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  • Chasing Snow

    Bryan K. Woods, Ph.D. founded Northeast Mountain Sports and publishes this blog dedicated to skiing and winter weather. He received a B.S. in Meteorology from UMass Lowell. His Ph.D. in Geology & Geophysics from Yale. He is an expert in mountain meteorology with multiple peer-reviewed publications. He worked for five years as a Senior Staff Scientist at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc and its parent company Verisk Analytics. He is currently a Principal Engineer at HERE Technologies, the Open Location Platform company.

    Bryan lives in Chelmsford, MA with his wife and ski tuning bench. He spends his winter weekends in North Conway, NH or elsewhere skiing. He is actively involved in the Eastern Inter-Club Ski League (EICSL) as its Secretary, and a Board member of the Makusue Ski And Sport Club in North Conway, NH and ACE Ski and Board Club in Chelmsford, MA.

    Click on the post titles in the feeds below to view recent posts. Or bookmark the blog directly.

  • Recent Weather Updates from "Chasing Snow"

    • By Weatherman in Chasing Snow
         1
      Fall sucks. All sorts of waiting around and getting your hopes up. I know we were talking about skiing next weekend, but I'm much more pessimistic now. As I mentioned before, the outcome is all going to depend on the transition, and right now that looks wet. All the way through Halloween the cold air stays out over the Midwest, and the firehose of humidity gets pumped right at us.

      In the plot above note the surface winds out of the southeast pumping in moist (high dewpoint). The frontal boundary remains sharply to our West. The shift in the model forecast over the last few days is both a testament to how far out we can predict, but also the error scales inherent in those forecasts. The cold, dry air is still forecast to pour south, but its position has nudged just far enough to the west to left us out.
    • By Weatherman in Chasing Snow
         1
      There's no doubt that October 2017 has been warm so far. The foliage season is an unequivocal bust. So let's look forward to ski season!
      The next week is going to be a beautiful stretch of warm and dry fall weather. It'll be a great time to get some yard work done and tie up all those loose ends before ski season arrives. I'll personally be staining my porch railing this weekend. But the warm weather is going to come to an abrupt and wet end in the middle of next week. Behind this transition, colder air will move in for the last weekend of October. How that transition occurs is an open question, but there's plenty of energy to work with. Below is the latest GFS model run, but don't read too much into it.

      The transition circa Wednesday, October 25 is likely to be a dynamic one. There looks to be plenty of subtropical moisture coming into contact with the cold air burst. Recent model guidance suggests we'll be looking at a robust storm crossing being fed by a strong low-level jet. The snapshot below shows an example of this, with the color scaling showing the 850 mb wind speed. (Note: 850 mb represents approximately the elevation of the high peaks in New Hampshire)

      After this dynamic system clears the area, I expect productive snowmaking temperatures over the weekend. The plot below shows the ensemble average lows on Saturday night. I expect to see colder temperatures than this at elevation.

      I don't expect to see any ski areas open on Saturday, but it still looks likely we're talking about skiing somewhere in New England by Halloween. Sunday, October 29 is still in play too. How the Wednesday transition plays out is likely the key.
    • By Weatherman in Chasing Snow
         4
      Winter is coming!
      Sorry for the delay. I'm currently in Montreal for a multi-day bachelor party which has been a little... distracting. But I wanted to let everyone know the good news: regime change is on the way!
      It's too early to be giving many specifics, but start thinking seriously about opening day in two weeks. The signs have been there for a while, and I'm now confident enough to post it. It's time to make contingency plans for skiing in late October. I'd clear my calendar for the weekend of October 28-29.
      The trend is for a pattern change bring colder weather to the East. The signal has been more focused around the upper Midwest, but given the recent warmth it will feel dramatically different.

    • By Weatherman in Chasing Snow
         3
      I've been meaning to post an update for days now, but there just isn't much to say. Expect the warmth to continue for at least the next two weeks. There are hints of a pattern change coming up after that, but those hints are always there. The weather models often become dominated by seasonal-scale forcing at this time of the year. Changes in the energy balance happen so quickly that they are hard to ignore. We've already seen daytime highs cool by nearly ten degrees since the start of the warm spell simply due to seasonal shifts. Even though the temperatures have cooled in that regard, we're still running well above average and will continue to do so.
      By now you've probably noticed that the foliage is running well behind schedule and the colors are dull at best. Expect that to continue throughout the fall. This is an overwhelmingly poor year for leaf peeping. My only comfort is that there is little to no correlation with this pattern to the winter ahead. The truth is that seasonal trends in the Northeast are difficult to forecast, and nearly impossible at this point in the season.
    • By Weatherman in Chasing Snow
         1
      Today's post goes out by special request of @Los. He asks:
      That is a depressing thought! The good news is that your children will not be facing a world without snow, thought they almost certainly will live a much warmer world than you did. We live in warmer world than our grandparents did. Remember the prolonged cold of the winter of 2014-15? That used to be a typical winter a century ago. Though with increasing greenhouse gas emissions it's likely the changes over the next century with be even starker than that.
      It's important to remember that global climate change is indeed global, but not uniform. Climate changes are greater toward the poles, a process known as polar amplification. During warm periods, the temperature gradient between the poles and equator is reduced. You can see this in temperature trends to date.

      Although the warming is clearly amplified over the Arctic, it's not as clear what the winter temperature trend has been in New England over the more recent past.

      Note the very strong warming over the Arctic, but a noticeable cooling over Eurasia and central North America. There has been essentially no trend over New England. So what is going on? That's a controversial question. It seems to be clearly linked to systematically weaker Arctic polar vortex. As the Arctic warms, the vortex breaks down and cold air is no longer "locked" in the Arctic. It is free to spill down to mid-latitudes resulting in the more frequent cold air outbreaks over the continents. It may seem counter-intuitive, but a warming global climate may actually not (yet) be negatively effecting our winter winter here in New England.
      But why is this happening now? My favorite explanation is that it's all about the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice, but the physical link between the loss of sea ice and weakening of the vortex remains to be clearly established. There are a number of contributing factors to the decline of sea ice, especially melting from below due to warm water transport into the Arctic Ocean. The science isn't quite there yet, and there is no guarantee that this recent trend continues.

      Feeling better yet? Unfortunately the mid-winter trends don't apply to the fall and spring shoulder season. There is very strong evidence that the duration of winter is shortening on both ends, even though the core of winter isn't changing much. Until about 15 years ago, this trend was largely being offset by an increase is snowmaking coverage resulting in ever longer ski seasons, but that is no longer the case. While snow guns are becoming much more efficient to operate, they haven't changed the basic underlying thermodynamics. Ski season is starting later and ending earlier., and this trend is expected to continue. The figure below shows the expected number of days with snowcover under two different emission scenarios according to a climate model. The model predicts the snow season to shorten by at least two weeks on each end.

      I hope this gives you a better idea of how climate change is likely to impact skiing in New England. Low-elevation ski areas, especially in southern New England are likely to suffer the most. The impacts will be most dramatic on their ability to open early season as warming temperatures make snowmaking temperature less certain in advance of the Christmas season. On the plus side, skiing at Jay Peak and Wildcat is likely to become significant more tolerable. Don't think the industry is in denial. Why do you think Les Otten has such a keen eye on the Balsams?


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