Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 2011 Ends Wet & Wintry


High Knob Massif ( Northern Slopes )
Mixed Forest In Spring Snowfall - March 28, 2011
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Spring snow & rime majestically coated mixed forests of the High Knob Massif into morning hours of March 28 as a wet and stormy pattern continued to dominate the mountain landscape.

The first month of Meteorological Spring 2011 was ruled by wet & stormy conditions from beginning to end, with significant falls of rain & snow observed across the High Knob Landform   ( part of a period marked by excessive wetness that began during the final week of February 2011 ).

This transition back toward wintry conditions began March 24 in the High Knob highcountry, with snow and mixed precipitation at the highest elevations which gave way to dense, icy, low clouds and a day of sub-freezing air by March 27.

March 27, 2011
Rime & Icing In Benges Basin of High Knob Massif 
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A significant and beautiful array of wind sculptured rime and icing was on display in upper elevations of the High Knob Massif during March 27, that is, at times when it was possible to actually SEE!

Can you say DENSE!

Water Elevation 3308 feet
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Viewing & Fishing Deck at Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Standing amid swirling clouds capping upper elevations, with air temps in the 20s, the City of Norton's Upper Reservoir literally vanished at times before the camera lens of photographer Roddy Addington.

March 27, 2011
Incredible Fluid Nature Of Air Flow
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Fluid Nature Of Air Revealed In Deposition
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The fluid nature of this swirling mass of icy air was amazingly seen and revealed by its pattern of extraction and deposition upon trees, vegetation, and other solid objects present!

March 27, 2011
Incredible Ice Formations - Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Incredible ice formations were captured by Roddy as this extraction of water vapor from air generated very intricate patterns of deposition as time passed and air flowed!

March 27, 2011
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Simply Beautiful - Natural Wonder Of Water
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

For anyone never having been in such an 
environment it is truly a beautiful experience!

March 27, 2011
Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif
Supercooled Water Drops & Glazing
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

It should be noted that this episode was not typical of most highlighted on this website in the past which involved supercooled vapor and true RIME formation.

In this case larger drop sizes and a generally slower dissipation rate of latent heat associated with the transformation of liquid to solid combined with less intense supercooling to develop a form of clear icing sometimes called glazing.

Flow lines and layering can be seen in the above photograph by Roddy, but instead of being white and lacy in nature the rime-like structures are more clear ( like ice cubes ) and much harder in form.  Downwind or leeside development along branches & stems is present, as with true riming.

March 27, 2011
Elevation 4189 feet
Exotic Icing On Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The NNW-NNE air flow trajectories making this episode possible generated a large temperature contrast between locations along and north of the High Knob Landform and those resting leeward of it in the Tennessee Valley, with 20s to lower 30s during the afternoon of March 27 on the upslope side being in contrast to lower-middle 40s on the downslope side.

[ It is interesting to speculate upon observations; although, it can not yet be proven, that the greater amount of rime-like whiteness seen along the upper Little Stone-Pickem Mountain flank of the High Knob Massif may have occurred ( in this case ) due to a maximization of upslope cooling rates with forced lifting over the steep frontslope of the massif ].

This cold air set the stage for widespread snow into March 28, with between 3" and 4" common across the High Knob Massif ( 1-3" below 3000 feet ).


A Journey Across The
High Knob High Country
with Joe & Darlene Fields
( March 28, 2011 )

Elevation 4223 feet
Summit Majesty - High Knob Peak
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

My friends Joe & Darlene Fields traveled from their warm home in High Chaparral west through the backcountry of the High Knob Massif to its peak during morning hours of March 28.

Lets join them for a 
simply gorgeous journey!

Elevation 3300 feet
High Chaparral Snow Depth at 8:30 AM - March 28, 2011
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

A 3" snow depth was measured by Darlene at 8:30 AM before her and husband Joe departed for the backcountry ( 106.0" for the season ).

The Fields Family began measuring snow in the High Chaparral community of the massif during the 1992-93 season, some 19 winters ago, and during that time have added greatly to the climatological knowledge of this unique mountain landform.

Final Wave Of Snow - AM of March 28, 2011
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

One final burst of snow fell as they headed onto Mountain Fork Road, Forest Service Route 704, which twists across upper portions of the majestic multi-gorge basin of Big Stony Creek of the Clinch River in southern Wise & northern Scott counties of Virginia.

This entire journey will be at elevations above 3000 feet and is part of many miles of such elevated high country roadways in the great and wondrous High Knob Massif.

March 28, 2011
Backcountry of High Knob Massif
Beautiful Mountain Fork Road ( Route 704 )
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Leaving High Chaparral heading westward, Route 704 initially runs across a tiny portion of the Little Stony Basin headwaters before crossing a divide into the 42-square mile Big Stony Basin.

Big Stony & Little Stony basins collectively covering 
58.3 square miles of diversely wild and rugged mountain terrain.

Jefferson National Forest
Remnant Highcountry Mass of the High Knob Landform
Pristine Water In Upper Big Stony Basin - March 28
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

After passing through headwaters of Bark Camp Branch a descent to the lowest point of this trip occurs upon reaching Mountain Fork of Big Stony Creek, at 3010 feet, located 3 miles downstream of High Knob Lake and some 10 miles upstream of the Clinch River.

Bark Camp Branch of Big Stony Basin not to be confused with the Bark Camp Lake section of Little Stony Basin.  Bark Camp Branch is a majestic creek that plunges into the mainstem gorge of Big Stony Creek via a beautiful waterfall.

March 28, 2011
Hiking & Horseback Riding
Highcountry Trails - Chief Benge Scout Trail Crossing
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Mountain Fork Road offers access to the Chief Benge Scout Trail, with upstream hiking leading into wondrous High Knob Lake Basin and to the High Knob Peak.  Going the other direction is seemingly endless, with opportunities for many miles of wild adventures.

[ In coming years, with construction of a new High Knob Lookout, it is hoped that a connecting trail will be made for hiking through Benges Basin to awesome Flag Rock Recreation Area and down into the cove at Legion Park and into the City of Norton ].

The Clinch Coalition ( TCC ) is the leader in organized hikes and trail maintenance, and has been nominated by Chief Ranger Jorge Hersel       of the Jefferson National Forest's Clinch Ranger District for the Regional Foresters Award ( given to honor outstanding contributions to your public lands! ).

The Clinch Coalition played a vital role in restoring and upgrading the Chief Benge Scout Trail and has done much hard work in recent years following destructive weather events that have damaged many of these simply awesome highcountry trails. Recent work has also included helping restore the Devil Fork access road and planning renovation of Lake Keokee Loop Trail.

Reference the following link to learn about all the many TCC activities in this region:

The Clinch Coalition Website

March 28, 2011
High Knob Highcountry
Large Tree Gall In Mixed-Mesophytic Forest
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

From the crossing of Big Stony Creek it is a long, upward climb into the southeastern slopes of Big Flat Top to an eventual union with State Route 619, south of Camp Rock Knob, in northern Scott County, Virginia.  Along the way Route 704 skirts the head of magnificent Chimney Rock Gorge.

State Route 619 is a scenic roadway between the City of Norton and Fort Blackmore in the Clinch River Valley which spans the north-south extent of the highcountry near center of the broad High Knob Massif, with miles above 3000 feet in elevation.

March 28, 2011
Off Forest Service Route 238
High Knob Peak - Parking Area
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Following a right turn onto State Route 619, from Route 704, the journey continues to Camp Rock Knob and by its lovely meadow and famous cliffs partially hidden amid a rich forest dominated by Sugar Maples ( Acer saccharum var. saccharum ).

The section between Camp Rock Knob and High Knob marks a divide between the Clinch & Powell river watersheds, with the expansive Big Cherry Basin to the left and High Knob Lake Basin toward the right ( heading north on Route 619 ).

March 28, 2011
High Knob Summit
Trail Head In The Highcountry
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

The High Knob summit marks a head for the Chief Benges Scout Trail, with future potential for many more miles of trails extending southwest from there than contained in it current sections denoted by the U.S. Forest Service sign above.

An extremely scenic trail system ringing Powell Valley and the Big Cherry Lake Basin could continue across the head of South Fork Gorge to Powell Mountain and the Duffield Valley!

March 28, 2011
Elevation 4223 feet
Joe Fields At The Summit In High Knob Meadow
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

My friend Joe Fields stands on the highest summit in the entire 150+ air mile extent of the Cumberland Mountains, with an official listing by the United States Geological Survey of 4223 feet above mean sea level.

The adjacent summit of Eagle Knob is the second highest peak at 4189 feet, with 13 other peaks, or knobs, within the crest zone of the High Knob Massif above 3600 feet.

March 28, 2011
Stone Bench Braves Weather On Wind Swept Summit
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

The climate of the High Knob Landform and its remnant massif of high country has been found to be rather extraordinary given elevations that are well below the highest Appalachian peaks.

March 28, 2011
High Knob Meadow With Snow, Ice, Rime
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

This climatic diversity drives richness in all other realms of its natural world, above & below ground, and at least partly arises due to physical exposure to air flows, latitude, and the atypically large size of this mountain landform.

A unique geological structure shaped over time by its climate and protected from continental glaciations during the last ice age are other key factors in this epicenter of rarity & richness of limited range species present amid the High Knob Landform and its Upper Tennessee & Upper Cumberland river basins.

March 28, 2011
Steps To High Knob Meadow
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

U-shaped High Knob Lake Basin & Special Biological Area is to the left side of this view, with the extraordinary Big Cherry Basin stretching outward for miles beyond the other side of High Knob Meadow in the far distance.  Benges Basin is to the right side of this view in the foreground.

Thanks to Joe & Darlene for
sharing this great journey with us all.



Afternoon Delight In The 
High Knob High Country
( Afternoon of March 28, 2011 )

Jefferson National Forest
High Knob Lake Basin - Brightening Skies
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

My friend Roddy Addington illustrates how conditions began changing during afternoon hours of March 28, with only a few cloud bases dragging Big Flat Top along far side of High Knob Lake Basin as mountain waves formed in brighter skies.

Upper Norton Reservoir ( Water Elevation 3318 feet )
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif - Afternoon March 28
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

It does not take a scientist to know that the above location is windy, as note the flagged and bent tree tops on the mountain in upper left of photograph that have been deformed over time by strong NW-SW winds.

Much melting occurred during the afternoon, especially across lower elevations where it mostly disappeared, with northern slopes of the massif retaining snow cover as highlighted by Roddy.



Interesting Scenes From 
The Tennessee Valley Divide
( March 28, 2011 )

Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge
Looking North To Pine Mountain
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

The long and undulating crestline of Pine Mountain is only faintly visible along the horizon in the far distance, as abundant low-level moisture hangs over the Russell Fork Basin.

My friend Wayne Riner submits an array of scenes just begging for spring to come to the Appalachian highlands.  Please!!!

March 28, 2011
Flower Pot Waiting For The Sun
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"The flower pot sits collecting snow...waiting for a warmer day."

With Heads Bowed On Long Ridge
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"Spring flowers have enjoyed the warm weather only to be saddened by the snow."

March 28, 2011
The Rock Wall And Spring Snow
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"The Daffodil near the rock wall has been surprised by the spring snow. However, this snow will melt quickly when the sun warms the old hand cut sandstone."

Long Ridge of the Tennessee Valley Divide
Holly Decorated By The Snow Of Spring
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

A total of 2.4" of snow were measured by Wayne & Genevie during this event to bring the seasonal total to an even 78.0" ( 6.5 feet ) at their 2650 foot elevation. 



Snow Ends A Wet March 2011
In The High Knob Massif
( March 31, 2011 )

High Knob Massif
Wet Snow Along State Route 706
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Snow accumulations during March 31 were greatest above 3400 feet with lesser amounts, as seen above, sticking to trees and vegetation down to around 2500 feet in the massif.

More snow was a fitting conclusion to a wet month across the High Knob highcountry, where 9.00" to 10.00"+ of total precipitation fell during March 2011 ( up to 7-8 AM on March 31 ).

My friends Otis & Nancy Ward measured 9.87" of total precip in the Robinson Knob community during March, with 12.28" being recorded since the final week of February.

My friend Gary Hampton & Staff measured 9.85" of precipitation at Big Cherry Dam during March to make 12.60" since the last week of February ( 38 days ).

[ Five measurements were made at Big Cherry Dam during March 2011, with 15 days of potential evaporative loss between hand-measurements ( i.e., with precip in the gage ) ].

Similar amounts were also hand-measured in South Fork Gorge of the High Knob Massif, with 9.44" during March and 12.07" since the final week of February 2011 at the Big Stone Gap Water Plant.


Monthly Precipitation Totals
Big Cherry Dam of High Knob Massif
Observer: Gary Hampton & Staff of Big Stone Gap WP
Elevation: 3120 feet

2008
November:  4.36"
December: 8.49"

2009
January: 9.23"
February: 4.36"
March: 5.51"
April: 5.40"
May: 7.07"
June: 5.44"
July: 8.42"
August: 7.08"
September: 9.09"
October: 4.36"
November: 3.88"
*December: 11.50"

2010
*January: 6.25"
*February: 4.25"
*March: 4.50"
April: 3.78"
May: 6.99"
June: 9.53"
July: 4.27"
August: 8.91"
September: 2.88"
October: 2.84"
November: 4.05"
*December: 7.35"

2011
January: 4.51"
February: 4.53"
March: 9.85"

2011 Total: 18.89" ( M )

Nov 2010-Mar 2011 Total: 30.29" ( M )
Orographic Forcing Season ( Still Ongoing )
( 6.06" per month average )

12-Month Total: 69.49" ( M )

24-Month Total: 146.73" ( M )

29-Month Total: 178.68" ( M )

29-Month Mean Monthly Precip: 6.16"

Mean Per 12-Month Periods: 73.94" ( M )

( * ) - Indicates that total was estimated or partly estimated due to severe winter conditions and deep falls of snow.

( M ) - Denotes that total precipitation was greater than rain gage total due to evaporation between hand-measurements and physical gage loss in deep falls of snow ( the mean evaporative loss is estimated to have been 3.00" to 3.50" per year as partly based upon observed losses at Clintwood 1 W ).

[ All measurements courtesy of Superintendent Gary Hampton and Staff at the Big Stone Gap Water Plant in South Fork Gorge ].

High Knob Massif
Jefferson National Forest
Afternoon Wet Snowflakes - March 31, 2011
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Excessive wetness during the past 38 days, with a general 12.00" to 13.00" of precipitation across the High Knob highcountry, has boosted 2011 tallies into the 17.00" to 20.00" range above 3000 feet 
( as of the AM of March 31 ).

March 31, 2011
Elevation 3200 feet
Between High Chaparral & Robinson Knob
Wintry Scene Near U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Cabin
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.


Climate Statistics 
For March 2011

( Lower Elevations of Russell Fork Basin )
Clintwood 1 W - Elevation 1560 feet
Average Daily MAX: 55.9 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 32.0 degrees
MEAN: 44.0 degrees
Highest Temperature: 76 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 24 degrees
Total Precipitation: 6.35"
Total Snowfall: 3.8"

( Northern Base of High Knob Massif )
City of Norton - Elevation 2141 feet
Average Daily MAX: 52.6 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 31.6 degrees
MEAN: 42.1 degrees
Highest Temperature: 71 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 24 degrees
Total Precipitation: 8.38"
Total Snowfall: 8.5"

Along the Tennessee Valley Divide )
Nora 4 SSE - Elevation 2650 feet
Average Daily MAX: 51.4 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 33.1 degrees
MEAN: 42.2 degrees
Highest Temperature: 72 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 23 degrees
Total Precipitation: 7.39"
Total Snowfall: 8.3"

In the High Knob high country temps in the 40s to near 50 degrees by day, and the 20s to lower 30s by night, were common above 2700 feet.

Precipitation was abundant with 9.50" to 10.00"+ typical in upper elevations above 3000 feet, along with a general 13" to 20" of total snowfall.

March 31, 2011
Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge
Autumn Olive In Snow Bloom
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"The Autumn Olive near the pasture had small green leaves appearing because of the warm weather.  The early spring snowfall had clung to the emerging buds, looking as if it were a cherry tree in full bloom."


Precipitation Totals For March & The Year 
From Selected Virginia Sites
( 2011 Precipitation to March 31 )

Edinburg
March: 3.65"
2011: 5.81"
( 1 day missing February )

Lynchburg
March: 2.69"
2011: 6.11"

Covington Filter Plant
March: 4.56"
2011: 6.25"

Dale Enterprise
March: 4.35" 
2011: 6.92"
( 1 day missing February )

Kerrs Creek 6 WNW
March: 5.40"
2011: 7.08"

Roanoke
March: 4.23"
2011: 7.25"

Gathright Dam
March: 5.25"
2011: 7.32"

Wallops Island
March: 2.74"
2011: 7.42"

Danville
March: 4.22"
2011: 7.44"

Buena Vista
March: 5.35"
2011: 7.47"

Lexington
March: 5.49"
2011: 7.84"

Pulaski
March: 6.35"
2011: 8.16"

Blacksburg
March: 4.38"
2011: 8.18"

Washington National Airport
March: 4.40"
2011: 8.77"

Charlottesville
March: 6.24"
2011: 8.82"

Martinsville Filter Plant
March: 6.46"
2011: 8.82"

Millgap 2 NNW
March: 6.46"
2011: 8.84"

Norfolk
March: 2.96"
2011: 8.84"

Richmond
March: 4.28"
2011: 8.85"

Luray 5 E
March: 5.62"
2011: 8.91"

Hot Springs
March: 6.40"
2011: 9.10"
( 1 day missing January )

Washington Dulles Airport
March: 5.07"
2011: 9.15"

Wytheville 1 S
March: 6.41"
2011: 9.19"

Holcomb Rock
March: 6.51"
2011: 9.62"

Grundy
March: 6.41"
2011: 9.81"

Richlands
March: 6.40"
2011: 9.88"

Lebanon
March: 7.57"
2011: 10.86"

Bland
March: 7.39"
2011: 11.04"
( 3 days missing January )

Clintwood
March: 6.35"
2011: 11.05"

Trout Dale 3 SSE
March: 7.62"
2011: 11.18"

Meadows of Dan 5 SW
March: 8.61"
2011: 11.45"

Nora 4 SSE
March: 7.39"
2011: 11.45"

Glasgow 1 SE
March: 8.68"
2011: 11.56"

Saltville 1 N
March: 7.44"
2011: 11.90"

Burkes Garden
March: 7.95"
2011: 12.46"

Woolwine
March: 10.29"
2011: 12.84"

Appalachia Lake Water Plant
March: 7.63"
2011: 12.93"

Norton Water Plant
March: 8.38"
2011: 14.33"

Big Stone Gap Water Plant
March: 9.44"
2011: 16.26"

Robinson Knob of High Knob Massif
March: 9.87"
2011: 16.40" ( M )

Big Cherry Dam of High Knob Massif
March: 9.85"
2011: 18.89" ( M )


( M ) - Denotes missing data during the year due to evaporation between hand-measurements and snowfall.



( Updated: April 3, 2011 )
April Begins Cold & Wintry


April 2, 2011
High Knob Highcountry - Glorious Morning Light 1
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A glorious array of morning light greeted a cold & windy dawn on April 2 as swelling cumulus and mountain wave clouds, amid cold air aloft, were captured by Roddy over a period of minutes within dramatic changes of light!

April 2, 2011
Glorious Morning Light - Photograph 2
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Some afternoon hail fell during April 2 from a few of the taller clouds, as they built vertically into the cold heavens above.

April 2, 2011
Glorious Morning Light - Photograph 3
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

New snow & rime had greeted the new month on April 1, with 1" to 2" at highest elevations that was melting away as warmer air was fighting to work into the region on strong WSW-WNW winds.

High Knob Massif
Layered Rime Lingers - April 2, 2011
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

At least a little snow stuck down below 3000 feet in elevation, with Wayne Riner highlighting the view from Long Ridge.

Andrew Greear measured 0.5" of snow accumulation at the City of Norton Water Plant, elevation 2342 feet, on the northern base of High Knob.

April 1, 2011
On The Tennessee Valley Divide
Early April Snow - Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"On the high ridges of Dickenson County, an early spring snow clings to the still barren trees of winter."

These first two days of April ended with another simply awesome blaze of glorious light, as my friend Wayne Riner captured near sunset.

April 2, 2011
Sunset Glory Of Last Light Above The Highlands
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"At the end of the day there was only the sound of a robin calling for a mate.  With the darkness, came the hope of a restful night."

April 3 dawned frosty cold in mountain valleys, with MIN temperatures in the 20s being widespread from the High Knob Massif and City of Norton northward into Dickenson County.

The calm before strong warming, HIGH WINDS, and the looming potential of violent thunderstorms to more  high country snow.

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