Sunday, October 21, 2012

Autumn Color 2012 - A Vivid Season


October 16, 2012
Long Ridge of Tennessee Valley Divide
October Color Peak In The Highlands
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"We started out the driveway to view the colors, before getting to Long Ridge road, we paused and took our first picture."

And so it was during Autumn 2012, as this ancient mountain landscape exploded with vivid brilliance!

October 16, 2012
Along The Tennessee Valley Divide
Fiery Maples Enhance Autumn Color Show In 2012
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Maples were especially fiery this year to enhance the color show ( so important given maple species are very abundant across mid-upper elevations ).

October 16, 2012
Scenic Drive In The Highlands
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Although areas of good color will remain through this week ( October 21-27 ), notable dulling was observed in the wake of a high wind event signaled by sunrise mountain wave clouds on October 18.

October 18, 2012
Majestic Colors of A Highland Morn
Orographic Wave Clouds At Sunrise
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"The black locust was tossed by the morning west wind.  While the horizon had all the color, the valley remained dark."

October 18, 2012
High Winds Generate Mountain Waves
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Widespread & ROARing 40-50+ mile per hour wind gusts occurred during October 17-18 in higher elevations of counties along the Virginia-Kentucky border, with local downpours & lightning-thunder.

A few peak gusts included ( * ):

Flatwoods Mountain, Kentucky
SW at 49 MPH
( Elevation 2774 feet )

Nora 4 SSE on Long Ridge
SW at 45 MPH
( Elevation 2650 feet )

Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise
SW at 43 MPH
( Elevation 2684 feet )

*Wind directions were SSE to SSW during the event.

October 16, 2012
Before A Significant Leaf Fall
Looking Though Colorful Mixed Woods
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

**Best Color Periods By Elevation
High Knob Massif - Tennessee Valley Divide Area

Above 2700 Feet
September 26 to October 10

Below 2700 Feet
October 7 to 17 

( Locally Later In Some Places Below 2000 feet )

**PEAK color occurred during a time period amid these intervals, which featured the most vivid colorations of widespread nature across much of the massif area.  Reference examples by elevation zone below for exceptions & details on color patterns.

A prolonged cold, wet period with temps in the 30s and 40s during October 7-10, amid lower wind chill factors, ended with widespread sub-freezing temps into morning hours of October 11 across upper elevations to effectively dull the best color.

October 16, 2012
Colors Along The Roads - Long Ridge
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"Color at its peak on Long Ridge."

Once the main color show has waned a secondary peak is often observed in oak species across lower-middle elevations.

October 16, 2012
Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge
The Golden Glow Of Maples At The Cemetery
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"The evening sun lights the maple in the edge of the cemetery.  Each year the color of the maple explodes 
to light the way."

October 16, 2012
Looking to Pine Mountain from Long Ridge
October 2012 In The Appalachian Highlands
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.



Birch Knob of Pine Mountain

Photographer Roddy Addington visited Birch Knob of Pine Mountain ( seen along the horizon from Long Ridge ) on October 21, and while the general peak had passed there were still patches of very nice color along the mountain.

October 21, 2012
Elevation 3149 Feet
Birch Knob of Pine Mountain
Looking Along The Autumn Crestline
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

October 21, 2012
Birch Knob of Pine Mountain
Vivid Red Maple ( Acer rubrum )
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Views along the mountain are always impressive.

October 21, 2012
Birch Knob of Pine Mountain
Looking Northeast Toward Breaks Interstate Park
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

October 21, 2012
Southeastern Slopes of Pine Mountain
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.



High Knob Massif
More Autumn 2012 Scenes
( Remnant Massif of High Knob Landform )

October 20, 2012
Majestic Upper Falls of Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.


Many awesome scenes fill the High Knob Massif even if autumn color is now past its glorious peak.

October 20, 2012
Autumn Leaves & Light Combine At Upper Falls
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.


To see a BETTER Upper Falls shot check out this event...
The Tavern On Main in Wise will host a gallery of Roddy Addington photography during the month of November.  Everyone is invited!

October 20, 2012
Bark Camp Lake of High Knob Massif
Gorgeous Water Reflections On The Lake 
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Water reflections of autumn color are always a special treat as Mother Nature paints her picture in abstract beauty and ever changing light.

Water Elevation 2734 feet
Lingering Color Provides Special Treat
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

With a large size and vertical elevation range the timing difference in color peaks can be substantial in the massif area, and is further enhanced by vast topographic diversity and microclimates.

October 20, 2012
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Bark Camp Lake of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A satellite review from early October revealed the gorgeous colorations and differences with changing elevation and topographic setting.

( Scroll To This Section For More Details ) 


Early October 2012
A Few Nice Examples From The Same Time...

Upper Elevations
( 4223 to 3000 Feet )

Little Mountain Knob of High Knob Massif

Water Elevation 3490 feet
Upper Big Stony Creek Basin of Clinch River
High Knob Lake Basin - Little Mountain Knob

Water Elevation 3120 feet
Big Cherry Lake Basin of High Knob Massif

Northeast of Big Cherry Lake In High Knob Massif

Pickem Mountain of High Knob Massif



Middle Elevations
( 3000 to 2000 feet )

Mean Elevation 2900 feet
The Glades Wetland Valley of High Knob Massif

Water Elevation 2734 feet
Bark Camp Lake of High Knob Massif

NW of Bark Camp Lake
Wetland Valley of Little Stony Creek Basin

A Transitional Zone
From Above 3000 to Below 2000 feet
South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif



Lower Elevations
( Mostly Below 2000 feet )

Lower Big Stony Creek Basin of Clinch River

Middle Chasm of Little Stony Creek Gorge

Lower Chasm of Guest River Gorge

These satellite images represent some truly interesting and amazing color variations across the massif with changes in elevation and terrain during early October 2012 ( a new perspective ).



Cumberland Gap
National Historical Park
( NW Flank of High Knob Landform )

October 23, 2012
Panorama Of The Historic Cumberland Gap
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Looking up from below, or outward from above, autumn in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park ( NHP ) is always a grand season to enjoy.

October 23, 2012
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
Morning View From The Pinnacle Overlook
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker ( Sphyrapicus varius ) is often a winter resident in the area but has also been observed during summer in upper elevations of the High Knob Massif - Black Mountain corridor where it drills holes also used by other species.

October 20, 2012
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker ( Sphyrapicus varius )
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.



Keokee Lake
( NW Flank of High Knob Landform )

October 19, 2012
Horizontal & Vertical Lines of Autumn Color Reflections
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Mountain lakes of the High Knob Landform are colorful jewels that are to be enjoyed, respected, and protected.

October 19, 2012
Stone Mountain of High Knob Landform
Beautiful Autumn Reflections On Keokee Lake
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Colors were still beautiful near the end of last week when Harold captured these scenes in northeastern Lee County.

October 19, 2012
Water Elevation 2249 feet
Keokee Lake In Autumn 2012
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Rippling waves on the lake reveal the intricate nature of a fluid and is analogous to mountain waves and other forms in the atmosphere of air.

Keokee Lake on October 19, 2012
Intricate & Complex Ripples Of Lake Waves

Observe circular eddies embedded in the propagating field of rippling waves below.

Keokee Lake on October 19, 2012
Eddies Embedded In Field Of Waves

Reference this section to view early color changes and peak conditions across the remnant 
high country mass of High Knob:

( High Knob Massif )


( October 24, 2012 )
Storm Of A Lifetime
Historic Early Winter Storm Potential

October 24, 2012
High Resolution NASA Visible At 2:31 PM

Even if Hurricane Sandy does not become fully phased and transformed into a MEGA-Storm before Halloween, the following graphics from the ECMWF ( European ) Global Model are worth viewing to illustrate the process of how such a storm could develop ( odds now being high that it will ).

This case is a rare example of a completely warm core tropical cyclone being captured by a developing negatively tilted trough in the Polar Stream over the United States, with movement of Sandy out into the Atlantic being further hindered by 500 MB height anomalies near Greenland ( i.e., high latitude blocking ) which eventually force an inland track toward the eastern Great Lakes.

Prior to landfall, central pressure on the storm drops below 948 MB ( 28.00" ).

If the above sounds like fiction, or a nightmare scenario, consider that it may well be for many residents of the Middle Atlantic & Northeastern USA ( as time will tell in coming days ).

Click consecutively on images to put into motion

European Model Run
1200 UTC on October 24, 2012

Daily 500 MB Charts
( 500 MB Heights + Surface Pattern )

Model Initialization
8:00 AM on October 24, 2012

8:00 AM on October 25, 2012

Observe how Sandy is initially disconnected to the 500 MB flow over North America, as indicated by the height field colored contours, and how over time she becomes increasingly connected or phased into the deep USA trough which takes on a negative ( NW to SE ) tilt.

8:00 AM on October 26, 2012

8:00 AM on October 27, 2012

8:00 AM on October 28, 2012

During this phasing process, as these charts illustrate, Sandy will become transformed from a completely warm core cyclone into a hybrid ( with both warm core and extratropical characteristics ) and then to a fully cold core extratropical low pressure.

This is a potent, very explosive situation that generates what is known as bombogenesis in meteorology, with energy additions from both the warmer than average Atlantic and powerful jet stream winds aloft causing the cyclone to rapidly deepen ( grow stronger ).

8:00 AM on October 29, 2012

8:00 AM on October 30, 2012

8:00 AM on October 31, 2012



European Model Run
1200 UTC on October 24, 2012

Daily 850 MB Charts
( 850 MB Temperatures + Surface Pattern )

Model Initialization
8:00 AM on October 24, 2012

8:00 AM on October 25, 2012

8:00 AM on October 26, 2012

8:00 AM on October 27, 2012

Observe that colors on these charts denote cold air 
( blue ) and warm air ( red ), while the black lines are surface isobars.  The closer isobars are together the stronger the gradient, and the stronger air is flowing!

8:00 AM on October 28, 2012

On this model run, strong upslope flow develops along the Appalachians on NW winds and sub-freezing temperatures ( much colder wind chill factors ).

8:00 AM on October 29, 2012

A setting like this would support significant snowfall, with added moisture from the warm Great Lakes, especially across mid-upper elevations.

8:00 AM on October 30, 2012

8:00 AM on October 31, 2012

While only time will tell what truly develops, 
this setting has better than even odds given many supporting factors toward some type of major to historic storm event.

+PNA and -NAO Teleconnection Phases

-AO Teleconnection Phase

Strong negative phases of the Arctic & North Atlantic Oscillations, at least through the end of October, in combination with development of a strongly positive Pacific North American phase all support an atmosphere conducive to colder air and storminess.

A key feature, however, as I first began to write about locally on October 21-22, is anomalous 500 MB heights near Greenland which will effectively anchor the negatively tilted upper trough and block Sandy from turning out into the Atlantic Ocean.



European Model Run
1200 UTC on October 24, 2012

500 MB Height Anomalies
( Across North America )

Model Initialization
8:00 AM on October 24, 2012

8:00 AM on October 25, 2012

Observe persistently positive 500 MB height anomalies on these charts from Greenland south into northern portions of New England which create a blocking mechanism that turns Sandy westward over time.

8:00 AM on October 26, 2012

8:00 AM on October 27, 2012

8:00 AM on October 28, 2012

8:00 AM on October 29, 2012

8:00 AM on October 30, 2012

8:00 AM on October 31, 2012

It must be stressed that this is still a developing situation.  However, consider IF the storm deepens to under 950 MB that it will be much stronger than the March 1993 Superstorm and "Perfect Storm" of October 1991 ( * ).

Observed Pressures

March 1993 Superstorm
966 MB over New England

Perfect Storm of October 1991
972 MB

*Central pressure being only one of many characteristics which define any given cyclone which all tend to be different, with varying impacts and aerial coverage.



Updated --- October 27-28, 2012
Historic Winter Storm Potential
Increasing Potential of HIGH Impact - Crippling Event 

The potential for a HIGH IMPACT, crippling snowfall event is increasing with heavy snow and tropical storm to hurricane force winds ( especially in gusts at higher elevations ) causing blowing and massive drifting during October 29-30.

Nearly all global and short-range models have now come into agreement with the ECMWF Model, which for days now has been cranking out a general 12" to 18"+ of WIND DRIVEN SNOW from the High Knob Massif northeast across the eastern highlands of West Virginia.

Vertical Gridpoint Data For Wise
12z Run of NAM Model - October 27, 2012

The NAM Model above is showing some of the most severe conditions I have ever seen a model crank out, with sustained winds reaching 54 knots ( 62 MPH ) near the summit level of the High Knob Massif by 8 AM Tuesday ( 30-40 mph winds develop late Sunday ).

Vertical Gridpoint Data For Wise
12z Run of GFS Model - October 27, 2012

The GFS Model forecasts even stronger winds, with a max of 65 knots ( 75 MPH ) after sunrise on October 30.

This is only being shown to illustrate what the models are currently saying.  New runs will need to duplicate these HORRENDOUS numbers.

That would create BLIZZARD conditions with WIND DRIVEN SNOW and massive drifting across mid-upper elevations ( above 2000-3000 feet ).

In addition, of the 1.82" to 2.10" of total precipitation shown by these model runs, 1.68" to 1.81" is in the form of snow at the summit level of the High Knob Massif.  With air temps in the 20s the calculated snow density would be lower than 10:1 ( i.e., snow to water ratios higher ).

[ Snow density increases into lower elevations ].

8 AM Model Run on October 27, 2012
NAM Model 84-Hour Snowfall Forecast

The NAM Model has a known bias of placing snowfall MAXS northwest of the highest terrain in the Norton-Wise and High Knob Massif area, and tends to often greatly underestimate amounts. 

In this case, for example, snow densities will be lower than 10:1 and instead of 1.68" = 16.8" of snow it would yield a general 2 to 3 FEET.  With addition of tremendous orographic forcing, even these amounts could be too low if such heavy water equivalent numbers verify.

The ground is above freezing and its early in the season, but snow will fall so fast and heavy that major accumulations will still occur if these model runs verify.  Outside of massive drifts, the deepest snow depths will tend to accumulate on above ground objects.

In this type of setting, the Norton-Wise area could easily get more than a FOOT of snow.

Any shift NORTH in the storm track could push the heaviest snow farther northeast, as currently there is expected to be a HUGE snowfall gradient between essentially NO SNOW to stick in Knoxville, Tn., to minor accumulations in far western Lee County to 1-3+ FEET in the Norton-Wise and 
High Knob Massif area.

Another HUGE snowfall gradient will be observed with downsloping leeward of the massif and western front range of the Appalachians ( as model graphics above suggest ).


European Model Run
12z October 27, 2012

850 MB & Surface Chart
8 AM on October 28, 2012

850 MB & Surface Chart
8 AM on October 29, 2012

Development of the coldest air amid the entire storm over southwestern Virginia & southern West Virginia is 
a big concern into 8 AM on October 30 ( indicative of upward vertical motion and heavy precipitation via dynamics + STRONG orographic forcing ).

850 MB & Surface Chart
8 AM on October 30, 2012

850 MB & Surface Chart
8 AM on October 30, 2012

Confidence in a sharp WEST turn inland toward the Delmarva Region, well south of New England, has high confidence given this ECMWF run shows even better, well developed blocking to the north.

500 MB & Surface Chart
8 AM on October 28, 2012

500 MB & Surface Chart
8 AM on October 29, 2012

500 MB & Surface Chart
8 AM on October 30, 2012

500 MB & Surface Chart
8 AM on October 31, 2012

The only good news seen in this set of model data is that winds will be so strong that they will likely keep snow that is wetter and higher in density from sticking heavily to most trees at lower elevations ( where density will be highest ).  The bad news, winds will be so strong as to possibly cancel this benefit.


The Bottom line...
The potential of a HIGH IMPACT snowstorm event is increasing.  Prepare now for a possibly crippling snow and wind event during the October 29-31 period
( i.e., power outages, blocked roads, blowing & drifting ).


There will likely be some huge gradients in snowfall amounts with this event.

1 ).  Decreasing snowfall NW to W of Appalachians 
across Kentucky

2 ).  Decreasing snowfall southwest of the High Knob Massif toward western Lee County and the
       Norris Lake to Knoxville corridor

3 ).  Decreasing snowfall leeward of the High Knob Massif and western slopes of the Appalachians
       into places like the Tri-Cities, Roanoke, Charlottesville.

Otherwise, it may be "Katie bar the door."  


Note that this is not being officially forecasted.

MRX NWSFO
Evening Zone Forecast Update - October 27, 2012

The NWS Forecast Reasoning

New forecast model runs Saturday evening 
( October 27 ) held steady with little change along the Appalachians from morning runs, only small reductions in orographic forcing parameters were noted in the High Knob Massif area.

8 PM Model Run on October 27, 2012
NAM Model 84-Hour Snowfall Forecast

8 PM Model Run on October 27, 2012
GFS Model 120-Hour Snowfall Forecast

The main period of impact continuing to be from late Monday into Wednesday AM ( October 29-31 ).

As of this time ( October 27 EVE ) the only way to MISS a high impact event amid upslope zones is if the storm moves farther NORTH than models are predicting to take way the moisture field. 


**Breaking News**
Winter Storm Watches Posted

Morristown, Tn., NWSFO

Jackson, Ky., NWSFO

Charleston, Wv., NWSFO

**Winter Storm Watches were later upgraded to Blizzard Warnings along the western Appalachian front range, from Wise & Dickenson counties into West Virginia.

( An excellent decision by the RLX & MRX NWS Forecast Offices given observed developments into October 30, as will be highlighted later ).


The First Volley of Storm

October 28, 2012 at 4:15 PM
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif
Rapid Transition From Rain To Sticking Snow
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Darlene Fields took the above photograph only 15-minutes after it started snowing, with the onset of sticking being surprisingly fast.

A rapid transition from rain to wet snow occurred across upper elevations of the High Knob Massif during afternoon hours of October 28.  

Beginning first at the summit level, during 2-3 PM, the change worked its way down the massif to the High Chaparral community by 4 PM.

Elevation 3300 feet
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif
Snow Depth At 6:24 PM - October 28, 2012
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

An even 1.5" had accumulated on the measuring stick within a couple hours after sticking started.

High Knob Massif
October 28, 2012 at 6:46 PM
The First Sticking Snow Of Winter 2012-13
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

My friend & photographer Roddy Addington drove up State Route 619 from Norton and found a general 2" to 4" of snow depth.

October 28, 2012 at 6:58 PM
High Knob Massif Crest Zone
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

It got darker as Rod drove higher up into cloud bases capping the massif.

October 28, 2012
High Knob Massif Crest Zone
Beauty of First Volley From Major Winter Storm
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Lower elevations, especially below 2000 feet, had no accumulations with only rain or a rain-snow mix.  That would change for many into morning hours of October 30, 2012 amid an increasing number of power outages as the main storm event began to unfold with blizzard-like conditions.

A new section coming soon to highlight the main storm event.

Historic Winter Storm of October 2012