The New Spring Normal?

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Jorts
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by Jorts » Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:47 am

Read a couple years ago that the boom-bust cycle of wet and dry throughout the winter, i.e. climate chaos, was in part a result of a lower latitudinal temperature gradient resulting in a meandering of the jet stream - the analogy being a mountain stream along a steep gradient running straight down a mountain versus a low gradient meadow stream meandering in oxbows along the valley floor.

Liked the analogy. This article touches on it:

https://www.discovermagazine.com/enviro ... to-climate
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by aholle88 » Fri Apr 16, 2021 6:19 pm

jmanner wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:48 am
SchralpTheGnar wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:28 am
2019 was pretty sick and not that long ago, but generally speaking I think the lines will still be reasonable for a while just that more of the peak skiing will be April rather than may, and the window shorter, like 4 good weeks of spring snow instead of 8.

As for winter I’m waiting for the winters to continue to get warmer before I start chasing snowflakes.
I think that’s a good assessment.

To both of you guys points, I’m not saying “SNOW IS GONE” it’s literally what I said, shorter seasons, worse snow. And if you spend any time looking at the SNOTEL data you’ll see the increase drop in the snow depth every year vs average in the last few seasons. Obviously 2019 and 2011 were lovely years, but that’s twice in 15 years. I get he impression that those kinds of years were far more common prior to ~2000.
Let’s not forget 2015, possibly one of the best May’s in history. Any and every line imaginable on all the peaks was in and fat! I think it was 2017 that also had quite a sequence of storms in May, recall hitting the tuning fork in 2ft+ blower.

Yes, last year and so far this year has been lackluster. But it’s hard to judge what those in the 70s-90s actually experienced without having been there first hand. Sure, they had the historical slides in what.. 83 or 87? But we also had that recently in 2019. Maybe some of the older folks that have been here and skiing/climbing the peaks back then could chime in on what they remember. The SWE only tells us so much.
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by Posthole Pete » Fri Apr 16, 2021 6:35 pm

I like to tell myself things are on 3 year cycles. But I just base that on the last 5 years. '17, great spring. '18, okay spring. '19, incredible spring. '20, great spring. '21, it's off to a good start. We will just have to see what the temps decide to do.
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by Jorts » Fri Apr 16, 2021 9:47 pm

aholle88 wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 6:19 pm
But it’s hard to judge what those in the 70s-90s actually experienced without having been there first hand. Sure, they had the historical slides in what.. 83 or 87? But we also had that recently in 2019. Maybe some of the older folks that have been here and skiing/climbing the peaks back then could chime in on what they remember. The SWE only tells us so much.
Not sure historic slide cycles always correlate to good snow years. The March 2019 one had to do with a strong (but not too strong) weak layer that enabled a full season up to March of gradual moderate loading to accumulate without a serious slide cycle. When we had one week of big snowfall it tipped the scales.

Comparatively, the 2010-2011 season was one for the ages. Deep snow all winter long. It was one of the most stable, deep blower winter snowpacks I've experienced. Felt like we were in a marine snowpack but with low density continental snow all winter long.

And then there are the decent years where the weak layer goes dormant until we reach critical mass resulting in a deep persistent slab problem like what occurred in 2012-2013.

3 deep snowpacks 3 different outcomes.
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by Wentzl » Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:00 pm

Shorter of Breath and One Day Closer . . .
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by aholle88 » Sat Apr 17, 2021 10:47 am

Jorts wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 9:47 pm
aholle88 wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 6:19 pm
But it’s hard to judge what those in the 70s-90s actually experienced without having been there first hand. Sure, they had the historical slides in what.. 83 or 87? But we also had that recently in 2019. Maybe some of the older folks that have been here and skiing/climbing the peaks back then could chime in on what they remember. The SWE only tells us so much.
Not sure historic slide cycles always correlate to good snow years. The March 2019 one had to do with a strong (but not too strong) weak layer that enabled a full season up to March of gradual moderate loading to accumulate without a serious slide cycle. When we had one week of big snowfall it tipped the scales.

Comparatively, the 2010-2011 season was one for the ages. Deep snow all winter long. It was one of the most stable, deep blower winter snowpacks I've experienced. Felt like we were in a marine snowpack but with low density continental snow all winter long.

And then there are the decent years where the weak layer goes dormant until we reach critical mass resulting in a deep persistent slab problem like what occurred in 2012-2013.

3 deep snowpacks 3 different outcomes.
I agree that historical slides don’t necessarily 100% coincide with good snow years due to all the other factors (2019 was a good snow year though). Just making a point that we are still having years with enough snow to recreate some of those historic slides that they had in years past. Historic avalanche cycles, much like SWE, are just a small part of the big picture of how “good” of a snow year it is when it comes to actual snow on the peaks.

Spring skiing and peak skiing quality is hardly reflective of SWE and actual snowpack since that stuff peaks in April. It’s the storms that come in mid to late April and May that create the good conditions up high so long as there is enough of a base in the lines themselves. May 2017, for instance, it was bone dry up to Torreys summer trailhead the week before that big storm. Then all of a sudden it was high quality powder skiing up high for a week. Those mini cycles late in the year are really the key. That and the small random storms that drop 3-6” above 11-12k and nothing really below that really create the high quality peak skiing conditions.
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by Burkart » Sat Apr 17, 2021 1:54 pm

montanahiker wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:05 am
It would be interesting to see the changes in the median line over time (1980,1990, 2000, 2010, 2020). I wonder if the state has kept that historical data that they could publish in the same kind of chart. Is the peak getting shorter, is the post-peak drop off accelerating?
As requested (sort of):
Capture.JPG
Capture.JPG (61.5 KiB) Viewed 549 times
Note that these are 10-year averages, not medians, and that the plots start on October 1st. Colors grade from green (older) to white to purple (more recent).

The only really consistent trend that I see is in the early season (mid-November to mid-December) where, year after year, the snowpack seems to get smaller. Then there's the obvious drop in average snowpack that starts with 1994-2003. Qualitatively, though, this looks less like snow melting early (slopes don't show consistent change) and more like we are getting less precipitation to grow the snowpack after day 150 (early March). It's hard to say with such limited data whether the pre-1994 or post-1994 averages are more out-of-the-ordinary; if precipitation (as opposed to early melting) plays a larger role, it is not as simple to intuit whether our smaller, recent snowpacks result indirectly from global climate change or from some other meteorological pattern.

Incidentally, I would be cautious about extrapolating from global climate change and local short-term data to anticipate our near-term future. Global temperatures are likely to lag CO2 emissions by decades, or even centuries, and chaotic local inputs mean that a global increase in temperature can be unpredictable, possibly even resulting in a local drop in temperatures. For example, someone brought up the dismal monsoon patterns we've seen over the last two years. The North American Monsoon is pretty notorious for its year-to-year variability, so it is not surprising to have a few bad years. At the same time, some recent models actually predict the NAM will bring more precipitation north with a warming climate, which makes intuitive sense when you remember that the subtropical ridge that draws the moisture northward will itself migrate further north on a warmer planet.
Last edited by Burkart on Sat Apr 17, 2021 2:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by jmanner » Sat Apr 17, 2021 2:24 pm

There was a Denver Post article a year or two ago that said the average first snow has been delayed about a week and the average last snow has extended by a about a week. So shorter falls and slightly longer springs. If you define those by measurable snowfall.

Thanks for the great discussion so far folks.
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