Sunday, October 26, 2014

A New Season

It's that time again. The cool, wet days have returned to Seattle after a stellar summer of sun and warmth.  It feels like a switch has been flipped nearly every year, though the timing of when it happens does vary quite a bit.  This year it is in mid-October.

The early dustings of snow in the Cascades are transient.  It snows lightly, warms up a bit, rains, then melts the new snow away.  Just like the rain in the lowlands, there is an event - a snowfall that actually heralds the coming of the cold air to the high elevations begins the lay down the new base of snow that won't melt away until the summer.  We actually want that snow to be more dense here in the Northwest. Those first layers often do get a little rain on them which compacts them as the layer bonds to the surface below.  That bonding keeps us from having deep, climax slides that rip all of the snow down to the earth that we seen in the mountain states.  We have had some years with a very cold early season and those have led to greater loss of life in the backcountry from avalanches.

The forecast is for a la Nina year - warmer and wetter overall.  But really its about the timing - if the precipitation comes mostly when its a colder front, we'll get plenty of snow. That's what we are hoping for - plenty of snow and a well bonded snow pack.  Bring it on so we can get our board on and earn some turns!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter of Discontent

The winter of 2013-2014 is showing signs - signs of a climate of discontent. The weather in the West was dry - drier than most could remember in the last 40 years, warmer in Alaska, colder in the mid-West and raging winter storms through much of the east and southeastern US.  The jet stream was "stuck" for several months pulling warm air north to Alaska, then driving cold air from the arctic into the center of the continent. Extremes in weather are one of expectation of global warming - not that every part of our planet is going to be consistently warmer, but overall, the average temps are climbing.

What does the future hold for our snowy playgrounds? We can expect wider fluctuations in snow coverage in the decades ahead as our planet continues to warm.  However, we are heading into uncharted territory as our climatologists have no experience in predicting a climate when the CO2 levels we have now are twice as high than our planet has ever seen over the last 40 ice ages and subsequent warming cycles.  

The spring and summer this past year was full of sunshine, an early snow melt in the West and raging fires in the mountain states.  Let's hope the rain and snow that has suddenly appeared in the West this past week will pile up enough to prevent another drought. For those of us who love the snow - both for its beauty and it's pleasures, let's hope this winter of discontent is not the norm but an exception.