Stu

Jan 212015
 

More and more, people ask me this question. The answer has several parts. While one event stands out, there are other contributing factors. Many of the reasons for starting this blog are personal. Let’s go back to the spring of 1999.

Saturday, March 27, 1999 was a beautiful day. Sunny, light winds and warm temperatures led me to work outside all day. The week before had been just as beautiful. The forecast was for it to continue. It was so nice and warm, my family planned to go to Lake Powell the following weekend, very early in the season.

On Wednesday evening of that week, we purchased a used Ford Bronco. The forecast was still for continued beautiful weather. As we signed the documents, it started to snow. There had been no snow in the forecast. Yet, there is was. Thursday brought 8-12 inches of snow for many locations. It snowed several more inches on Friday. Again, it snowed on Saturday. We got another 8 or so inches on Sunday. As the skies cleared, the temperatures dropped to the single digits in many local areas. This had been a severe and completely unexpected winter storm.

This storm perplexed me. How, in our modern age, was it possible for the experts to have missed such a whopper storm? We had supercomputers running forecast models to project the future weather. Supercomputers! These were the same computers that calculated high-resolution models of nuclear explosions. How could they miss?

I thought I would start to record my thoughts in a blog. I started writing my thoughts down on an AOL blog. That blog and those ramblings are long gone. That effort was more of a notepad. I shared blog with just a couple of people who knew I was watching and thinking about the weather. I’m not sure exactly when I started that blog. Over the years, I enjoyed hearing from people who were reading the AOL based-blog because someone else shared it with them.

End of part 1.

************

Next week looks particularly disturbed. The forecasts are pointing to a storm later in the week. But, the computer models point to an early week storm. Standby, it could be a big one. Today we have light snow and rain for the morning.

 Posted by at 6:09 am
Dec 312014
 

If you look back to my post from yesterday, it did not include waking up to over an inch of snow. So, the storm got a bit of an earlier start. The middle of the day will probably bring us heavy snow. It’s too early to tell how long it will last.

The earlier start should make it easier to hit the deeper snowfall forecasts. The storm formed over the San Diego and Los Angeles area yesterday night. I think this allowed it to draw moisture up from the south sooner than I expected, and sooner than many of the computer model runs allowed. Even yesterday afternoon, the computer models showed the storm forming more to the east, with less precipitation for Flagstaff

The National Weather Service has increased their snowfall forecast(below) in their Winter Storm Warning to 9-15 inches. Wunderground has increased their forecast to 8-12 inches. AccuWeather is forecasting about 9-10 inches. We are in for a big storm. This morning’s radar shows a large band of moisture moving our way.

* SNOWFALL FORECAST FROM 4 AM MST TODAY UNTIL 5 PM MST
  THURSDAY...

     CAMP VERDE  1 TO 2  INCHES    CHINO VALLEY  4 TO 8  INCHES
       CONGRESS  1 TO 2  INCHES      COTTONWOOD  1 TO 3  INCHES
         DILKON  4 TO 6  INCHES      DONEY PARK  8 TO 12 INCHES
      FLAGSTAFF  9 TO 15 INCHES    FOREST LAKES 13 TO 19 INCHES
HEBER-OVERGAARD  6 TO 10 INCHES        HOLBROOK  2 TO 4  INCHES
     KYKOTSMOVI  4 TO 8  INCHES         PAULDEN  4 TO 8  INCHES
         PAYSON  5 TO 9  INCHES PINE-STRAWBERRY  8 TO 12 INCHES
PRESCOTT VALLEY  4 TO 8  INCHES        PRESCOTT  6 TO 10 INCHES
         SEDONA  4 TO 6  INCHES        SELIGMAN  8 TO 12 INCHES
         SHONTO 10 TO 16 INCHES SNOWFLAKE-TAYLR  2 TO 4  INCHES
      TUBA CITY  4 TO 7  INCHES        WILLIAMS 10 TO 16 INCHES
        WINSLOW  1 TO 3  INCHES
 Posted by at 6:09 am
Dec 302014
 

There is a winter storm warning posted for Flagstaff. It is below. But, what if it didn’t come together as promised. Is that even possible? The National Weather Service has the following forecast for downtown Flagstaff:

nwsforecastIf you add up the snowfall amounts from Wednesday to Thursday, the totals come to 7-14 inches. This is in the 1 inch of water range. I think this could happen and that it is important for the National Weather Service to project it. They are responsible for helping us prepare for bad weather. Hats off to them for being very active in the social media about this storm.

The problem is that this storm is heavily dependent on timing. The low pressure system needs to develop over Arizona at the same time that a burst of moisture makes its way up to Arizona from the tropics. After watching the computer models over the last few days, I am very tempted to side with AccuWeather‘s slightly lower forecast of 5-12 inches or even Wunderground‘s lower forecast of 5-8 inches. Most of the models are heading in the 3/4’s of an inch of water range which fits the lower predictions. Still, I am concerned that everything will come together, but over Eastern Arizona, not Central Arizona.

I recommend taking this storm seriously. It could be our biggest one for the season.

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FLAGSTAFF AZ
523 AM MST TUE DEC 30 2014

AZZ004>009-015-016-018-037-038-302230-
/O.NEW.KFGZ.WS.W.0001.141231T1200Z-150102T0000Z/
KAIBAB PLATEAU-MARBLE AND GLEN CANYONS-GRAND CANYON COUNTRY-
COCONINO PLATEAU-YAVAPAI COUNTY MOUNTAINS-
NORTHEAST PLATEAUS AND MESAS HWY 264 NORTHWARD-
WESTERN MOGOLLON RIM-EASTERN MOGOLLON RIM-NORTHERN GILA COUNTY-
YAVAPAI COUNTY VALLEYS AND BASINS-OAK CREEK AND SYCAMORE CANYONS-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...FREDONIA...PAGE...
GRAND CANYON VILLAGE...SUPAI...PRESCOTT...FLAGSTAFF...PAYSON...
SEDONA
523 AM MST TUE DEC 30 2014

...WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 5 AM WEDNESDAY TO 5 PM MST
THURSDAY FOR NORTHWEST ARIZONA ABOVE 3500 FEET ELEVATION...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN FLAGSTAFF HAS ISSUED A WINTER
STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 5 AM
WEDNESDAY TO 5 PM MST THURSDAY.

* TIMING...WIDESPREAD SNOW WILL INCREASE FROM WEST TO EAST
  ON WEDNESDAY. THE HEAVIEST SNOW IS EXPECTED TO FALL FROM
  MID MORNING WEDNESDAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY NIGHT...TAPERING OFF
  TO SHOWERS ON THURSDAY.

* GENERAL EVENT TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS...6-14 INCHES ARE
  EXPECTED AT ELEVATIONS ABOVE 5000 FEET IN THE WARNED
  AREA...WITH 2-6 INCHES BELOW 5000 FEET.

* SNOWFALL FORECAST FROM 5 AM MST WEDNESDAY UNTIL 5 PM MST
  THURSDAY...

   CHINO VALLEY  4 TO 6  INCHES      COTTONWOOD  1 TO 3  INCHES
     DONEY PARK  7 TO 11 INCHES       FLAGSTAFF  9 TO 13 INCHES
   FOREST LAKES 13 TO 19 INCHES        FREDONIA  4 TO 8  INCHES
   GRAND CANYON  9 TO 13 INCHES HEBER-OVERGAARD  6 TO 10 INCHES
     JACOB LAKE  9 TO 15 INCHES            PAGE  4 TO 6  INCHES
        PAULDEN  4 TO 6  INCHES          PAYSON  5 TO 9  INCHES
PINE-STRAWBERRY  8 TO 12 INCHES PRESCOTT VALLEY  4 TO 8  INCHES
       PRESCOTT  4 TO 8  INCHES          SEDONA  3 TO 6  INCHES
       SELIGMAN  5 TO 9  INCHES           VALLE  6 TO 10 INCHES
       WILLIAMS  9 TO 15 INCHES

* OTHER IMPACTS...THIS IS A COLD SYSTEM...AND SNOW WILL FALL TO
  THE VALLEY FLOORS BY THURSDAY MORNING. BE PREPARED FOR HAZARDOUS
  WINTER DRIVING CONDITIONS ON ALL ROADS IN NORTHERN ARIZONA
  DURING THIS EVENT.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE
EXPECTED OR OCCURRING...DUE TO SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW AND
STRONG WINDS PRODUCING LIMITED VISIBILITIES.

DRIVING WILL BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS DURING THIS STORM. FOR THE
LATEST ROAD CONDITIONS AND CLOSURES...CALL THE ADOT FREEWAY
MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AT 1 888 411 7623 OR VISIT THEIR WEB SITE AT
WWW.AZ511.COM.

ADDITIONAL WEATHER INFORMATION IS ON THE WEB AT
WWW.WEATHER.GOV/FLAGSTAFF.
 Posted by at 6:43 am
Dec 242014
 

Over the last week or so, the GFS models have had a snow drifting in and out of the forecast for tomorrow. Currently, snow is back in the forecast for tomorrow, along with cooler temperatures. But, the storm is coming down from the north. This is not a typical storm pattern, and is very different from the storm track that kept us wet at the start of December. We shouldn’t receive much Christmas snow, but temperatures are going to plummet from our balmy 50+ degree highs today.

I think the current storm track makes the 30-day and 3-month outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center seem odd. The current track is fairly dry. It’s not drawing on the moisture that the warm equatorial Pacific waters should provide. Still, the outlooks have above average moisture for the next 3 months.

We should not expect a significant El Nino for this winter, too. The shift in the winds at the equator is not yet sustained. There is still warm water down off the coast of Peru, but it needs the winds to shift to sustain it.

One and 3-month precipitation outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center.

One and 3-month precipitation outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center.

 Posted by at 1:49 pm
Dec 162014
 

More water is on its way. We are about an inch and a half above average precipitation for December. Most of this has fallen as rain. This next round of precipitation is causing a conundrum. The models keep drifting. The weather forecasts have often changed. I think I saw one forecast last night that claimed 4-8 inches for Wednesday. Now, the forecasts are in the 1-3 inches here, 1-2 inches there range.

The computer models still have a fair amount of precipitation in them. We’ll have to wait and see on this one. We could get surprised.

It looks like the next storm is about a week behind this one.

 Posted by at 5:41 am
Dec 122014
 

The storm door is opening up. California should get battered with tons of tropical moisture being drawn up from the south. We will get a healthy supply of leftovers. Then, in the middle of next week, another storm should roll our way. In the map below, up to an inch of water could fall in parts of Arizona. Many places will have snow. Also, be aware of rain falling and freezing on roadways.

84-hour North American Mesoscale precipitation forecast from the Climate Prediction Center. (December 12, 2014)

84-hour North American Mesoscale precipitation forecast from the Climate Prediction Center. (December 12, 2014) The Trilateral Commission meetings are now Wednesdays evenings at Flag Brewery.

 Posted by at 11:58 am
Dec 102014
 

Folks, look. We live in Northern Arizona, not Night Vale. The recent earthquakes (I think there were a total of 3 around Oak Creek Canyon) have no direct connection to the recent foggy weather. Earthquakes are in the ground. Fog is in the air. So, please take a deep breath and drive carefully.

We should see a couple of storms roll through over the next week. With each, we should have some rain and some snow in Flagstaff. I think Snowbowl should get some very nice snow out of it.

UPDATE 8:23pm, 12-10-2014 – If everyone could just calm down. Reading alternate meanings into my use of the word “direct” is not worth your time. There is no link. The government didn’t cause the earthquake. Nobody is fracking under Sedona. There is no fog-earthquake connection. Please, no more emails on this topic tonight. Thanks.

Second UPDATE 5:58am, 12-11-2014 – Seriously, Night Vale is a fictional podcast. It is not real. It is not about Flagstaff. Snowmaking at Snowbowl did not cause the Sedona Earthquakes. Snowmaking isn’t causing the fog, either.

 

 Posted by at 7:08 pm
Dec 092014
 

Last week, we received plenty of rain. The ground is still wet. We call this particular fog radiation fog. It’s not because it’s radioactive.

Under clear skies at night, heat radiates from the surface of the earth to deep space in the infrared spectrum. This allows everything near ground level to cool. With the ground being wet, and very little wind, the dew point temperatures remain high. When the cooling occurs at night, some of the water in the air condenses producing fog.

Below is a weather story article from the National Weather Service.

Friday through Sunday will be wet again. It’s not clear to me whether we will get more rain than snow.

Weather Story from the National Weather Service in Flagstaff (December 8, 2014)

Weather Story from the National Weather Service in Flagstaff (December 8, 2014)

 

 Posted by at 6:17 am
Dec 062014
 

California is looking forward to leaving their current drought behind. We should have another storm move through at the end of next week. But almost all of North America is looking forward to above average temperatures for the next week or two. Below is the 6-10 day temperature outlook from the Climate Prediction Center.  This trend could make the early ski season a bit slushy.

6-10 Temperature outlook from the CLimate Prediction Center (December 5, 2014)

6-10 Temperature outlook from the CLimate Prediction Center (December 5, 2014)

 Posted by at 12:51 pm
Dec 022014
 

Things have continued to develop. Temperatures in Flagstaff are going to stay above normal for the next few days. The cut-off low pressure system I thought we would have this week is melting. We will get some precipitation in the form of rain.

Longer term, the storm track should develop and drop to the south in the next couple weeks.

 Posted by at 8:17 am
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