Category Archives: Weather

2012-2013 Waterbury Winter Weather Summary

A bar graph of the month snowfall at our house in Waterbury, Vermont for the 2012-2013 winter season
Waterbury snowfall for the 2012-2013 season – broken down by month

The last snowstorm of the 2012-2013 winter season extended all the way out to Memorial Day weekend to produce some great late season skiing, but now that we’re well into summer and all the snow has melted, we can look back at how the winter went down at our location in Vermont’s Winooski Valley.  The main focus in the seasonal analysis below is on snowfall, but snowpack and temperatures will be discussed as well.  In this post I’ve hit on some of the highlights that came out of the data, and attached our various plots and graphs, but to get to the full data set, you can use the following link:

2012-2013 WINTER WEATHER SUMMARY

Thankfully, this past season’s snowfall (144.2”) marked a notable increase over the previous season (115.3”), but the total snowfall for 2012-2013 was still less than 90% of average, so that’s not likely to lift the season into the category of “great” winters.  In addition, the amount of snow on the ground at the house last season didn’t help to improve the winter’s standing.  Using the value of snow depth days as an integrative way of representing the season’s snowpack, one finds the 2012-2013 winter season producing a value of 729 inch-days, less than half the average value, and right down there in the basement with the well below average 2011-2012 season (688 inch-days).  And, if the overall snowpack depth hadn’t already undermined any chances of redemption to an average level, the 2012-2013 snowpack secured the season’s ignominy by reaching the lowest value we’ve seen in January and February (3.0”), and coming within a hair’s breadth of melting out in the area around our measurement stake at a record early date in mid March:

A plot showing this past season's rather meager snowpack at our location in Waterbury (red line) relative to average (green shading)
This past season’s rather meager snowpack at our location in Waterbury (red line) relative to average (green shading)

Often, each month of the winter/snowfall season has its own unique flavor with respect to the weather, so one method I like to use to get a feel for the winter is to look at it on a month-by-month basis.  Again, the focus below is on snowfall at our location, but snowpack is also considered, as well as mountain snowfall/snowpack and the associated effect on the local skiing.  I’ll have a separate 2012-2013 ski season summary coming up, so I’ve kept the ski discussion minimal here in anticipation of a more thorough discussion in that report.  The month’s total snowfall is listed at the start of each section below for reference:

October Month IconSnowfall:  0.1”October snowfall isn’t reliable enough down at our elevation to be factored much into the seasonal assessment, but this October was on the weak side, with just a tenth of an inch of snow, vs. the mean of roughly an inch.  One small feather in the cap of 2012-2013 is the fact that the first accumulating snow fell on October 12th, which beats out 2010-2011’s October 15th snowfall by three days, and now represents the earliest measurable snowfall I’ve recorded here at the house since I started monitoring the weather in 2006.

November Month IconSnowfall:  6.3”November snowfall came in just a bit below average this past season, so certainly not remarkable, but notable in that it was probably about as average a November as we’ve seen.  November has typically been feast or famine when it comes to snow.  We actually had a total of five snowstorms in November, but a small to moderate storm of 4.4” at the end of the month contributed the bulk of the monthly total as well as some of the first great skiing of the season in the mountains.

December Month IconSnowfall:  49.5”December held the first lengthy, redeeming snowfall period of 2012-2013.  Although the first half of the month was extremely poor on snowfall (just 2.2” of snow at the house), from the 16th of December onward, temperatures got cold and snow came in for a dramatic change; close to 50” of snow fell on us in the second half of the month, and as a whole the month actually wound up several inches above average.  We received our second (15.5”) and fourth (11.7”) largest storms of the season during that stretch, right near Christmas and just a few days apart, so needless to say, the snow was there to set quite the holiday mood in the valleys and up above on the slopes.

January Month IconSnowfall:  21.9”January continued that good, snowy weather pattern in its first week, albeit to a lesser degree than December, but unfortunately that modest first week ultimately wound up representing roughly half of the month’s snowfall.  The second week featured a couple of substantial thaws with no measurable snow, and in fact we received no accumulating snow at all for the period between January 7th and 16th, a very long stretch for the mountainous areas of Northern Vermont during the winter.  The third week of January offered just a few small systems, and the fourth week was arctic cold with minimal snow.  The final week attempted to recoup the losses with a modest half foot storm, but it was too little too late – the month ended with just 21.9” of snow, by far the lowest January in my records.  The combination of very low snowfall and two January thaws was very deleterious to the valley snowpack – after coming down from the depths achieved in December, the snowpack depth at our location never even reached 10 inches again during the month, and got as low as 3.0 inches.  That is ridiculously close to losing the winter snowpack in January, definitely the closest we’ve come based on my records since 2006.

February Month IconSnowfall:  31.4”February was again below average in snowfall, partly due to the continuation of the dry arctic pattern in the first week, and it wound up missing the mark for the lowest February in my data set by less than an inch.  Although that persistent dry pattern didn’t make for a very snowy first half of the month, our third largest storm of the season (12.6”) hit in the second week.  It was still a rather modest storm, but at least it did break that one foot mark for accumulation at the house.  By the end of the third week of February, the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield stake actually poked above average for the first time in about a month and a half – but it was only by a couple of inches, and it quickly went back below average as the snowpack sat there essentially stagnant for an entire month.  On February 21st, the snowpack was at 65”, and roughly a month later on March 18th, it was still at 65”, without any major consolidation of more than a few inches.  That’s stagnant.  Our snowpack at the house languished similarly, never even getting above 10 inches of depth during that stretch – and that’s a time of year when it is usually building to its peak of the season.  The carryover of the low snowpack from January also set the lowest mark (3.0”) for snowpack that we’ve ever seen in February.

March Month IconSnowfall:  30.8” – Although certainly not approaching what we saw in the second half of December, the last part of the winter/snowfall season was the other relatively bright spot to mention.  This was aided by our largest storm of the season, which delivered 21.3” during the last third of the month.  That storm was the only real standout for the month however.  It did bring March above average in terms of snowfall, but only by roughly six inches, and the resulting monthly total really ranks in the middle of the pack for Marches in my records.  The fact that the snowpack in the area around our snow measurement stake at the house was barely hanging on around mid month was certainly disconcerting, but the snowpack did recover somewhat with the help of a modest mid-month storm, that big storm at the end of the month, and reasonably cool temperatures.

April Month IconSnowfall:  4.2”April was even a couple inches below average for snowfall, but temperatures stayed cool enough to keep the winter season rolling along, and that’s what really helped make the period wintrier.  We didn’t have any notable April snow accumulations down at our elevation, just a couple of small ones on the 2nd, and again on the 12th – 13th, but the mountains continued to get fresh snow right into mid month to keep surfaces in great form and the Mt. Mansfield snowpack robust.

May Month IconSnowfall:  0.0” – There was no accumulating May snowfall down at the house this season, but that’s not too much of knock on the Month, because not getting snow in May is more the norm than actually getting snow.  The mountains did get that beautiful Memorial Day weekend storm though, and the late season powder skiing was mighty fine.  Although I can’t factor that directly into the analysis for the valley, it was quite cold in the valleys at the end of the month, and close to even snowing there.

There were a couple of other interesting notes with respect to snowfall this season:

1) Storm frequency and average storm size:  Despite coming in below average for snowfall, the 2012-2013 season offered up a healthy 51 accumulating snowstorms, almost up there with the 53 storms we received in 2007-2008.  Of course, to come in below average for snowfall with that many storms indicates that the average snowfall per storm was down, and indeed it was.  At 2.8”/storm, 2012-2013 ranks down there with 2011-2012 (2.6”/storm), the only odd seasons out compared to the more typical seasons up near 4”/storm.  For whatever reason, this season’s average came in on the low side.  This is presumably due in part to many of the everyday events being on the small side, but also due to the lack of bigger storms, which is covered in point #2 below.

2)  Storms with double-digit snowfall:  It’s certainly an arbitrary and subtle distinction, but after looking through my data, I noticed an interesting trend with respect to each season’s largest storms for our location.  In my season summaries, I always make a list of the top five storms of the season, and when the season seems to have gone well, all of those top five storms have been in the double digits for snowfall.  In fact, the “best” seasons thus far have been able to surpass that five-storm threshold.  For reference, here’s the top five list for this season, with the links to the detailed web pages for each storm:

Top five snowfall events
1. 21.3” (3/19/2013-3/24/2013)
2. 15.5” (12/26/2012-12/28/2012)
3. 12.6” (2/8/2013-2/9/2013)
4. 11.7” (12/21/2012-12/23/2012)
5. 7.8” (12/29/2012-12/30/2012)

Indeed, if we look at the number of storms with double-digit snowfall by the seasons, we see an obvious trend.  With the number of double-digit snowfall storms listed in parentheses after the season, one notes those “good” seasons – 2007-2008 (6), 2008-2009 (7), 2010-2011 (7) seemed to find a way to exceed five double-digit storms, whereas the poorer snowfall seasons – 2006-2007 (4), 2009-2010 (2), 2011-2012 (3), 2012-2013 (4) just didn’t.  Surely the law of averages comes into play here to some degree – seasons with patterns producing lots of snow likely have a greater chance of getting a big storm in here, but that’s not a given.  It’s also very suspicious that those seasons that come in sort of in that middling ground like 2006-2007 and our season of interest for this summary, 2012-2013, fall just short of making the cut.  I suspect this trend may be more intact in a location like ours because of the relatively high number of storms and snowfall, and upslope snow (which was on the low side this season) as an extra protection against huge snowfall variance, but this is going to be an interesting trend to follow into the future as a gauge of snowfall seasons.

In sum, while snowfall was certainly a bit below average, and snowpack was well below average, I’d still give the season a reasonable grade.  If C is average, I’d go with a C- for 2012-2013, just a bit off from making the average.  Were snowpack a more significant factor in my winter preferences, one could argue for going a bit lower, but at least minimal snowpack was maintained throughout the entirety of the winter to keep everything white.  Overall it could have been a lot worse, and with the amount of snowfall we did get, it’s hard to drop the season into the D range, which, based solely on snowfall and snowpack at the house, is where I’d put a season like 2011-2012.

For a complete look at all the data, charts, graphs, and tables from the winter season, head to our Waterbury, VT 2012-2013 winter weather and snowfall summary page.

September brings frost advisories and freeze warnings to Vermont

A map from the National Weather Service Office in Burlington, Vermont outlining the first fall 2013 frost advisories and freeze warnings for parts of Northern New England and New York
Our first cold weather warnings of the year are up for the North Country.

It’s early September, and as autumn begins to make inroads in the North Country and Northern New England, our first frost advisories and freeze warnings of the season have been posted by the National Weather Service Office in Burlington.  We’re under a frost advisory at our location with temperatures expected to be down near the freezing mark, but for some areas of the Adirondacks, temperatures are anticipated to get down into the upper 20s F, approaching near record lows for this date.  Further information can be found in the excerpt from the forecast discussion by the National Weather Service Office in Burlington below, with additional details at their site:

.SHORT TERM /6 PM THIS EVENING THROUGH SATURDAY/…

AS OF 454 AM EDT THURSDAY…HIGH PRESSURE WILL CREST OVER THE REGION TONIGHT. GIVEN CLEAR SKIES AND NEALY CALM WINDS WILL ALLOW FOR IDEAL CONDITIONS FOR RADIATIONAL COOLING…WITH TEMPERATURES FALLING INTO THE 30S IN MOST LOCATIONS…WITH SOME TEMPERATURES APPROACHING NEAR RECORD LOWS FOR SEPTEMBER 6TH. EXPECTING TEMPERATURES TO FALL INTO THE UPPER 20S IN THE SHELTERED VALLEYS OF MOST OF THE ADIRONDACKS LATE TONIGHT. THUS…HAVE PUT OUT A FREEZE WARNING FOR THOSE AREAS. ELSEWHERE…HAVE PUT UP A FROST ADVISORY FOR MOST OF THE REMAINDER OF NORTHERN NEW YORK…AS WELL AS NORTH CENTRAL AND NORTHEAST VERMONT FOR PATCHY FROST. NOT EXPECTING ANY FROST OVER THE CHAMPLAIN VALLEY AS LAKE CHAMPLAIN WATER TEMPERATURES STILL IN THE LOW 70S…WHICH WILL KEEP THE VALLEY RELATIVELY WARM WITH MOST TEMPERATURES IN THE UPPER 30S IN THE CHAMPLAIN VALLEY.

Checking out today’s snow at Bolton Valley, Vermont

An image of the village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont - November snows have just coated the slopes along with the village.
Today’s snow up at Bolton Valley

On our way toward Burlington to run some errands today, we headed up to Bolton Valley in the mid afternoon to get our season’s passes.  Temperatures were in the low 40s F at the house, but started to drop pretty quickly as we ascended the Bolton Valley Access Road.  The first signs of snow on the ground along the road were just above the Timberline Base in the 1,700’ elevation range, but I also noticed that slushy snow was still present on vehicles in the parking lot of the Timberline Base Lodge (1,500’) even though there was nothing left on the ground there.  I suspect that the snow line was a bit lower last night, but I’m not sure quite had far down it reached. Up in the village at 2,100’ it was snowing with temperatures in the low to mid 30s F, and we found about an inch and a half of accumulated snow on the ground/elevated surfaces.  It was quite a contrast descending the road and spending the afternoon in the Burlington area, where the temperatures were in the mid 40s F and it was hard to imagine that it was snowing even below 2,000’, the lapse rate actually seemed steeper than usual today.  In the Champlain Valley it was often just cloudy with the feeling that precipitation had wound down, but as the afternoon wore on, spits of precipitation and bouts of light rain became more common.  At times we’d have bursts of more moderate precipitation and it was nice to know that moisture was still heading to the mountains and falling as snow.  Leaving Burlington later in the evening we went from 42 F in Williston to ~37-38 F at the house.  There no accumulating snow to report down here as the temperature is sitting around the 37 F mark, but we’ve got light to moderate rain right now and 0.18” of liquid in the rain gauge since it was emptied this morning, so it’s probably still accumulating at elevation.  A few pictures are available from our visit to the higher elevations of Vermont today.

November snows begin for Vermont

An image of the snow line on Mt. Mansfield and some of the Northern Green mountains in Vermont in early November
The snow line visible in the Greens today

After five snow events for Vermont in October, temperatures warmed up for the end of the month as Hurricane Sandy entered the picture, but cold air is back now that we’re into November, and snow has come with it.  Taking a look outside from my office at UVM today, I saw that the cloud ceiling has risen a bit up to ~3,500’, and an obvious snow line was visible in the Northern Greensit looked like it was in the 2,500’ to 3,000’ range, jiving nicely with Powderfreak’s report of 2,800’ on the east side of the range at Stowe Mountain Resort.  The northern portion of the Central Greens south of I-89 was actually hidden at that because there was snow falling there, and that snow gradually moved northward.  As temperatures have cooled tonight, we’re even getting snow down in the mountain valleys, with potential accumulation in the forecast over the next couple of days.

Third October snowfall finally reaches to the valleys in Vermont

An image of early-season October snow falling in front of Bolton Mountain in Northern Vermont, obscuring the Green Mountains from view
Today’s snow along the western slopes of the Green Mountains, blocking them from view

White tendrils of snow began to appear along the western slopes of the Green Mountains late this morning as the cold air moved into the area, and people started seeing snow all the way down into the valleys.  Although the snow from Monday and Thursday only affected the mountains, we picked up our first accumulating snow at the house today as a heavy graupel storm came through in the afternoon.  Tonight is supposed to be the coldest of the season so far, and there’s still the chance for a bit more snow before the weather warms up going into next week.  For more information about today’s snowfall, be sure to check out my post in the American Weather Forum.  For the full details on this storm, head to the detailed report at the winter weather section of our website.

Next round of October snow hits the peaks in Northern Vermont

An image showing Vermont's second October snowfall coating the summit of Mt. Mansfield, with green trees in the Champlain Valley marking the foreground
Round two of October snow revealed itself near the summit of Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield this morning.

As the sun rose Monday morning, it revealed the first accumulating snow in Vermont this season, but the next event was close on its heels, with another round of snow laid down on the peaks of the Greens today.  It was raining and 41 degrees F at the house this morning, but that translated into snow 3,000’ to 4,000’ up.  The snow line appeared to be a bit higher with this event, up around 3,000’, and less than an inch of new snow was reported at ~3,700’ on Mt. Mansfield.  Although this snowfall wasn’t as substantial as the last one, it was definitely enough to paint the peaks white.  The cold season is definitely edging closer though, as the higher elevations of Mt. Mansfield stayed below freezing all day for the first time this season, and even more snow could be on the way tonight.

Snow for Vermont and other peaks in the Northeast

An image of early October snowfall being revealed on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont as the clouds begin to lift
As clouds begin to lift, an image from the web cam at Stowe Mountain Resort reveals a fresh October snowfall from last night.

It looks like the temperature on the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline stayed at or below freezing from midnight onward last night, and with 0.29” of new liquid found in our rain gauge at the house this morning, there was clearly some precipitation to go with those sub-freezing temperatures.  The web cam images from Mt. Mansfield this morning show snow on the trails at Stowe above the 3,000’ level, and reports from the mountain indicate that there were a few inches of accumulation, so this is likely the first accumulating snow of the season for Vermont.  Over in New Hampshire, new snow is visible on the Wildcat summit at ~4,000’, and the vertical temperature profile on Mt. Washington shows that temperatures really fell of quickly above that elevation and they picked up 3.6” of snow as of this morning.  As the clouds pull away in Northern New England today, I’d expect to see some white-capped peaks to go with our foliage.

Afternoon Update:  Numerous pictures of the fresh snow on the peaks throughout the Northeast are available in a new thread at AlpineZone, and the guys at FIS have already gone up and done some skiing on the snow on Mt. Mansfield this morning.  In addition, Powderfreak measured 4” of new snow while he was working up at the Cliff House on Mt. Mansfield today, and sent in several nice pictures of the snow and foliage in a post in the Northern New England thread at American Weather.

An image of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont taken from the Burlington area on October 8th, 2012 showing the first snowfall of the season on the peak with some of the fall foliage below
Vermont’s first accumulating snowfall of the 2012-2013 winter season

Widespread frost and freeze potential in Vermont

A map from the National Weather Service in Burlington showing the frost advisories and freeze warnings for Vermont and the surrounding areas on September 19th, 2012
Freeze Warnings and Frost Advisories are up throughout much of the state of Vermont tonight.

Parts of the Northeast have had bouts of sub-freezing temperatures since the end of August, but tonight looks like the first widespread occurrence of the season throughout Vermont.  We’ve got a frost advisory here in Washington County, but it sounds like some of the colder areas of the state up in the Northeast Kingdom could get down into the middle 20s F, and freeze warnings are in place.  It’s certainly time to cover up those gardens in the usual cold spots.

A map of predicted low temperatures from the National Weather Service in Burlington from the morning of September 20th, 2012
Sub-freezing temperatures are forecast for much of Vermont tonight.

Sub-Freezing Temperatures for the Northeast

Since it’s the end of August, it probably shouldn’t be that surprising that autumn-like weather is touching the Northeastern U.S., with freezing and sub-freezing temperatures hitting some of the usual cold spots.  These days often sneak up on us though amidst the typically pleasant weather at the end of summer.  I saw a comment in the Signs of the Season thread at AlpineZone that Mt. Washington in New Hampshire was below freezing last night, and indeed the Mt. Washington website confirms this.  After a quick look through the August data in their archive, it appears that it was the first time this month, so perhaps it is a sign of the season.  It’s the end of August, and Saturday is September though, so presumably it must be about time for sub-freezing temperatures on the rockpile.  Down at more modest elevations, Saranac Lake also touched 32 F last night.  As part of the discussion in the Northern New England Summer thread at American Weather, Powderfreak posted a plot with first dates of freezing for some of the cold spots in the forecast area for the National Weather Service Office in Burlington, Vermont.

September and October Snowfall Averages for Mt. Mansfield

As we head into the last few weeks of summer, some people’s thoughts turn to early snowfall in the mountains, and this topic recently popped up with respect to Mt. Mansfield in the New England Regional Forum at American Weather.  Since I have all the raw snowpack data from the Mt. Mansfield co-op station downloaded from when I created the Mt. Mansfield 24” snowpack plot, I scanned through the September numbers back to 1954 to see what they revealed.  Because the collection of actual snowfall at that station can be a bit dicey, I first checked the snowpack data that I had, and found three occurrences of September snowpack at the stake:

Date                 Snow at the stake (in.)
9/15/1959          1
9/16/1986          4
9/17/1986          2

However, assuming they have historically been using the same practice of reporting the depth of the snowpack at the end of the day (~5:00 P.M. or so) as they do now, it was likely that there was overnight September snowfall that simply didn’t make it through the entirety of many warm, September days to be reported from the stake.  Therefore, I also checked the snowfall data, and found that indeed there are a fair amount of reports of September snowfall:

Date                 Snowfall (in.)
9/15/1959          1.00
9/24/1966          0.50
9/2/1967            0.30
9/25/1967          1.50
9/22/1976          1.00
9/28/1980          0.50
9/16/1986          4.00
9/24/1989          1.00
9/21/1991          1.00
9/28/1991          0.30
9/29/1991          1.00
9/30/1992          0.30
9/23/1998          0.30
9/30/2009          0.02

There are a few years with no data, but accumulating September snow does happen on Mt. Mansfield, at a rate of roughly a couple times each decade.  I’m not quite sure what was going on with the 2009 number, since one doesn’t generally report snowfall to the hundredths of an inch; perhaps they are reporting a trace on that one.  Not surprisingly, September snowfall is more frequent on Mt. Washington with a couple thousand feet of extra vertical – the September monthly average there is 2.2” inches, and the monthly maximum is almost 8 inches, so accumulating September snow is probably fairly common.

I also scanned the Mt. Mansfield data for August, and there was even one report of accumulation there:

Date                 Snowfall (in.)
8/28/1986          0.20

Since there was also mention of October, I took a look at those data as well.  Because accumulating October snowfall is already fairly common even down here in the mountain valleys of the Northern Greens (out of the six season’s worth of snowfall data I have collected here, four Octobers have seen accumulating snowfall, and the average is right around an inch) I figured that getting October accumulation on Mt. Mansfield must be almost a lock.  Indeed that’s the case; after checking the snowpack data from 1954 – 2012, there are only a handful of seasons without reported snowpack, and one of those seasons did at least show some snowfall:

Seasons without reported October snowpack on Mt. Mansfield
1956-1957
1963-1964 – 0.1” snowfall
1971-1972
1973-1974
1985-1986
1996-1997
2007-2008

So essentially it’s about twice a decade that there is accumulating snow on Mt. Mansfield in September, and about once a decade that there isn’t accumulating snow on Mt. Mansfield in October.