Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Posts Written But Not Published

I noticed yesterday that sometime in October, the Wasatch Weather Weenies reached 2500 posts.  Unbelievable.  I've written about 99.99% of those and that is an obscene amount of work!

Our top-10 most viewed posts are popular for a mixture of reasons including Google-search happenstance, popular posts for a moment in time, and content that is timeless.

10. Blast from the Past: Ski Magazine February 1978.  Powder and Alta nostalgia.  Always a winner.

9. Powder Explosion. Photo collage from our snow adventures on the Tug Hill Plateau.  Nice to see the eastern US makes an appearance.

8. El Niño Likely for the 2015-16 Winter.  Seasonal outlooks and posts on El Niño/La Niña get huge readership, despite the fact that I almost always conclude that such information has little value for skiers in Utah.

7. Disastrous Heartbreak Ridge to Develop.  Wow.  This one is only a few days old and it has skyrocketed into the top 10.  If it bleeds, it ledes, and Heartbreak Ridge bleeds.

6. Pound for Pound the Snowiest Place in Utah.  I love Ben Lomond Peak and the north Ogden Valley.  Good to see you do too.

5. The "Official 2017/18 Ski Season Outlook.  Another seasonal outlook, although this one was written with tongue firmly in cheek.  The outlook, republished below, looks to be verifying well in California and Nevada, as well as Hawaii, but the "Better than Colorado" for Utah could be in jeopardy if this ridge hangs around.

4. West To Be Tickled by Fabio.  A good example of gaming the system with a frequently googled name.  In this case, Fabio was a former eastern Pacific hurricane with remnants spreading into the western US.

3. Tour de France Weather.  Weather always affects the tour, and this post continues to get a lot of traffic.

2. Outlook for the 2013–2014 Ski Season.  Another seasonal outlook.  This one was popular, because the outlook we issued was basic and honest.  WE HAVE NO IDEA!

1. Let's Rock.  Sort of a shame that this short post is #1, simply because there are so many people Googling Let's Rock.  There's no other reason to go here.

OK, so that's the top 10 based on page views, but there's another top-10 list (technically a top 7 list) that is more interesting, and that is the list of posts never published.  There aren't many of these because I am stubborn as hell.  Typically when I write a post I get an idea, I think it will take 5 or 10 minutes, I start to write it up, and I realize I'm in over my head.  I polish the turd quickly and hit the "publish" button and move on, hoping for the best.

However, every now I realize that there's no polishing the turd.  This typically occurs with politically controversial topics related to climate change, or more philosophical posts about science and weather forecasting.

With that being said, here are the seven posts never published out of 2500+:

7. Science Is Never Settled

6. Air Quality Irony

5. What Tree Rings Tell Us about Utah Climate

4. Obama's Carbon Reduction Plans

3. Climate Change: "Action is Urgently Needed"

2. Do Climate Scientists Really Ignore Natural Climate Forcings?

1. The Future of the Weather Forecaster

These posts were written with good intentions, but haven't yet made it to blog-worthiness.  However,  there's no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.  Perhaps they will appear in the future.

Veterans Day Reflections

Tomorrow (Saturday) is Veterans Day, but many will observe it today.  Two days instead of one seems appropriate. 

Given the emphasis of this blog on weather, we take a few moments today to reflect on the sacrifice made by Air Force Captain Nathan Nylander. 

Captain Nathan Nylander.  Source:
Captain Nylander was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Weather Observer and Weather Forecaster courses.  He was the 56th Operational Support Squadron Forecaster of the Year in 1999 and 2000.  In 2006, he graduated #1 in his class at Officer Training School.  He was a leader in meteorological services in the Air Force and a friend to Air Force officers who have come to the University of Utah to pursue graduate degrees in atmospheric sciences.

Captain Nylander was killed in Afhanistan on April 27, 2011, when an Afghan colonel opened fire at the Afghan Air Force Headquarters at Kabul International Airport.  During the attack, Captain Nylander evacuated the conference room he and others occupied, returned fire, and, began treating the wounded.  When the attacker began to fire again, Captain Nylander returned fire again, but was ultimately killed.

Captain Nylander received the Silver Star, the third highest honor for combat valor, on September 24, 2011.

On this Veterans Day, take a few moments to learn more about Captain Nylander in this article from the Air Force Air Combat Command web site and this Air Advisor Memorial

National Park Entrance Fees

Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded.

Some things are a shame, others are a damn shame.  The overcrowding, overuse, and underfunded nature of our natural parks fall squarely in the latter category.

Delicate Arch, an icon of the Utah landscape.  Arches National Park.
According to an article published this week in the Salt Lake Tribune, the maintenance backlog in America's National Parks now totals $11.3 billion, including $278 million for Utah's parks.  

To address this backlog, as well as to "improve facilities, infrastructure, and visitor services, the National Park Service is now proposing to raise entrance fees seasonally in 17 national parks to $70 per vehicle, including Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Zion.  Public comment regarding this proposal is now being accepted at

Chronic underfunding of the National Park Service and controversy over visitor fees appears to be nearly as old as the National Parks themselves, the first of which was established by the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act signed by Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872.  In fact, an entire book has been written on the subject, Visitor Fees in the National Park System: A Legislative and Administrative History, by Barry Mackintosh. 

In an ideal world, these National Parks would be adequately funded by Congress.  Park visits would be attainable for all Americans.  A $70 entry fee is unaffordable for some families.  Yes, an annual pass would still be only $80, but not everyone visits multiple parks on multiple days.  For some, a one day visit to a national park is the trip of a lifetime, and a $70 entrance fee is an impediment to such an experience.

Meanwhile,  many parks are under great pressure from visitation.  In 2012, Zion National Park set an all-time record with 2,973,607 visitors.  By 2016, they hit 4,295,127 visitors.  Overcrowding and overuse are further stressing the parks and degrading the park experience.  

I don't have any solutions for these problems.  I haven't sat on my bar stool long enough.  I wish Congress better funded the National Park System.   I could live live with a reservation system for entering some National Park areas.  I hope, however, that park fees are not levied in a way that visits become unaffordable for some American families.  I'm disgusted that such a proposal is being floated.  

Frank Brown: Friend and Mentor

Frank Brown, professor of Geology and Geophysics and Dean Emeritus of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences at the University of Utah died suddenly of a heart attack on Saturday.  It is impossible to put into words the impact that he has had on my college, the University of Utah, and my career, but I'll make an effort here. 

If you are or have been a student in the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, Frank fought tooth and nail to make your education as high quality and cost effective as possible.  I know this first hand because I was chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences for six years.  I watched Frank tirelessly fundraise for scholarships, attempt each year to find scholarship support for every student in the college with a GPA of 3.0 or higher (and bemoan the fact he couldn't provide more, as well as something for students below that bar), and question every aspect of my budget to ensure money was being spent effectively. 

In 2001, Frank won the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence, the highest award for faculty at the University of Utah.  It came with a check for $40,000.  He had every reason to keep that award.  He had worked tirelessly as a professor and dean.  He was probably the lowest paid dean on campus.  He drove a beat-up old pick up (to my knowledge he drove that truck until the day he died).  Instead, he donated every cent of it back to the University to help students. 

When I arrived at the University of Utah, I was as green as grass, 28 years old, and commonly assumed to be the student representative at faculty committee meetings.  Frank provided unwavering support right from my arrival.  Perhaps he was more than glad to have a young faculty member deal with issues he'd rather avoid (computer support and management you know who you are), but it is now clear that he had an agenda.  I distinctly remember him telling me once, when I had only been at the U for a few years, that I would not only be a professor, but also a chair and a dean.  He was right on 2/3, at least so far.   His strategy was one of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  Tell good people very directly what they are capable of achieving and there's a pretty good chance it will happen.  He was also famous for confidence building quips like "you'll do fine" when people enter unknown and stressful circumstances.  It doesn't sound like much, but Frank had a way of saying it that inspired confidence.

The wonderful Continuum cover above calls Frank a "Hominid Extraordinaire."  The tendency when one sees a line like that is to think about professional achievement and in that regard, Frank was a Hominid Extraordinaire.  Indeed, Frank met that bar. How many Deans still taught a full teaching load every year?  Actually, I think he may have taught beyond that.  He was a world-class paleontologist.  He was a passionate and dedicated administrator. 

But those aren't the reasons why Frank was a Hominid Extraordinaire.  The reasons are Frank's generosity and goodness.  He did much to help people who were sick and disadvantaged.  I don't know how he found the time.  I almost always found out about these efforts when we were working late or on a weekend and he'd mention that he has to go and lend someone a hand.  He traveled to Africa every summer for field work and, as discussed in the Continuum article, spoke several native languages.  Our meetings were frequently interrupted by a phone call from Africa.  Frank would pick up and cluck away in some impressive dialect.  When the call was done, he would proceed to tell me with great concern about the personal or regional challenges that the caller was facing.  I have no idea how he juggled so many balls.

Frank Brown was my friend and mentor.  I will miss him, and so will the U.

Weather, Snow, and Ski Related Beers

I became a beer snob when I moved to Seattle in 1989 where there was already an flourishing microbrew scene.  Today, the term "craft beer" might be better since there are many excellent beers brewed by breweries of a variety of sizes. 

Some of these beers (and even some breweries) have weather, snow, and ski-related names.  Let's see if we can get a list together.  Here are a few of my favorite-named beers.  Most I've tried, but not all. 

Inversion IPA, Deschutes Brewing.  I typically drink IPAs in the summer, but this one takes the sting out of Utah's pollution during the winter.

Red Chair NWPA, Deschutes Brewing

Snow Cap, Pyramid.  This has long been one of my favorite winter ales, although it is not currently advertised on the Pyramid web site.  Hopefully it will arrive later this fall.

Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Great Lakes Brewing.  I'm a big Porter fan during the cool season.  The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald was a true weather catastrophe, made famous by the haunting song from Gordon Lightfoot.

Bombogenesis Double IPA, Chatham Brewing.  I haven't had this one yet, but may need to make a special trip downstate during my next visit to the hometown as this might be the best weather-named beer out there. 

Nor'eastah IPA, Chatham Brewing.  Another great weather-related name.  Designated driver definitely required for that trip.

Blueski Lager, Epic.  Epic brews several great beers without ski, snow, or weather-related themes.  I'm not much of a fan of lagers, but the ski theme gets a nod here.

Lake Effect, Proper Brewing.  A great name for this German-style ale, but sadly only 4.0% ABV.  Lake effect deserves so much more!

Mostly Cloudy, Long Trail Brewing

Sick Day, Long Trail Brewing.  None of you would ever know anything about sick days...

Runoff Red IPA, Odell.  Technically a hydrologic beer, but weather-driven.

Katabatic Brewing Co. Haven't been here yet, but this place gets a nod just for the name, with katabatic being a name for drainage flows and other buoyancy-driven downslope winds. 

Pray for Snow, 10 Barrel Brewing. 'Nuff said!

Add your favorites in the comments below.

Snowbird’s Hidden Peak Cam Is Awesome

Snowbird has done a complete upgrade of their web site and perhaps their web cams because they seem so much better than they were a couple of months ago.  The Hidden Peak Cam is amazing.  You can't do it justice with a screengrab, but this morning's is below showing the dusting of snow, but also the abrupt transition of visibility when one gets to the top of what I think is the smoke layer that moved in with the latest cold surge.

Source: Snowbird
This is a meteorological preference, but I'd like to see a time stamp on these images, but I suspect they don't want to spoil them.  There is an indication of how old the images are on the web site.

BTW, it is a bit convoluted how to find the full size images on Snowbird's web site.  The direct link is here.  High frequency animations would also be appreciated (hint hint).

Confessions of an Ivory Tower Meteorologist

Not so random thoughts on this Thursday.

Confessions of an Ivory Tower Meteorologist
I have something that I need to get off my chest.  Something that bothers me deeply. 

I get excited about extreme weather. 

I can barely sleep during weather events like Harvey and Irma, and I'm not even all that interested in tropical meteorology

I feel guilty about this.  After all, these storms are horrific, taking lives and destroying communities.

However, I also feel terror and nausea looking at both forecasts and the aftermath of these events.  It's a weird mélange of feelings. 

Meteorologists Are People Too
The National Hurricane Center is located in Miami.  Our nation is fortunate to have such a dedicated men and women working 24/7 to monitor and forecast tropical storms such as Irma.  Keep in mind that these meteorologists, their families, and their homes are also in the crossfire of Irma. 

Utah Alums Contribute to the Effort
I've been following the activities of an esteemed University of Utah alum and one of our current graduate students who are collecting critical data on Irma on one of the Hurricane Hunter aircraft.  Talk about living the dream! 

So Much Extreme Weather, So Little Time
One of the perks of my job is that I get to spend a lot of time looking at the weather.  A lot.  Your worst weather nightmare is my dream job. 

My preference is winter storms, but I am a weather omnivore.  I will consume whatever is available. 

Over the past two weeks, I've had a diet of all-time record heat, western wildfires and smoke, Harvey's record rainfall and flooding, and now one of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes on record.  Digging into these events challenges my knowledge and provides great teaching moments, but I can barely keep up. 

Mother Nature had better calm down soon.  I've been overeating and am starting to get fat. 

Back to work....

Blog Break

Blogging will be light to non existent for the next couple of weeks as I think deep thoughts and ponder winter weather.  Þangað til ég kem aftur, bestu óskir.

Solar Update, Post #Climexit

I've been really impressed with the solar system we had installed and hooked up in December and each month, as the skies clear and the sun rises, the production continues to grow.

Last month, we produced nearly 1.2 megawatt hours of power, or about 38 kilowatt hours a day.

Those numbers are very satisfying today.