And so it goes, reality is as it is…

2007-01-16 08:25:01.000 – Neil Lareau,  Observer


Yesterday may have been one of the most emotionally difficult days of my life. You see, I love winter, I love skiing, yes, but even more than that I love the excitement of a snow storm; the anticipation of a world soon transformed to cushioned white. I love the dampened sound in a forest when it snows, the slow hiss of steady snow piling up, the smell in the air the hour before the snow starts, the leaden grey of the nimbostratus. All of it, I love it, I live for it.

Yesterday, for the first time this winter, I truly believed that we were going to get a good snow storm, not an incredible snow storm, but a good one. We didn’t. It’s not just that I wanted snow, but also that it is my job to forecast the weather, to make definite, or at least probabilistic statements, about what will happen on a given day. I was pretty sure we were going to get some good snow (4-8” was a safe bet, 6-10” was quite possible), and it wasn’t just me, every resource and all of the guidance tools suggested as much. Models indicated a column of air that would support snow through most of the storm right up until yesterday morning. Then they started to hint at a layer of warm air at about 6000 ft arriving late afternoon, but not before a lot of snow reached the ground. There is an important distinction to be made; reality is what it is, and models that mimic that reality are inherently wrong. The question is the degree to which they will be wrong. That warm air was here by midmorning. Snow changed to ice pellets, then to freezing rain for a period. Ultimately, the total amount of liquid that fell out of the sky was not all that far off of what we expected; it just fell in the wrong geometry and physical state.

A few places faired well with yesterday’s storm. Locations in northern Vermont and New Hampshire saw around 8” of snow. If you’re looking for some skiing Dixville Notch might be a good place. Still, when the summit records just 1.9” of dense snow, ice pellets, and freezing rain it makes me sad; it makes me sad that it is mid January and the only pure snow storm we’ve had was in October.

Now, as if to save face, winter will show off some cold. Temperatures will drop to around -25F tonight. Winds will be strong from the NW at 55-75 mph with higher gusts. Wind chill values will be 55 to 75 below zero. I would suggest that later today, tonight, and tomorrow would be best spent reminiscing about winters past and dreaming of unfathomable depths of snow from the warmth and safety of your home; above treeline will not be a safe place to be.


Neil Lareau,  Observer

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