If you build it...they will come (the storms that is!)

Mountain Mama

By Mountain Mama \ January 20 2010

Living in Utah and skiing in Utah...well, we get pretty spoiled. In fact, we get a bit snobby. If there isn't at least 6" of new snow every few days or a week, we feel cheated.  When in fact, other parts of the country would be very excited to see even 1/2 the snow we get.

Besides the point, it has been an El Nino year and maybe not quite the winter we'd like to see....until now!  During an El Nino year, there is warming of the waters off the coast of South America, trade winds weaken and the warm water pools in the western Pacific.  Ok, so..what's my point?  We oftentimes will see a ridge or high pressure over the west and storms go around the high.  High is associated with sinking air=no storminess.  El Nino also will shift the jet streams. This is important because the jet stream acts as a steering wheel for storms.  You want that wheel over you, not around you.  During an El Nino, we get a split jet.  The storms normally go over southern California (like we're seeing the last few days with floods and if you are one that watched the Golden Globes :)) and scrape by southern Utah.  Brian Head resort in southern Utah does well.  The storms also go through Canada and drop into the Dakotas. (Remember the big Christmas mess?)

Is this doom and gloom for the north? NOT AT ALL!! Again, we are an impatient group in the north waiting for the powder.  Folks, it has arrived!  As with all good things..it takes time and patience.  The pattern has changed.  The high pressure has broken down and the storms are lining up in the west and Pacific.  If you had a look at the satellite...the colors are GOOD!  This means lots of moisture headed into northern California and right into Utah.  It doesn't take much for us to really get hit hard and see the snow pile up.  Not only do we need it for skiing, we need it for the reservoirs.  In looking back at data for the past 10 years+, El Nino, La Nina...no Nina; there is no pattern that favors a low/high year which is great for Utah!

Point said, the storms are here and I got a chance to experience it first hand Tuesday at Alta.  16" new snow, knee deep!  Yep, doesn't get better.

Enjoy the pattern change.  Does this mean we're done with El Nino? No, supposed to continue and we will see the pattern swing back and forth; but for now it is stormy and the high has moved on.