Saturday, February 27, 2016

February 2016 Majesty In High Knob Massif


February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Rime Against Pristine Blue Skies
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

In order to truly appreciate the beauty of these rimed trees it
is best to view these photographs in a dark or dimly lit room.

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The Appalachian Climate Center

Conditions were simply pristine atop the sprawling 
High Knob Massif after morning clouds dissipated on February 27.  Although snow had settled and was melting, with rime having dropped at lower elevations, the crest zone held on to enough to generate pure majesty against deep blue skies.

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Rime Against Pristine Blue Skies
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

If you want to take really pretty photographs in conditions like this it is best to use a high quality circular polarizing filter ( one that will not degrade your picture quality ).  This helps accentuate blueness in the sky and is maximized the closer you can shoot with the sun directly to your back.

The magnitude of "blueness" can also be controlled, of course, by rotating the filter as you shoot scenes at different angles.

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Rime Against Pristine Blue Skies
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Higher altitudes also help accentuate 
the blue in weather conditions like this.

Along Route 238
February 27, 2016
Winter Majesty In High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 27, 2016
Looking To Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Observe significant rime on towers within
the Eagle Knob Communications Complex.

February 27, 2016
Looking To Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Looking ESE To Brumley & Russell-Beartown
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Rime could be seen on the higher sections of Brumley Mountain, above Hansonville, and also along the crest of Russell-Beartown Mountain to the northeast.

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Looking ESE To Brumley & Beartown Mountains
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Rime Against Pristine Blue Skies
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Snow Drifts In Northern Hardwood Forest
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Snow drifts lee of the high crest lines were widespread and generally 8" to 16" in depth, despite significant settlement during the past couple of days.

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Snow Drifts In Northern Hardwood Forest
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

These snow depths were down from approximate 
1-2 foot drifts and general 5" to 7" depths ( around 0.68" was estimated from a snow core to have fallen during the snow ).

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Snow Glare In High Knob Meadow
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Snow glare was notable at ground level in some directions to contrast with the pristine blue to almost blackness of the sky directly above 
and opposite the sun.

February 27, 2016
Snow Glare Along High Ridges
Snow Covered Head of Big Cherry Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Rime Against Pristine Blue Skies
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 27, 2016
High Knob Lookout Tower
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

It was cold and gusty in the Lookout, with 8" of snow along the wall leading into the tower.  I am waiting to get a photograph of the entire inside of the tower full of snow ( getting there then 
becomes the main problem! ).

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Rime Against Pristine Blue Skies
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A nearly black sky created with the polarizing filter, and the sun directly behind my back, helped set the rime against a poster-like background.

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Rime Against Pristine Blue Skies
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Rime Against Pristine Blue Skies
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 27, 2016
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Rime Against Pristine Blue Skies
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 27, 2016
Amid Morning Light
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Whitewater Cascade On Benges Branch
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

I started the morning by shooting cascading whitewater on Benges Branch, where water continues to gush downward out of the high country.

February 27, 2016
Amid Morning Light
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Whitewater Cascade On Benges Branch
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

I shot the whitewater while waiting on my friend and photographer Bill Harris to arrive from Big Stone Gap, for our trip on upwards into the rime zone!

February 27, 2016
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Whitewater Cascades On Benges Branch
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

We found some diverse scenes, including icicles longer than I am tall hanging off cliffs between the peak of High Knob and Camp Rock Meadow.

February 27, 2016
Between High Knob and Camp Rock
Large Icicles On Cliffs Along State Route 619
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 27, 2016
Between High Knob and Camp Rock
Large Icicles On Cliffs Along State Route 619
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 27, 2016
Between High Knob and Camp Rock
Large Icicles On Cliffs Along State Route 619
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 27, 2016
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Whitewater Cascades On Benges Branch
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The City of Norton decided to open the gate to their Flag Rock Recreation Area, so Bill & I stopped for a few afternoon shots.  Snow was melting fast below 3000-3300 feet in elevation.

February 27, 2016
Flag Rock Recreation Area of City of Norton
Stone-Pickem Mountain of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Whitewater could be heard gushing out of Benges Basin, below this Overlook, as it drained downward from the Dual Norton Reservoirs ( enhanced, of course, by melting snow ).

February 27, 2016
Big Stony Creek Basin of Clinch River
Head of Mountain Fork of Big Stony Creek
 Eagle Knob From High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The main stem of a 41.9 square mile multi-gorge wonder originates above, in the High Knob Lake Basin, with a stream gauge in lower sections of the 13 mile stream course, in northern Scott County, on Big Stony Creek serving as a nice guide for run-off from the many steep creeks draining the massif.


Following the end of a very mild and nearly snow free December few would have believed that the January-February period of 2016 might rival the 84" of snow observed last winter ( during the 
January-February 2015 period ). 

*Most of the snowfall last winter coming via a barrage in February 2015, with approximately 73.0" of snow falling atop the High Knob Massif ( with mean snow depth reaching around 4 feet ).  The final 2014-15 seasonal snowfall total being around 125.0" .


This winter featured much more January snowfall and about 40" of February snow ( vs. 73" last Feb ) with melting in between months, instead of one long and massive release of melt water.

This winter has been significantly wetter than last winter, when adding in rainfall, such that whitewater has been gushing more often than not since late November 2015 ( as the prior graph indicates ).

February 27, 2016
Little Mountain of High Knob Massif
Shadows Across Snow Along State Route 619 
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Winter Majesty In High Knob Massif - Feb 2016


February 17, 2016
High Knob Massif
Snow-Rime And Frozen Lake Surface
Winter Majesty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Conditions were simply spectacular amid upper elevations in the High Knob Massif during the late afternoon hours of February 17, following the latest winter storm and prolonged rime formation.



The Appalachian Climate Center

February 17, 2016
High Knob Massif
Snow-Rime And Frozen Lake Surface
Winter Majesty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

It has been another wet winter in the High Knob Massif with a general 22.00" to 24.00"+ of total precipitation ( rain+frozen forms ) during the December 1 to February 16 period.  

Big Cherry Lake Dam
Monthly Precipitation Totals
Observer: Gary Hampton
Water Elevation 3120 feet

2015

January: 2.87"

February: 8.07"

March: 8.13"

April: 6.13"

May: 1.51"

June: 5.73"

July: 10.01"

August: 3.70"

September: 6.06"

October: 7.21"

November: 4.81"

December 10.45"

2015 Total: 74.68"

2016

*January: 7.43"

*February 1-16: 5.03"

2016 Total: 12.46"
( January 1 to February 16 )

December 1-February 16: 22.91"
( Average Per Month: 8.81" )

Orographic Forcing Season: 34.93"
( October 1, 2015 to February 16, 2016 )

Total Past 12-Months: 79.24" ( M )
( February 2015 - January 2016 )

( * ) - Indicates total is a combination of hand-measured rain
gauge totals and snow core data.  Approximately 8.70" fell in
the heads of Big Cherry Lake & High Knob Lake basins during
the month of January 2016.

( M ) - Indicates missing data due to evaporation between
hand-measurements throughout the year and from losses in
deep snowfall during the cold season.

The Big Stony Creek stream gage graph reveals how winter wetness has kept the whitewater rolling out of the high country of the High Knob Massif.

December 1 to February 16
Big Stony Creek Stream Gage

Melt water from significant snowpacks has dominated the flow since January 24, with early February rain also helping to extend the run-off period ( whitewater gushing in the 2-3 foot range and pounding the ground at levels near and above the Red Alert Stage of 4 feet ).

January 24 to February 16
Big Stony Creek Stream Gage

February 17, 2016
High Knob Massif
Slick Road Conditions In Upper Elevations
State Route 619 At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

State Route 619 was in good condition up to below the Flag Rock Recreation Area intersection, above which it became increasingly snow-ice covered.

Late Afternoon of February 17, 2016
Near Boat Launch - Water Elevation 3318 feet
Winter Majesty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Upper Elevations of Benges Basin
Winter Majesty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Moisture was still being extracted from 
clouds at upper elevations in sub-freezing air.

February 17, 2016
Water Elevation 3318 feet
Water Capturing Wonder of High Knob Massif
Frozen Lake Surface And Orographic Clouds
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A general 4" to 12"+ of snow depth remains above 2500 feet, so there is much water yet to be released into steep creeks draining the great massif.

February 17, 2016
Water Elevation 3318 feet
Water Capturing Wonder of High Knob Massif
Frozen Lake Surface And Orographic Clouds
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Upper Elevations of Benges Basin
Winter Majesty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Upper Elevations of Benges Basin
Winter Majesty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Upper Elevations of Benges Basin
Winter Majesty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Upper Elevations of Benges Basin
Winter Majesty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Upper Elevations of Benges Basin
Winter Majesty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Upper Elevations of Benges Basin
Winter Majesty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Upper Elevations of Benges Basin
Winter Majesty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Upper Elevations of Benges Basin
Winter Majesty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The riming level dropped down to near the base of the massif along northern slopes during this event, with rime formation in the Town of Wise remaining well into the day before dropping off trees.

February 17, 2016
Town of Wise, Virginia
Morning Rime On The Wise Plateau
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

By late afternoon trees at stream level in Legion Park were mostly free of rime, but barely as the riming was visible on all sides just above the whitewater creeks.

February 17, 2016
Middle Elevations
City of Norton Watershed and Park
Beauty Along Legion Park-Flag Rock Trail
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

During the summer breeding season this is a good area 
to hear Veery Thrushes ( Catharus fuscescens ) singing at atypically low elevations, amid drainages that funnel cold air downward from upper elevations in the High Knob Massif.

February 17, 2016
Along Legion Park Trail
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Whitewater Rolls On Robinette Branch
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Beautiful Yellow Birch, lichens covered Beech and mossy spirals of dead Canadian Hemlock trees are along the Legion Park trail which runs along a nice whitewater creek draining extreme western sections of Benges Basin.

February 17, 2016
Middle Elevations of Benges Basin
Beautiful Yellow Birch ( Betula alleghaniensis )
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Along Legion Park Trail
Mossy Hemlock Tree Spiral Across Creek
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Middle Elevations of Benges Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Beautiful Yellow Birch In Northern Woods
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Middle Elevations
City of Norton Watershed and Park
Beauty Along Legion Park-Flag Rock Trail
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Middle Elevations
City of Norton Watershed and Park
Beauty Along Legion Park-Flag Rock Trail
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 17, 2016
Powell River Watershed of High Knob Massif
Whitewater On Robinette Branch of Benges Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved