Monday, November 29, 2010

The Science of Snowmaking!

Way back in the old days (1970's and before), ski resorts world wide depended on natural seasonal snowfall to get the lifts turning. Needless to say the ski seasons were not that good, unless you enjoy hitting rocks and skimming over mud flows. In this new modern age we don't have to wait for the snow gods to provide. All we need is some water and good old compressed air.

#1. Internal Mixers (Snow Guns)

The science of snowmaking is actually pretty simple. So simple in fact that I made my own snow gun using some plumbing supplies from my basement. Here is what it looks like:

Anyone can make a snow gun from simple plumbing parts around the house, from a home improvement store, or local hardware story. But you do need two more things to make the snow fly. An average garden hose (or pressure washer) hooks up to the very bottom by the valve handle which adjusts water flow and the silver hook up on the middle left is a quick clip for a basic air compressor. When the air and water mix internally inside the long brass tube on the upper left it's forced out of a small hole at the end cap. When it comes out it looks like a white mist but it's actually in liquid form still. Assuming it's cold enough and humidity values are low enough the "white mist" will slowly float down to the ground and freeze in mid air. This is just a smaller model of what the resorts have but they run by the same principles.

You can use your snowmaker all you want, but if the "wet bulb" temperature is above 27 degrees F then you'll only be making rain. The wet bulb depends on the current air temperature and humidity. The current wet bulb can be found easily by using the chart from Snow At Home. (Humidity % across the top, and temperature down the side)

The maximum temperature you can have to still make snow is 39 degrees at 0% humidity, but we live on the east coast and the humidity is always high. Basically local resorts like Mountain Creek wait till the air temperature is at or below 27 degrees F before they turn on the guns and pump out the white gold.

#2. External Mixers (Fan Guns)

The snow guns are very cheap to buy and easy to use but require an air supply. The fan gun is good way to for resorts to avoid building huge compressors and they even produce greater quantities of snow. We've all seen these machines on the mountain side but just incase you haven't been paying attention this is what they look like:

The fan gun can be on wheels for towing, mounted to a pole, or mounted on a swivel so they can spread the snow over a larger area to reduce grooming. Instead of the compressed air mixing with the water in the snow gun, these guys have a fan built inside the drum and jets of water are injected into the spinning blades. Basically this produces the same "white mist" and runs off the same principle with the wet bulb temperature.

#3. When can we expect weather conditions that allow for snowmaking?

As we now know, resorts need not only low temperatures to make snow but low humidity as well. It could be snowing outside at 30 degrees but unfortunately snowmaking won't be possible because of high humidity. We need a dry cold air mass and that looks to be in the cards by the beginning of next week.

After a soaking rain storms this week expect cooler conditions for the weekend with marginally cold air (not cold enough for massive snowmaking). By Monday the 6th of next week a system will pass over the area bringing some natural snow, it's hard to tell right now but it looks like the Mid-Atlantic will get the bulk of snow with us on the northern fringe. That could always change so we need to keep a close eye on this one. Either way, the back side of this system will draw colder air down from the north with it's counter clockwise flow and the guns will start blasting. It looks like the snowmaking window could last through most of the work/school week. Hopefully Mountain Creek will be able to pump out enough snow and get it groomed up by Saturday the 11th. Their projected opening day.

Below is a map from the European weather model of Dec 6th:

Stayed Updated! Check back daily for weather outlooks in Morris, Sussex, and Warren counties. Questions? Comments? Email me or comment below.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I'm Officially On Storm Watch

There are a lot of computer simulation models out there, but the best #1 (no debate) is the European model. Why? Well they charge a lot of money for their product which they invest in the model itself, they only run the model twice daily to better improve the initialization of the run, and it's has overall better physics incorporated within.

I've noticed a trend with this model, and I'm truly impressed. It was said that one day in the future a computer model will be so accurate that there will be no need for weather personal. Well, I hope that's not completely true but with the accuracy I've seen within this model, it's close. Sorry to NCEP but the "American" models don't even come close. And the GFS, Good For S...tuff if you ask me.

With the most recent stratospheric warming event which is basically done and over with, we can now expect some feedback resulting from that. December is going to our best month this winter hands down, and it's all because of this.

Take a good look at it. It's a stratospheric warming event over the pole. Perhaps the best one we will see this winter? This leads me into an in depth meteorological discussion, if I go overboard just comment below and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have. Have you ever heard of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO)?

The quasi-biennial oscillation is something I rarely ever talk about on this blog, and that's not for the best. It's a very important part of the weather here, and crucial in long range forecasting. Back in 1883 a volcano by the name of Krakatau went off it sending ash into the stratosphere. As the ash traveled west because of the "easterly" winds the scientific community thought the winds of the stratosphere were "easterlies". Then in 1908 Berson sent balloons into the stratosphere and discovered the "westerly" winds in the stratosphere. This could only mean one thing, the winds of the stratosphere shifted direction about every 28 months. It was an atmospheric oscillation.

The resulting oscillation looks like this:

Basically remember this:

1. The "westerlies" or positive phase of the QBO means more hurricanes in the Atlantic like this year and in 2005. And fewer stratospheric warming events.

2. The "easterlies" or negative phase means weak hurricane season (last year), and more in the stratospheric warming events (like last year).

Basically what I'm telling you is that you can tell how cold and snowy and winter will be just by how bad the hurricane season is in a given year. When we have a negative QBO stratospheric warming events are much more frequent which in turn creates huge blocking patterns. The two mean cold and snowy conditions. This year it is positive which means less warming events and therefore the blocking pattern will be unfavorable for any major events.

Now, as some of you know I forecasted the February 26th blizzard two years in advance by using methods of cycles and oscillation patterns (Click here to see that blog). This year seems unlikely to have any major snow events which measure snow in feet not inches. After careful analysis, I forecast our next major blizzard next winter season in early March of 2012. I'm very confident in this forecast, and next winter will be the start of nearly a decade of brutal winters ahead similar to what happened during the 60's and 70's.

What's going to happen this winter? Check out my winter forecast for the winter of 2010-2011 .

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Friday, November 26, 2010

It's one of those winter again...

Well yesterday went off almost exactly as I thought it would. Except the fact that parts of central PA and NJ picked up 1-2 inches of snow. The reason? A lot of upward motion in those areas produce heavy burst of snow with white out conditions. As the precipitation moved northward there was more in the way of downward vertical motion which basically killed the precipitation, allowing for only light to moderate snowfall with no accumulation. Lesson learned there on my part, and I hope NOAA, TWC, and basically everyone else learned their lesson on the power of evaporational cooling!

That's all in the past now. Let's look forward. Mountain Creek will most likely turn their system on tonight as temperature will bottom out around 20 degrees. High temperature on Saturday of around 35 will most likely force them to turn the guns off for a time until the wet bulb
temperature reaches 27 degrees. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Click here) When the humidity and temperature reach a combined "wet bulb" of 27 snowmaking is then possible. And snowmaking can go on for a couple nights in a row. But, there is a problem.

During the Tuesday-Wednesday time frame there will be a storm. And as of right now all operational models show a storm much stronger than our previous one with combined QPF(total precip amounts in liquid form) measured in inches. The issue is that the track is not a favorable one for the northeast. All the heavy precipitation that will fall will mostly likely in the form of just plain rain. All that freshly blow snow will be washed away into Vernon Valley. Now there is a slight chance of a snow burst on the backside of the system, but even that looks unlikely.

Ok, let's get that garbage out of our eyesight. The next system looks to be one in which the interior northeast gets pounded. And I consider Northwest Jersey the boarder of the interior northeast. With all the blocking patterns in place it looks to be a good set up around the 7th of December. Right now it's too far out for me to give much detail, but a nice snowstorm has to come out of the current blocking pattern we are in.

Mountain Creek will turn their guns back on 24/7 during the storm and several days after. I just hope they can blow and groom Upper and Lower horizon in just 4 days time to open the Cabriolet on time for Saturday the 11th. Beyond this it looks like trail counts will skyrocket. I hope they stock pile snow because January does not look to good.

Remember if you ever have any question, comments, or suggestions you can email me, facebook me, or just plain comment on the blog below. Enjoy your weekend, try and pray daily to the snow god "Nor' Easter" he is a good man.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wintry Weather Is Coming

I want to welcome everyone to a La Nina winter, which means ice and lots of it. And as your going to find out that's exactly what we are going to get for the end of the week. First off take a look at the sounding from the 18z NAM.
The red line represents zero degrees Celsius, the blue line shows temperature, and the green shows your dew point. Since the dew point and temp are so close you can almost bet that precipitation is falling to the surface. Now the fact that it's completely below the zero line means this sounding shows snow falling at K12N (Andover Airport) just 57 hours from now. But as the day goes on the snow will quickly change to sleet, to freezing rain, and end as a little bit of light rain. I can't speak for the national weather service but I wouldn't be surprised if they issue a winter weather advisory for minor ice accretions.

If you live about 1,000 feet then I would really be concerned for ice lasting till the afternoon hours on your Thanksgiving Day. It's going to be a mess. Perhaps we can see a few snow showers on the back side of the system as well. Since the QPF (total precip) amounts are around 0.20 inches during the "wintry" portion of the storm don't expect much in the way of sleet or snow accumulations. Although I can see how an inch or less can fall before the change over.

Big snowstorm chance around the 1st of December, let's hope it won't be ice. Although I wouldn't be surprised...

P.S. The cold air behind this system looks rather weak from what the models were originally showing. Nonetheless I believe Mountain Creek will be able to open up on time this year on December 11th.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

That's interesting

Arctic oscillation picking up where it left off last winter? Literally? And the NAO is going strongly negative. Very impressive actually.

This is a short blog entry tonight. I need to stress that this current set up is strongly related to major northeast storms. Only difference this year is that we are in a La Nina pattern which typically provides much less moisture than El Nino's.

My point is that if a "surprise" snowstorm pops up on the models with only a two or three day warning don't let it catch you off guard. Nonetheless, it seems obvious the cold air is one it's way.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tis' the season

The leaves changing and dropping are a real sign of winter coming. But one certain invasive tree to our region really signals the change of seasons. The Norway maple is typically the last tree to change color and drop it's leaves (comes from Norway where the climate is more harsh and the days much shorter). My neighborhood is full of them! These trees don't peak in color until about 2 weeks after all others have completed their leaf drop, and the ones in my yard have passed peak and only have a few stragglers left.

Webcam shot of my yard today:

My webcam can be found on weather underground under the town of Netcong if you want to see the current weather in the area.
Now that the "fall" part of fall is over it's time to talk cold and snow. First off I want to point out that Killington Vermont (the snowmaking super power) is currently making snow on get this, 98 trails! That is insane. Mountain Creek and other local resorts could make snow Saturday night, and it could be a solid 15 hours of wet bulb

After this chilly weekend, a warm up with once again infiltrate the east. And a storm is on the horizon. A big one. As of right now models are suggesting several inches of rain followed by a few snow showers on the back side. Now it's still far out and things can and will change on the models, thats a guarantee. It could very well be our first significant snowfall, or it can be a bust. It all depends on the track and several other factors.

Rain, snow, sleet, hail, cats, or dogs the backside of the system will usher in the first major ARCTIC blast of the winter season. Temperatures will remain subfreezing for back to back days allowing a massive snow making effort at resorts everywhere in the east. Even the lower elevation foothills of the Appalachian chain. Snowfall to our west, north, the lakes, and the mountains will begin to build snowpack for the season and any cold air that keeps filtering down from Canada will have less of a chance to modify over the bare ground which heats up the air mass before it gets to us. Which means the weeks will get progressively colder, and trails counts at the mountains will rise very quickly. And natural snowfall seems to be very likely in this new pattern. We've been waiting so long, and to think it's just a week or two away. Gives me chills.

P.S. Check back in for updates on the Black Friday storm, and remember to do your snow dances. We must appease the snow gods!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Long Ranger (For Mountain Creek)

Ok, the weather has been a little on the boring side lately. But not to worry! As I've been saying in here in the blog and via facebook (if your my friend), the cold is coming around the Thanksgiving Holiday. I'm not just talking a polar air mass, but an all out arctic punch. Here is the run down up till that point:

First off we need to get through this mid-week storm. It's a Great Lakes cutter which means the track is not going to be favorable for snow anywhere in the northeast. Even the highest resorts in northern New England will really get a wet down. The upper mid-west will get their first significant snowfall of the season from this one.

Now that we get through that little mess, and polar front will move from behind the storm bringing marginally cold air. Perhaps some small snowmaking windows during the late night time hours? More of a system "test" than anything large scale.

After that, a brief warm up will occur has the trough pulls east off the north american continent. It may get real warm for a few days. But I have a saying, "one extreme leads to another". And that is so true. There may be a point next week where we are in the 60's and temperatures could drop some 45 degrees in the matter of a day or two. This maps is for Thanksgiving Day, just take a look at the impressive frontal boundary. Possibly a rain to snow event.

This next map is my absolute favorite. The first arctic onslaught of the season blasts the country, and snowmaking is being done on a large scale (Everywhere in the east). Mountain Creek should have no problem opening on their scheduled date. Map is for 11-28

Saturday, November 6, 2010

IT'S A SIGN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Take a look at the most recent NAM run:

That's a storm backing in off the coast. Exactly what I was thinking would happen nearly a week ago. This will end up bringing snow to the highest elevations in New England. Killington Vermont has already had 24" this season and will surely get even more early in the week. If the cold air mass was a little more potent and the storm track was further south then I would put us in that snow regime, unfortunately it didn't work out that way.

Although it already snowed 4 days by this time last year (about 1" in most places, 5" at high point) we are still only and inch behind last years snow totals for this date. So don't feel like we are getting shafted, cause the season hasn't even really started!

Next week it's going to get warm, and in my mind "one extreme leads to another". And I keep proving that theory of mine right. I have some EXCITING NEWS! A major stratospheric warming event is occurring over the polar region, this will send the arctic oscillation deeply negative and signals to me that an arctic outbreak is not more than 2 week away. It look like the snow makers at Mountain Creek will be turning on around Thanksgiving, with the aid of natural snowfall. The mountain will most definitely open on time and trail counts could rise quickly through the month of December.

Check out this warming event. The warning siren is going off in my head.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


As much as I like, excuse me, love snow. I think the NWS is jumping the gun by forecasting Rain/Snow mix for Friday night into Saturday. Personally, I don't see what they are seeing. I said it will be a rain storm in my last blog and that's all it will be. Now, some lake effect snow flurries could randomly work their way into the northwest corner of the state this weekend but it seems even that will be at low odds.

November will provide an early snow making window for the lower elevation resorts like Mountain Creek to open right on time this year in early December. And a November snow event seems likely, it's just around the corner...

P.S. Several northeast resorts are already open like Killington Vermont!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Now that's just what I was thinking...

If you read my previous blog from yesterday first then you'll be able to understand this one a little better. But that idea I had about a storm backing into somewhere in the northeast looks likely for the weekend. The only question is where? The northern side of the storm will bring warmer temperatures and rain, while the southern side could bring a major snowstorm. Yes that's right, rain north and snow south. We just have to figure out where the low tracks...

(P.S. what if this storm hooks up with the energy from Tomas?)