As El Nino weakens--cold will invade eastern U.S. with more snow
Important snows coming for Colorado/Wyoming
Warmer-drier weather coming for Cascades and Sierras
Last fall, because of El Nino, other meteorologists were expecting a stellarski season in much of the Rockies with a warmer than normal weather across much of the eastern United States. We happened to disagree because of how weak El Nino appeared and because of the unusual warm ocean currents streaming northward into the Gulf of Alaska. We presented an argument in our November newsletter--Let'sTalkWeather (on my web site)--as to why we were worried that Colorado and Utah may not have that good of a start to the ski season and that the east could see well above normal snowfall. One of the reasonswe felt this was because of the incredibly warm ocean temperatures moving northward in the Gulf of Alaska. When that happens, cold air is oftendeflected southward from the arctic tundra and away from Alaska into the eastern halfof the U.S. For the next 10-15 days, much of the eastern U.S. will see some of the coldest January weather in several years. This isatypical of El Nino and is a sign that this weather phenomena may be dying.
Our map today illustrates the western snowpack as of January 1st. Though this has changed somewhat the last two weeks, one can see how the Cascades, Sierras, parts of Idaho and New Mexico has been the beneficiary of above normal snow (blue), while much of the central Rockies have had below normal snow-pack (yellow-red). The white areas illustrate general normal snowpack, as is the caseover Squaw Valley/Tahoe and along the spine of the Cascades and Sierras (near the west coast) where skiing has been decent.
This chart may be a little deceiving since ski resorts such as Mt. Hood(Oregon),Mt. Shasta, Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole (Wyoming) have hadgreat skiing conditions and normal to above normal snowfall, but the chartis showing a lot of red/yellow (dry). However, it will give one a generalidea thatmuch of the west has been in the midst of below normal snowfall and thatEl NIno is not everything that other's have hoped for; especially overparts of Colorado and Utah. However, the monthof December was one of the snowiest ever at such ski resorts as AlpineMeadows (California)and Whistler (B.C.).In fact, Whistler-Blackcolm received a stellar 10 feetof snow last month.
THE FORECAST FOR THIS WEEK
The good news this week is that Colorado will be in the batter's box for some importantmid week snows. Powerhorn, Colorado just received close to a foot and a half of snow and many resorts such as Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge, Keystone and Steamboat have a good chance to receive more than a foot of snow this week. This is pretty critical, because until recently, ski conditions in Colorado have been marginal.
The eastern slopes of the Grand Tetons may also get nailed with some heavy mid week snows as bitter arctic air slides south into Alberta Tuesday and into Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado bymid-week. Skiing will be awesome at Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee. Sun Valley is seeing some great skiing with the recent snow and more islikely early this week before a drying trend sets in. In fact, for much of the west, a period ofmuch drier weather will return Friday through the weekend. In fact, above normal temperatureswill be the rule for the Cascades, Sierras and the Heavenly-Squaw Valley area, a region that has seen above normal snowfall the last few weeks. If you are headed out to Utah, some snowfall has fallen recently improving conditions some. I do see3-8" around Alta, Snowbird and Park City by Wednesday. However, I see generally a return to below normal snowfall in Utah this next week withtemperatures returning to above normal levels by Friday into the weekend. So if you want some fresh powder in Utah, you better hit the slopes the first half of the week.
Heli-skiing in B.C. has improved by the recent snows. Early mid-week snnows of up to 8-18"will be likely across most of B.C. We will see temperatures drop below zero at Lake Louise-Sunshine Village-Banff under mostly sunny skies early-mid week. The next chance for important snows here will occur around the 18th or 19th.
In the eastern United States, there is no change in the active weatherpattern with belownormal temperatures. Several important weather systems will bring 1-4"inches of snowMonday night and again on Wednesday-Thursday from Whiteface toStowe/Smuggler's Notch,Jay Peak, Sugarbush/Mad River Glen into northern New Hampshire and Maine.Skiingis outstanding in many of these areas.Quebec, which has seen below normal snowfall recently, will be thebeneficiary of some improvingsnowfall---partly from bitter cold air sweeping in off the Great Lakes andalso from a coupleAlberta Clippers. There may be a major storm along the east coast sometimebetween the18th-21st, but for now, lake effect and Alberta Clipper type snows will bethe rule with 1-4"every couple days.
Hunter Mtn, Killington, Mt. Snow and many other southern New England skiresorts are seeingone of their finest winters ever, and I see no change in the overall coldpattern there withnormal to above normal snowfall,especially after January 20th.
Ski conditions have improved some in eastern Europe but remain marginal overmostof France, Switzerland and Austria.