Whitepine mitigation in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 7.40.02 AM.png                                 UDOT avalanche mitigation of Whitepine

Many of you know that near-record snowfall occurred in the Wasatch Range about ten days ago that dropped 72 inches of snow at Alta in three days–and some storms continue. Roads in both Big (Brighton-Solitude) and little Cottonwood Canyons (Alta-Snowbird) were closed altogether while avalanche control crews dealt with the hazard. The link shows the effect of one control shot into upper Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Rick Reese

Congress must reach across the aisle and protect the Grand Canyon ~ The Washington Post

The Grand Canyon on Jan. 10. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

February 17

Cindy McCain is the widow of Sen. John McCain and chair of the Board of Trustees of the McCain Institute. Mark Udall, son of the late Rep. Mo Udall, served as a Democratic congressman and senator from Colorado.

Every year, Americans of all political persuasions make pilgrimages to Grand Canyon National Park, which will mark its 100th anniversary on Feb. 26. They stand in awe at the rim of this natural wonder, grateful for the forebears who preserved it for generations — and, for the most part, unaware that the Grand Canyon isn’t nearly as protected as people think it is.

The clock is ticking on a 20-year ban on new mining claims on about 1 million acres of public land surrounding the national park. Thousands of uranium claims were put on hold in 2012 because of mounting evidence that uranium mining in the headwaters of Grand Canyon creeks can contaminate life-giving seeps and springs in the desert basins below.

After examining evidence of harmful effects, five federal agencies recommended the temporary halt to new uranium claims. Ken Salazar, then the interior secretary, said his precautionary decision would allow more time to assess the impacts of active and abandoned mines, adding, “We have chosen a responsible path that makes sense for this and future generations.”

Last week , the Senate voted 92 to 8 to approve the Natural Resources Management Act. Among other things, it protects Yellowstone National Park from mining on adjacent public lands.

Though the bill doesn’t benefit the canyon, this burst of bipartisanship bodes well for Grand Canyon National Park as it approaches its 100th birthday. It’s time for the new Congress to reach across the aisle and carry on our long bipartisan tradition of stewardship for this crown jewel of our national park system.

It was a Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, who first proclaimed the Grand Canyon a national monument in 1908. After bipartisan votes in both houses, President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, signed the bill establishing the Grand Canyon as a national park in 1919. A half-century later, Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona introduced the bill that nearly doubled the size of Grand Canyon National Park, while returning about 188,000 acres of aboriginal homeland to the Havasupai Tribe. Arizona congressman Mo Udall, a liberal Democrat, helped unite bipartisan support for the Grand Canyon Enlargement Act, and Republican President Gerald Ford signed it into law in 1975.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain later teamed up with Udall and others from both sides of the aisle in passing the National Parks Overflight Act of 1987. The two leaders joined Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley in cosponsoring the Grand Canyon Protection Act in 1992, one of the last laws that Udall signed on to before retiring. McCain subsequently thanked “my friend Mo Udall” for being “a strong protector of the pristine beauty of the Grand Canyon and our other national parks.”

The people living closest to the canyon are fervent in supporting the mining ban. Ninety-six percent of Arizonans agree that keeping public lands and waters healthy benefits the Arizona economy and quality of life. And nearly two-thirds support the ban on new uranium claims around the Grand Canyon, including 56 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of independents and 69 percent of Democrats.

In particular, the Havasupai people — who live at the bottom of the canyon and whose sole source of water is at risk — want to permanently ban uranium mining. They are joined by Hopi, Navajo, Hualapai, Zuni and other tribal nations in opposing the desecration of their homeland.

Now is the time to protect the Grand Canyon’s sacred waters from permanent uranium-mining pollution. As we prepare to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Grand Canyon National Park, let’s remember that good stewardship, like good citizenship, strengthens and unites our nation.

Let’s challenge all of America’s elected officials to become better caretakers not only of the Grand Canyon but also of all public lands. In this new Congress, let’s sit down and see what we can do — together — to permanently ban uranium mining around the Grand Canyon as our gift to the next generation. Let’s carry the tradition of bipartisan stewardship into the Grand Canyon’s next century.

The Weather Service prepares to launch prediction model that many forecasters don’t trust

On Dec. 4, the FV3 model from the National Weather Service predicted a major snowstorm for Washington five days later. The storm missed the city. It is slated to become the Weather Service’s flagship model in March. (TropicalTidBits.com)
February 14

In a month, the National Weather Service plans to launch its “next generation” weather prediction model with the aim of “better, more timely forecasts.” But many meteorologists familiar with the model fear it is unreliable.

The introduction of a model that forecasters lack confidence in matters, considering the enormous impact that weather has on the economy, valued at around $485 billion annually.

The Weather Service announced Wednesday that the model, known as the GFS-FV3 (FV3 stands for Finite­ Volume Cubed-Sphere dynamical core), is “tentatively” set to become the United States’ primary forecast model on March 20, pending tests. It is an update to the current version of the GFS (Global Forecast System), popularly known as the American model, which has existed in various forms for more than 30 years.

The introduction of the FV3 is intended as the Weather Service’s next step toward building the best weather prediction model in the world, a stated priority of the Trump administration. The current GFS model trails the European model in accuracy, and it has for many years, despite millions of dollars in congressional funding dating back to 2012, after Hurricane Sandy hit.

Numerous meteorologists who have experience using the FV3 worry it’s not ready for prime time and have been underwhelmed by its performance. For months, its predictions have been publicly available, on an experimental basis for forecasters to evaluate.

When news broke about the Weather Service’s intention to make the FV3 the United States’ primary model, meteorologists unleashed a torrent of complaints and negative reviews on Twitter.

“It has not been good at all,” tweeted Doug Kammerer, chief meteorologist for NBC4 in Washington. “Scary that this is what we are about to go with on a permanent basis.”

“From what I have seen . . . not impressed,” tweeted Ryan Hanrahan, chief meteorologist for the NBC affiliate Hartford.

“I have no faith in the FV3 [for snowfall forecasts].” tweeted Judah Cohen, a meteorologist at Atmospheric Environmental Research known for his long-range prediction of the polar vortex.

Mike Smith, who recently retired as a senior vice president at AccuWeather, said the FV3 is not an improvement over the model it will replace. “I don’t see any way in which FV3 provides better weather forecasts versus the current GFS,” he tweeted.

The model has tended to overpredict snowfall in the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, setting off false alarms in a region where forecasts are particularly consequential.

In Boston, which has seen just six inches of snow this winter, Eric Fisher, chief meteorologist for the CBS affiliate, remarked that the model had predicted “multiple” 30-inch snowfalls.

Here in Washington, we have documented multiple cases in which its snowfall forecasts several days into the future have been erroneously high. In early December, it was predicting double-digit amounts for Washington four days before a storm tracked to the south and no snow fell.

On Monday, the FV3 was predicting double-digit totals for a storm on Saturday in the Washington region, and it now calls for little snow.

FV3 model snow forecast for Mid-Atlantic and Northeast through Saturday issued on Tuesday. It predicted over 10 inches for Washington, and current forecasts are now for little or no accumulation. (TropicalTidBits.com)

Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, has traced the problems in its snowfall forecasts to predicting temperatures “far too cold in the lower atmosphere” more than a few days into the future.

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

Hwy 550 corridor/RMP ~ SWE ~ 2/15/19 @ 17:30

potent storm, high PI.  Most of this fell Thursday night.  Had a big natural cycle in highway paths.  All of the usual suspects crossed the road sometime Thursday night or Friday morning.   Red  reopen at 9:15  last night.


Monument: 13″/1.25″

RMP 18″/1.85″

Molas 20″/2.25″

Coal Bank 25″/2.7″


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A long-awaited and much-anticipated El Niño has finally arrived

Finally! I was wondering if the weak ENSO signal (bordering on ENSO neutral conditions) helped explain the more varying storm track that has produced a good snow year from the PAC NW down into the CO northern mtns.

This has been an unusual year (like all years). Typically El Nino brings a dry heart of winter. Glad that didn’t happen. El Nino typically produces a wet spring. Let’s hope!
Joe Ramey, Mountain Weather Masters and former NWS meteorologist.

Sea surface temperature anomalies show plenty of warm water in the equatorial Pacific. It’s been enough to get an El Niño going. (earth.nullschool.net)

February 14 at 2:35 PM

We’ve waited all winter for it to be announced, and it seemed it might not happen, but El Niño has officially developed.

This ocean-atmosphere cycle is known for altering weather patterns around the world, and forecasters had predicted it could arrive as soon as last fall. So Thursday’s declaration from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration seemed like a long time coming,

This El Niño, unlike 2016′s powerhouse version dubbed “Godzilla,” is predicted to be relatively feeble. But NOAA says it is still likely to have some meaningful impact on the weather in the Lower 48.

“While the El Niño is expected to be weak, it may bring wetter conditions across the southern half of the U.S. during the coming months,” NOAA wrote in its news announcement.

On a much larger scale, this event may help push the planet toward one of its warmest years on record in 2019.

El Niño — meaning “little boy” for its typical development around Christmas — is the warm phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). It is characterized by warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. A natural occurrence, it tends to bring increased precipitation to the West Coast and southern United States among other global impacts.

The ENSO phases compared. (NOAA)

El Niños are rated on a scale from weak to very strong, and this event falls on the low end of the spectrum. Before this winter’s event, the most recent El Niño was of the very strong or super variety, in the winter of 2015-16. That event followed a rather weak El Niño the winter before.

El Niño’s opposite phase is known as La Niña. This occurs when cooler-than-normal water gathers near the equatorial Pacific. Its influences typically lead to drier-than-usual conditions in the southern United States, with the focus of the moisture more often hitting the Pacific Northwest and the northern tier of the country.

This El Niño may distinguish itself by persisting into the summer and even extending into next winter. This would be rare, if it happens.

“La Niña events can often carry over through the summer, but El Niño events are much less inclined to do the same,” said Barb Mayes Boustead, an atmospheric scientist. “[Persistence] of a full El Niño through the warm season is rare.”

Aside from the back-to-back events spanning 2014 to 2016, the only other recent case of El Niño surviving for two full years occurred from 1986 to 1988, Mayes Boustead said. And that earlier event was rather weak.

Even though El Niño wasn’t officially declared over the past several weeks, precipitation patterns have often mimicked those of an El Niño across the United States. The tweet below from the Weather Channel’s Jessica Arnoldy, before the official El Niño announcement, shows the telltale enhanced precipitation across the southern United States.

Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist at the Weather Company, concurred that several characteristics of the weather this winter have been consistent with El Niño and listed them in a tweet.

In the coming weeks, the predicted above-normal precipitation across the South corresponds well with patterns seen in El Niño winters. That hasn’t necessarily been the case all winter, which may be partly attributed to the rather weak nature of this event. For instance, extensive precipitation and snow in the Pacific Northwest of late is perhaps more typical of La Niña.

Weather patterns can be affected by other atmosphere and ocean factors, aside from El Niño, especially when it’s weak. “[Some] of the above-normal precipitation this winter in parts of the West is related to subseasonal variability attributed to another climate phenomena, the Madden Julian Oscillation, rather than El Niño influences,” scientists at NOAA wrote.

But the extra heat in the tropical Pacific Ocean resulting from El Niño is likely to help boost global temperatures in 2019.

Even before Thursday’s announcement, the United Kingdom’s Met Office was predicting 2019 to end up the second warmest year on record, projecting an average temperature of 1.1 degrees Celsius above the 1850-1900 normal.

The major El Niño of 2015-16 ended up boosting 2016′s global temperature to 1.11 degrees C above that same normal, which made it the warmest year in recorded history.