) is a break in the action, but we will see winds pick up already with clouds increasing later today. We then see some moisture reach far northern Utah tonight and sag south overnight into Sunday morning. We could see generally light snow showers with light accumulation tomorrow in northern Utah mountains.
The heavy snow arrives Sunday night and continues through Monday as the front sags through the region. Then, behind the front, heavy snow continues -- especially in the Cottonwoods -- in a long-duration, cold, unstable northwest flow. It looks like a very good setup to my eyes for heavy snowfall in LCC in particular. NBM totals through Wednesday show decent liquid:
While already in the 1-2.25" range, I suspect these amounts will increase as we get within range of some of the higher resolution models that do a better job with orographics and lake enhancement. Here is the downscaled GFS plumes showing a mean of over 2.5" of liquid for LCC:
All ensembles are above 1.5" with most in the 2-3" range and a mean of about 2.6". I would not be surprised if we see even more with the orographic component of this storm. That means 20-30" of snow for most areas with more possible for the Cottonwoods. I would not be shocked for LCC to approach 4 feet of snow if all goes according to plan.
It's a big storm on an already record or near-record snowpack. There won't be much time for the snow to settle or for folks to dig out, so it's likely to cause issues once again. I would not be surprised to see canyon or resort closures on Monday and/or Tuesday. But if they can get open, it will be epic!
We should see snow slowly taper off Wednesday. Late next week into next weekend should be drier but could remain cool. We will see a gradual warm-up to near average temps. In general, the long-range models show us staying mostly dry:
The vast majority of the above EPS ensembles keep us dry April 6-13. Then, perhaps we see chances for storms again closer to mid-month, but that's a long way out so we'll just keep an eye on that.
Evan | OpenSnow