By Mountain Mama \ October 8 2012 \ 5 Comments
Meteorology is a science. I am a Meteorologist. Is it an exact science? No. That is what makes it so exciting and constantly changing. Every day we wake up and think "what should I wear today?" "How should I dress the kids?" "What about my soccer game?" So, when I'm approached and asked "What kind of winter are we going to have?", that is a loaded and complicated question. I always explain weather predictions like baking a cake..you can have all the ingredients but one...sometimes the cake is fine, sometimes it is a flop. Sometimes, well you never know.
I'll look back to go forward. Last winter was a little dry. Horrible, no! At the end of the season, Alta still topped out with nearly 400" of snow. Yep, you can ski that. We can be greedy though and want more, that's OK.
In weather, we like to throw out all kinds of fancy terms, El Nino, La Nina, jet streams... whatever, you all just want to know the forecast. I'm going to throw up some terms and then have a look at some graphics as well to go along to explain. Late spring through most of the summer a big High Pressure has been sitting over Utah and the west. It brings lots of sun, heat and big smiles on my face...but not much precip. When a pattern like this is very persistent, it takes awhile to break it down. More than one storm, more than two, sometimes several. We like to look to the Pacific Ocean and especially to the north Pacific to see what is coming. I like to describe this kind of high as like a huge boulder in a stream...it takes something awfully big to bump it along. We have been quite warm until about 2 weeks ago and bang...it got cold, snow fell in the mountains and just like that, the season turned. Promising? Yes. I've been looking at all the computer models and predictions about this winter. The main thing to watch is consistency. It has been there.
The latest outlook has Utah right in the middle of the grey zone...meaning we could be wet or dry...See, told you it wasn't an exact science. Initially, there looked to be another El Nino year meaning the storm track is along the southern US. Now..not so much. This does bode well for Utah. As I look at the latest satellite data in the Pacific there is a big high pressure blocking the west, but there is a lot of activity in the Pacific. In laymans terms...things are brewing and changing. Just like I mentioned above, the high is a big boulder and it needs to be knocked down...this activity is trying to do that. The computer models have one piece of that activity coming in this Friday night, the 12th. I know, you're looking at this and asking what is the world are you looking at? If you see the bottom left panel with green over Utah...that is precip. The top right panel as all those lines coming across..indication of less high pressure. That is what is needed, the high to be knocked down and the storms to roll across following those lines. I could go into what this all means, but we'd all be lost. Just take my word, this is a step in the right direction for a more progressive pattern. Doesn't mean winter is here and all is fine, just means things are changing. Fast forward to a couple weeks from now...another low trying to swing in.
It is just the start of the seasons changing, but fun to watch the changes and also to watch for repeating patterns and a little inkling into what is to come. So, if asked "what kind of winter are we going to have"...my gut is to say, a much more active pattern than last year....stay tuned!
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