Saturday, December 22, 2012

Majesty Of Winter In The High Knob Massif


December 22, 2012
Powell River Watershed
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Looking Into Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Pre-Christmas Winter Storm Decorates The High Terrain
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The undulating crest of this darker mountain seen in middle foreground is Pickem Mountain, as viewed by looking upward from the City of Norton, with the sprawling mass of the High Knob high country 
spreading outward beyond it for many miles
( not visible from downtown Norton ).


December 22, 2012
Clinch River Watershed
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Winter Wonderland of High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A winter wonderland of beauty was on display across the High Knob Massif as photographer Roddy Addington captured the first rays of sunlight breaking through morning wave clouds.

December 22, 2012
Looking Into High Knob Lake Basin
Glistening Majesty Of First Rays Of Sunlight
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Rod Addington Photography

It had been a miserable period of weather in the high country dominated by ROARing winds, rain, a sharp temperature plunge, and blizzard-like snow complete with blowing and drifting.

December 22, 2012
Basin Floor Elevation 3400-3600 feet
Haven For White Christmases In Virginia
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Looking back into the late 1980s approximately 65% of Christmases have featured 1" or more of snow depth in High Knob Lake Basin.

The high terrain was wind blasted with sculptured drifts possessing distinctive textures, trending toward sastrugi in places, and local snow rollers.

December 22, 2012
High Knob Massif Crest Zone
Wind Blasted Snow Drifts With Textural Grain Lines
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

I have seen snow rollers in High Knob Meadow and other locations typically wind blasted.  These scenes are along Forest Service Route 238 ( wet, higher density snowfall is more favorable for snow roller formation ).

December 22, 2012
Remnant Massif of The High Knob Landform
Snow Drifts In Wake Of Pre-Christmas Winter Storm 
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A general 6" to 8" of snow depth accumulated along the massif, with Joe Fields measuring 6" of settled depth at his home in High Chaparral.

December 21, 2012
Half A Foot of Snow Depth In High Chaparral
Photograph by Joe Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Actual ground depths varied from near bare places to a general 1-3 feet in drifts, with some of the bigger drifts being in upper portions of 
Big Cherry Lake Basin.

Elevation 3300 feet
Home of Joe & Darlene Fields
Settled 6" Snow Depth In High Chaparral
Photograph by Joe Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Joe Carter measured 3" of snow depth by 9 AM December 21 in the City of Norton, with 2" more falling during the day at the Water Plant.

The storm water equivalent total was 1.03" to boost the 2012 precipitation tally to 64.68" in the City of Norton.

Otis & Nancy Ward measured a water equivalent total of 1.56" in the Robinson Knob community of the High Knob Massif, where 6" to 7" of snow accumulated ( with deeper depths in drifts ).

By contrast, with downsloping, the water equivalent storm total reached only 0.55" at Clintwood 1 W in Dickenson County ( with 2.2" of snowfall ).

December 22, 2012
Wind Blasted Drift Along Crest Zone
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Addison Stallard & Rodney Parsons reported 
3" to 4" snow depths from Powell Valley and Stickleyville to portions of Pennington Gap.

Roaring WSW flow dropped accumulating snow, before winds turned more WNW, to aid amounts in parts of Powell Valley and northeastern Lee County.  It also likely aided the chaotic snow depths in the massif, 
as wind directions varied but remained ROARING.

December 22, 2012
High-Eagle Gap Facing NW
Chaotic Snow Depths With Wind Blasting
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Rime was present, but not excessive, to create a truly beautiful contrast against developing azure blue skies into the afternoon.

December 22, 2012
Gorgeous Winter Conditions In The Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

With more snow coming before December ends, it will be interesting to see how much Mother Nature adds to the 40" already observed in the crest zone during this young winter season of 2012-13.

December 22, 2012
Winter Beauty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Even in winter these high mountain lakes 
are ideal for water reflections.
( at least, before they freeze over )

December 22, 2012
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Upper Norton Reservoir - Elevation 3308 feet
Water Reflections That Look Like A Waterfall
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The exceptional talent that is Roddy Addington 
has captured many awesome water reflections
during this past year.

December 16, 2012
A Recent Example Between Snows
Water Reflections Upon Bark Camp Lake
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.


Beauty Amid The Heavens
And The Arrival Of Astronomical Winter

December 20, 2012
Long Ridge of Tennessee Valley Divide
Majestic Colorations of Double Rainbows
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

My friend Wayne Riner captured a gorgeous set of double rainbows on the morning of December 20, as S-SE winds began to ROAR across the ridges.

December 20, 2012
Morning Beauty Of Colors Galore
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner is a Master of Colors, having spent much of his working career bringing textural designs alive with color.  That is, at least, partly what makes his photography special with sunrises, sunsets, rainbows, and other color contrasts filling his photographs ( which he likes to focus upon ).  

The rest of what makes it special, 
is the man himself. 

( An exceptional group of individuals )
Colorful Examples From Truly Gifted Photographers

Dual rainbows foreshadowed ROARING winds and the opening of astronomical winter, with the first significant snowfall of December 2012 
( as highlighted above ). 

Snow also accumulated in the Powell River Valley as friend and photographer Harold Jerrell highlighted in holiday style!

December 21, 2012
Silver Leaf of Powell River Valley
Northern Cardinal ( Cardinalis cardinalis )
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Virginia's State Bird always seems more striking 
against a backdrop of winter snow.

December 21, 2012
Frosty Beak Is Pretty Too!
Blue Jay ( Cyanocitta cristata )
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Wet conditions arrived just in time for the Christmas Holiday, with snow melting away from the southern slopes and exposed crestlines of the High Knob Massif.  Only colder, upper north slopes retained some snow into Christmas day.

December 24, 2012
High Knob Massif In The Clouds
Eagle Knob Communications Area On Christmas Eve
Image by Steve Blankenbecler - © All Rights Reserved.

Shortly after the big day, amid ROARING winds, rain changed to wet snow and the crest zone was again transformed into a Winter Wonderland during December 26-27.

December 27, 2012
Winter Wonderland Returns
Eagle Knob Communications Area 
Image by Steve Blankenbecler - © All Rights Reserved.

The December 25-27 storm was a powerhouse with strong winds enhancing orographics to produce heavy rain that ended as upper elevation snow.  

Superintendent Andrew Greear of the City of Norton Water Plant reported a storm precipitation total of 1.61", and 2" of snow accumulation at the Norton Reservoirs, into AM hours of December 27 ( locally 2-3" of snow fell above the 3300 foot level of the lakes ).

This boosted the 2012 precipitation tally to 
66.66" in the City of Norton.


Winter Majesty Closes 2012

December 29, 2012
Winter Wonderland Conditions On High Knob
Photograph by Grant Stanley - © All Rights Reserved.


Photographer Grant Stanley of Wise caught a lull in the latest winter storm and captured a gorgeous set of scenes during December 29. 

Complimenting the work of his friend and photographer Roddy Addington, Grant's beautiful photographs are a perfect addition to this Holiday section featuring Winter Majesty in the high country of the High Knob Massif.

December 29, 2012
High Knob Massif Crest Zone
Drifting Snow & Rime Coated Trees
Photograph by Grant Stanley - © All Rights Reserved.


A burst of predawn snow produced 1" to 3" of accumulation above 3000 feet in the High Knob Massif by shortly after sunrise on December 29, adding to snow already on the ground at highest elevations southeast to southwest of Norton.

December 29, 2012
High Knob Massif Crest Zone
Wind Scoured Roadway ( Before NW Flow Snow )
Photograph by Grant Stanley - © All Rights Reserved.

Conditions turned wicked during evening hours 
of December 29 as snow squalls and a notable snowstreak created blizzard conditions at times amid a surge of Great Lake moisture.

December 29, 2012
Chestnut Flats of High Knob Massif
Clinch Ranger District of Jefferson National Forest
Photograph by Grant Stanley - © All Rights Reserved.

New snowfall accumulations of 2" to 4"+ occurred with squalls and NW Upslope Flow during evening hours of December 29, boosting storm totals into the 4" to 8" range at elevations above 3000 feet 
( the heaviest snow falling in the main crest zone from Bowman Mountain across High Knob, 
Camp Rock, Little Mountain & Big Cherry Basin ).

December 29, 2012
Remnant Massif of High Knob Landform
Snow Blasted Trees By Strong Winds
Photograph by Grant Stanley - © All Rights Reserved.

Joe Carter measured 2" of snow at the City of Norton Water Plant where the water equivalent total reached 0.41" ( 67.07" in 2012 ).

December 30, 2012
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Rime Capped Grindstone Dome Above Powell Valley
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Clouds hung low through morning hours of December 30, with heavy snow and rime above the rugged band of calcareous cliffs ringing the great 
High Knob Massif standing in rather bold contrast to the lighter snow of the Valley floor.

Morning of December 30, 2012
Along The Trail of The Lonesome Pine
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Eye popping winter wonderland conditions, and a snowpack snow glare to boot, emerged atop the high country by afternoon hours as clouds dissipated from the top downward!

Afternoon of December 30, 2012
Eagle Knob Communications Area
Image by Steve Blankenbecler - © All Rights Reserved.



Climate Statistics
For December 2012

December 31, 2012
Last Sunrise of 2012 - Majesty Above The Highlands
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"The quiet morning sunrise displayed a vertical shaft of light sometimes referred to as a "sun pillar".  The darker colors and increasing clouds 
are soon to give way to rain and possibly snow."

( Lower Elevations of Russell Fork Basin )
Clintwood 1 W - Elevation 1560 feet
Average Daily MAX: 49.3 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 28.6 degrees
MEAN: 39.0 degrees
Highest Temperature: 68 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 16 degrees
Total Precipitation: 3.90"
Total Snowfall: 3.4"

( Northern Base of High Knob Massif )
City of Norton - Elevation 2141 feet
Average Daily MAX: 46.2 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 28.2 degrees
MEAN: 37.2 degrees
Highest Temperature: 65 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 17 degrees
Total Precipitation: 6.26"
Total Snowfall: 8.0"

( Along the Tennessee Valley Divide )
Nora 4 SSE - Elevation 2650 feet
Average Daily MAX: 45.3 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 33.2 degrees
MEAN: 39.2 degrees
Highest Temperature: 63 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 18 degrees
Total Precipitation: 4.09"
Total Snowfall: 3.6"

In the High Knob Massif mean December temps varied from around 40 degrees by day at highest elevations to 20s at night in colder basins 
( around 30 on exposed ridges ).

A general 6.00" to 7.00"+ of water equivalent precipitation fell across the massif in December, 
to include 12" to 18"+ of snowfall above 3000 feet.

A total of 10 days with 1" or more of snow depth was observed on northern slopes in High Knob Lake Basin 
( 26 days for the season through December 31 ).

December 30, 2012
View Across Powell Valley from Overlook
Looking Toward Sunlit Slopes of Powell Mountain Block
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.



Climate Statistics
For The Year of 2012

February 12, 2012
Large Snow Drifts In High Knob Massif Crest Zone
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

( Lower Elevations of Russell Fork Basin )
Clintwood 1 W - Elevation 1560 feet
Average Daily MAX: 66.0 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 41.5 degrees
2012 MEAN: 53.8 degrees
Highest Temperature: 97 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 8 degrees
Total Precipitation: 44.18"
Total Snowfall: 35.0"

( Northern Base of High Knob Massif )
City of Norton - Elevation 2141 feet
Average Daily MAX: 63.8 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 39.8 degrees
2012 MEAN: 51.8 degrees
Highest Temperature: 97 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 7 degrees
Total Precipitation: 67.07"
Total Snowfall: 52.2"

( Along the Tennessee Valley Divide )
Nora 4 SSE - Elevation 2650 feet
Average Daily MAX: 62.3 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 45.8 degrees
2012 MEAN: 54.0 degrees
Highest Temperature: 97 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 7 degrees
Total Precipitation: 45.43"
Total Snowfall: 44.7"

In the High Knob Massif, above 2700 feet, temps during 2012 generally varied from mid-upper 50s by day at highest elevations to the 30s and lower 40s at night ( lower 40s on exposed crestlines ).

The year of 2012 was warmer than average throughout the region, with March and December having the largest local above average departures.

Abundant precipitation dominated the year with general 60.00" to 70.00"+ totals throughout the High Knob Massif lifting zone ( which included 
Big Stone Gap, Appalachia, Coeburn & Norton ).  

Notable exceptions to wetness occurred in June and November which featured much below average precipitation.

The wettest 65.00" to 70.00"+ totals occurred 
from the City of Norton into its high country.

December 16, 2012
Bark Camp Lake of High Knob Massif
Zeke Playing With A Bug On Mossy Rock
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Robinson Knob of High Knob Massif
Monthly Precipitation Totals For 2012
Observers: Otis & Nancy Ward
Elevation 3240 feet

January: 4.19"

February: 5.96"

March: 7.20"

April: 4.39"

May: 3.42"

June: 3.07"

July: 14.18"

August: 7.41"

September: 6.25"

October: 4.20"

November: 0.86"

December: 6.79"

TOTAL: 67.92" ( M )

2011 Total: 81.14" ( M )

2-Year Average: 74.53" ( M )

( M ) - Indicates missing moisture in deep falls of snow on the
4"-diameter NWS rain gauge [ up to 2.00"+ of estimated water equivalent was lost in 2012 amid significant winter storms
during February & October ( actual 2012 total was 70.00"+ ) ].

January 14, 2012
High Knob Massif Crest Zone
Rime Coated In The High Knob High Country
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Snowfall totals during 2012 varied from 50" to 100"+ within the lifting zone of the High Knob Massif, with large variations in the vertical as elevation & exposure changed.

High Knob Massif Snowfall
During The Year of 2012

50" to 55" at 2000 to 2342 feet
*( City of Norton )

65" to 70"+ at 3000 to 3300 feet
( High Chaparral - Robinson Knob Area )

100" to 110"+ above 3600 feet
( Main Crest Zone of Massif )

*A general 55" to 60" of snow observed in Wise.

While observations since the 1980's reveal that snowfall increases from the City of Norton to the summit level of the High Knob Massif can be nearly linear under ideal situations, often differences skew away from linearity into highest elevations which occasionally have snow that does not accumulate below 3500 feet.

Indigenous High Knob Massif forcing also occasionally works to enhance snow amounts amid the main crest zone, as exemplified by TIM Circulations and 
SW Upslope Flow Snowfalls ( not shown ).



Elevation Contrasts Open New Year

Depending upon which way the wind blows, literally, snowfall and snow depth differences are often dramatic in the High Knob Massif area.

Elevation 4189 feet
Afternoon of January 2, 2013
Eagle Knob Communications Area In Icy Clouds
Image by Steve Blankenbecler - © All Rights Reserved.

Snow depths are greatest across the northern slopes ( not shown ).

Granted there had been much melting of snow since December 30, 2012 with above freezing temps and mostly rain prior to a blustery temp drop late on New Year's Day ( even at the summit ).

Elevation 3300 feet
Afternoon of January 2, 2013
Icy Conditions In High Chaparral of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

My friend Darlene Fields showed icy conditions in High Chaparral where all forms of precipitation fell to start the new year ( note snow was less deep than in the main crest zone above, but much more than observed by Roddy upon the adjacent 
high valley floor at Bark Camp Lake ).

The Mountain Empire of the Southern Appalachians has been caught amid the dreaded transition zone during the past two weeks, making precip types problematic, with snow biased toward upper elevations.

Mixed precipitation and rain dominated the first system of the new year, even at highest elevations 
( thus significant melting amid the clouds ).

Elevation 2734 feet
Afternoon of January 2, 2013
Bark Camp Lake of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The 12" to 18"+ of snowfall since December 21, above 3000 feet, had also been much less at lower elevations with no snow remaining on slopes along the base near Coeburn ( Guest River Valley ).

Elevation 2000 feet
Afternoon of January 2, 2013
Northern Slopes of Sprawling High Knob Massif
Looking Upward Into Icy Clouds From Coeburn
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Looking up into the massif from Coeburn found elevations above 3000 feet obscured by icy clouds during daylight hours of January 2, with increasing amounts of snow depth upward into the clouds!


Drought Dominates Virginia
( East Of High Knob Landform )


A truly amazing decrease in 2012 precipitation amounts east of the High Knob Landform has much of Virginia in drought conditions.

Virginia Drought Watch - DEQ Website
Virginia Basins From The USGS

Some portions of Virginia are in moderate to extreme drought conditions, especially amid the James, Chowan, and Roanoke drainage basins.

Summary Of 2011 Precipitation Totals

In reality, precipitation differences across Virginia in 2012 were not much different from 2011 when drier places in the state also had 40.00"+ less than observed within the High Knob Massif.  

The entire state was just wetter during 2011
( at least on average ).

I have always found it interesting that unless there is drought, a flood, or snow on the ground, most of these huge precipitation differences simply go un-noticed by most as they travel across the terrain.

There was a huge difference in precipitation locally during 2012 between Clintwood ( 44.18" ) and the City of Norton ( 67.07" ), but it generally was not noticed ( despite it being common in the mean ).

To put that difference in better perspective, Norton Water Plant had measured more precipitation by 9:00 AM on August 6 than Clintwood 1 W had all year.  So it would be analogous to Norton going from August 5-6 through December 31 with NO more precipitation 
( going 147 days with no precipitation ).

In other words, I think this huge difference in precipitation would have been noticed if Norton had went from before 9 AM on August 6 through December 31 without nary a drop of precipitation.  

In fact, I bet it would be FRONT PAGE news and that a DROUGHT emergency would be ON!

The bottom line, individuals and communities adjust to the climate they live in over time just as plants and animals adapt to it and depend upon its differences ( i.e., its climatic gradients ).  

Communities may not notice, or even take for granted, huge climate gradients while plants and animals thrive upon them to form the basis of extraordinary biological diversity ( biodiversity ).

Scroll Down To Ecology-Biodiversity For A Few Examples

 One of the key objectives of this website is to bring forth, into plain view, these differences which may not be noticed in the mean, such that for the good of all a more complete understanding and appreciation can be gained for this amazing area in which we are so blessed to live.

This page is under construction.  Check back for updates.

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