Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter Wonderland - Early December 2009

High Knob Massif - December 6, 2009
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The High Knob Landform

The first significant snow event of the 2009-10 winter season spread a sparkling blanket of pristine whiteness across the rugged mountain landscape during December 5th.

James Bolling measured 6" snow depths on Little Mountain of the High Knob Massif, above lovely Big Cherry Lake, with drifts to 14" 

Snowfall totals of 6-7"+ were common at higher elevations of the massif, above 3200 feet, with local drifting.

RIME & Hoar Frost combined with snowfall to transform the High Knob highcountry into a true and ultimate wonderland of wintry scenes, as so beautifully captured by photographer Roddy Addington on the morning of December 6.

Winter Wonderland of Crystals - High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

As skies cleared temperatures plunged to frigid levels over the snowpack, with single digits and teens being felt by sunrise on December 6.

The coldest conditions developing in high basins of the massif, with valley floors sitting at 2400 to 3600 feet above sea level, such that every bit of moisture became part of a world of frozen crystals!

Crystalline Majesty Amid Frigid Conditions
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Viewed up close, crystalline swirls around a stem take on forms of miniature Christmas Trees made of frozen water vapor.

Simply incredible!

Christmas Trees In ICE - High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The true, awesome beauty of winter in the highcountry takes on so many amazing forms. 

It's pure MAGIC.

Consider, for example, this truly magnificent transformation of an umbel of a former wildflower that has seemingly been brought back to life by a crown of crystalline jewels!

High Knob Massif
Crown of Crystalline Jewels - December 6
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

RIME was again on stunning display amid early morning light, encasing otherwise ulgy stems in dazzling beauty.

Dazzling Rime In Early Morning Light - High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The December 5th snowfall event was fast moving with generally light winds that acted to reduce orographic forcing, riming, and drifting of snow ( although significant across the highlands ).

An important factor during this episode was infiltration of cold air into windward facing slopes and crestlines of the great High Knob Landform and Tennessee Valley Divide.

The result was ALL snow, even amid the lowest valleys, from the High Knob Massif northward into lower and middle elevations of Wise & Dickenson counties.

[ By contrast, warmer temperatures leeward of the High Knob Landform, and some of its high crestlines, allowed precip to begin as rain within portions of the Clinch and Powell River valleys, in locations such as Duffield, Jonesville, and Fort Blackmore ].

Wintry beauty was captured amid the highlands of southern Dickenson County by photographer Wayne Riner, where 5" of snow depth were measured on Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge.

Wintry Beauty In Highlands Of Dickenson County
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

For those not familiar with the great High Knob Landform, and its adjoining Tennessee Valley Divide, the following photo by Wayne Riner truly exemplifies the sheer STEEPness of terrain within this portion of the southern Appalachians!

Old Metal Barn - Riner Farm - December 5, 2009
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

[ How about climbing up and down that slope EVERY day?  No, we are NOT one short-legged hillbillies.  We are very PROUD and independently tough-minded MOUNTAINEERS! ].

A scene of great autumn beauty which was so gorgeously captured during October 2009 was duplicated at Smith Cemetery on Long Ridge during December 5.

Smith Cemetery on Long Ridge - December 5, 2009
 Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

To refresh your memory, as to what this exact same scene looked like during October, please reference the following section of my website: .

Scroll down to Outside The Lifting Zone, and look at the first photograph entitled: "Golden Maples and Yellow Poplars."

[ Perhaps we may get Wayne to also take a view of this during Spring and Summer, for a composite of the four distinct seasons which makes this part of the world so amazing! ].

As you view this pictorial history of the December 5th event, something very interesting emerges for those with sharp eyes!

Trees across the highlands of southern Dickenson County are largely devoid of snow, with only those most sheltered from the wind sporting a coating 
( such as those on the leeside of ridges ).

Lying within the 2500-3000 foot elevation zone, or in the middle elevations, the highlands of southern Dickenson are generally below the RIME formation zone during many events.

Gusty winds, like those which howl across the High Knob Massif, are thus able to efficiently blow snow off most tree branches amid these middle elevations along the Tennessee Valley Divide 
( in contrast to upper elevations in the High Knob Massif, where RIME simply increases with increasing wind ).

This once again illustrates the difference between RIME and SNOW, as rime thrives in wind, growing into it with great vigor as air flow becomes stronger and more moist.

[ Long Ridge and adjacent locations along the Tennessee Valley Divide, such as the Wise Plateau, get into the RIME formation zone occasionally when cloud bases drop very low in sub-freezing air for prolonged periods of time.

During many events, however, the rime formation zone remains at elevations of 3000 feet or above ].

In mountain valleys, north of the High Knob Landform, the lack of wind allowed snow to thickly coat trees along rivers in northern portions of Dickenson County.

Reflections of Snow - December 5, 2009
 Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Sheltered mountain ridges in the lee of Pine Mountain, seen stretching along the horizon of northwestern Dickenson County in Roddy's photograph below, were also heavily coated with snow.

Pine Mountain of the Cumberlands - December 5, 2009
 Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

[ Thus, a rather interesting distribution occurred from TOP to BOTTOM, with RIME coated trees above 3000 feet, mostly bare trees between 2000-3000 feet, and snow coated trees below 2000 feet ].

A rather classic country scene, typical of our rustic mountain heritage, was captured in the historic Skeetrock community of Dickenson.

Classic Mountain Charm - Skeetrock Community
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A few December 5th snow reports included:

Flatwoods of Lee County: 2" depth

Town of Haysi: 3" depth

Pound: 3" depth

Clintwood 1 W: 4.1" ( 3-4" depths )

Head of Powell Valley: 4" depth

City of Norton: 5.0" ( 4-5" depths )

Town of Wise: 3-5"+ depths

Nora 4 SSE: 5.4" ( local drifts on Long Ridge )

Little Black Mountain: 5" depth ( VA-KY border )

High Knob Massif: 5-7"+ ( drifts to 14"+ )

As the weather pattern began to transition toward another MAJOR storm system, with HIGH winds and heavy rainfall, a simply STUNNING array of cloud formations were captured above Wallen Ridge in Lee County by Harold Jerrell.

Morning Sky Above Wallen Ridge - December 7, 2009
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

These supremely majestic colorations decorated the sky above Wallen Ridge just long enough to allow Harold to capture a series of absolutely incredible scenes!

Supreme Skies - Lee County of High Knob Landform
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Are these not just heavenly!

Heavenly Skies - Lee County - December 7
  Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

That shot is a KEEPER!

A special thanks to everyone who measured snow depths during this event and, of course, to each of the fantastic photographers who made this update so glorious!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Special Edition: The Mountain & The Man

High Knob Massif
Early Autumn In Head of Powell Valley
Photograph by Dan Weemhoff - © All Rights Reserved.

This photograph is of a great mountain, which rises above a man who knows it in a way unlike anyone alive today. 

He's lived beneath it nearly his entire life, and portions of the Valley spreading out from it's great mass have been in his family for more than 166 years!

A portion of the great high country sprawling outward beyond this lofty crestline, visible in the above photograph, can be seen below in this wonderful panorama by Dan Weemhoff ( * ).

*Who would ever imagine that all this below, and SO MUCH more, is beyond the crestline seen above?

The High Knob High Country
Looking Across Grindstone Ridge & Big Cherry Basin
Photograph by Dan Weemhoff - © All Rights Reserved.

In years past, this used to be 
the stomping ground of The Man!

This website does not typically recognize the birthdays of family and friends, although all are treasured and respected.

It is not every day, however, that a friend turns 90 YEARS of
age and has such a strong connection to the High Knob Landform.

This is a special tribute to:
Addison M. Stallard.

I really am not certain, even after all these years, of what the "M" stands for.  Perhaps, Methuselah, now that he's turning the BIG 90 on December 7, 2009!

All I know for certain, is that it stands for "My Friend."

Addison is a very POSITIVE influence in my life and has made the world around him a much better place.

That is the greatest tribute which can be bestowed 
upon anyone, since ultimately it matters not how much money you have or what rank you hold in society.

What matters, plain and simple, is that this world 
( around YOU ) is left a BETTER PLACE for YOU having lived.  Addison is an exemplary example from which we all may learn this most vital principle of human life.

If your life has not been what you wanted it to be, TODAY is a new day!  Everyone has special gifts, whether they are recognized or not, which make them UNIQUE.

Discover those gifts and use them to make the world around YOU a better place.  They may seem so little, 
but ultimately mean so very much to someone, or something. 

Addison and his truly beloved Elizabeth are simply extraordinary folks, as anyone fortunate enough to know them can testify.

Elizabeth lived a while in Lee County, Va., before moving with her family into the Head of Powell Valley in Wise County at the sweet age of 15 
( time has only made her sweeter ).

Addison was not living in "The Valley" at the time Elizabeth initially moved there.  He had moved to another state with his family, after being born and raised in The Valley. 

Upon a return visit to see his Grandparents the beauty of The Mountain, The Valley, and the new "Girl Next Door" could simply never again be let go from his heart! 

Elizabeth & Addison both have strong, deep roots in the High Knob Landform that extend back to its original settlers, as noted in opening remarks.

The best way for those not knowing this Man, and the Mountain above, is to hear him speak in HIS OWN words via a composite of speeches he's given to various groups over the years ( ** ).

**I have selected portions from his speeches which I think will give you a feeling for why I have come to love this man, and to respect his life and wisdom so very much.

In these words you will learn of this wonderful man and his loves for this magnificent mountain landscape and his sweet Elizabeth, whose life ultimately made this tribute possible!

All the words below belong to Addison.  Only a few numbers have been changed to reflect the passing of time since these words were publicly spoken by THE MAN!

The Spoken Words of 
Addison Stallard

Addison Stallard
Photograph by Wayne Browning

Isaac Willis was my great-great-grandfather. Ora Willis Gilly was my great-grandmother and I was privileged to meet her once, when I was very young. 
I remember that occasion very well. 
She lived to be near 95 years of age.

Her son, George Melvin Gilly, was my grandfather. I was born in his home. He influenced my life more than any other individual. He taught me so much. And though he has been gone 62 years, it is the rare day when I do not mention his name. Elizabeth says he will continue to live as long as I live.

I was born in the Valley and have never been happy when away from it. Though others have had title to most of the land, 
it has seemed like mine.

As a boy, I roamed and hunted over all 
of it without needing to ask permission. 
It belonged in the family!  They hunted on our land without asking.

As a boy, I could start at the eastern boundary of the golf course and walk, 
hunt or fish almost to the present quarry, without stepping on land that did not belong to a Jones, Willis, Collier, or Gilly.

As one drives up the new four-lane 
( U.S. 23 ) highway from Big Stone Gap toward Norton, Powell Mountain is on the right and Stone Mountain ( Little Stone Mountain ) on the left. There are those who will not consciously see either mountain. They will look ahead and think only of their destination. Others will observe the Valley and the mountain beyond, and admire what they see.

Some will stop at the scenic overlook and enjoy the view without knowing who lives in the houses below, or anything about the small church. They may not see the little creek which divides the Valley. They will snap their pictures and drive away.

As Elizabeth and I drive up this highway, 
I look at the Valley and then the mountain. I see things which probably no other eyes see. I see Sheep Gap and Beaver Dam Gap, Beaver Dam spring, where I've camped many times, the Jake place and the 
Jake spring.

As we continue, my mind's eye sees the hickory orchard, with its two-or-three-acre stand of giant Shagbark Hickory trees. A dim path, which may not be visible to other eyes, passes through trees which may no longer be standing, but still are in the corners of my memory.

The path winds around above the head of Sugar Camp Hollow where, in years long past, maple sap was boiled down to become maple syrup and maple sugar.

I see outlines of what once was Uncle Creed Collier's mountain pasture, now overgrown with trees & bushes. I wonder if the clear, cold spring still bubbles up from between the roots of the large ash tree in the pasture. Probably not; the tree may 
be long gone.

My eyes pass over Uncle A Collier's cold spring. As mentioned earlier, he owned the farm adjacent to my grandparent's property.

As a boy of 7 or 8, I would travel out our dug road, past the "far spring," through our woodland and down the steep hill to where he lived. His unmarried daughter, Nannie, had remained with him.

We would sit before the fireplace in winter and he would tell me hunting tales. In summer the canopy of wild plum trees in his front yard provided a resting place.

When milking time was near, I'd go with him to bring in the cows, then I'd climb the hill, walk through the woods, go past the far spring, out the dug road, wash up and eat my evening meal, usually milk and cornbread. Grandma's molasses stack cake or apple pie were always there if one desired dessert.

As Elizabeth drives, if I look quickly I can catch a glimpse of my grandparent's home, and if one knows when and where to look, the High Knob Tower ( before it's burning ) may be seen.

If we stop at the Powell Valley Overlook, I see much of that which others have seen, except I know something about the people in the houses.

I know the history of the small Presbyterian Church which I helped to build, and in which Elizabeth and I worked so hard for so many years. Our children grew up in that church.

As I think back 76 years, the scene below changes. Green corn fields and blue-gray oat fields appear. Wood smoke drifts up from the cooking fires as farm wives prepare the next meal. I visualize the winding, willow-lined creek with deep holes at every bend, washed out by current fed by spring rains, holes in which a boy could take a cooling dip after he filled his stringer with suckers and redeyes, with an occasional bass if he was lucky.

Long ago farmers cut the willows, dredged the creek and straightened it so there would be no more bends and deep holes. And why not? They needed the land for their crops, rather than a place for boys to fish and skinny-dip.

With no bend or deep holes to impede its progress, the water now swiftly goes its way and the creek is little more than a ditch.

The enitre Valley floor is as familiar to me as my own fields. I've tramped every acre, sometimes with bird dogs or Beagle hounds, other times with a fishing pole or just to be roaming about.

As I lift my eyes once more to the mountain I see not an inanimate object as one would see a pyramid or a monument or statue, but I see a living thing! The mountain changes shapes, colors, moods. She sometimes flexes her muscles and sends large boulders crashing down from the cliffs into the trees below.

Her moods are at times bright and cheery, sometimes somber, even brooding. She may don a crystal cap embedded with countless jewels which sparkle with an unbelievable brilliance as she is greeted with a kiss from the morning sun. She may wave and sing as breezes play through her ledges and dance through her treetops. Or she may show anger as high winds lash the trees and roar through the cliffs.

In spring the mountain dresses from the bottom up. The green begins outside our window; the maples in the field above show pink. The green slowly creeps up the slopes and when it leaps over the cliffs, our spirits soar with it, for then Spring has truly arrived, and if the Wood Thrush is not already on the hill behind the barn, she will not be far behind.

In summer the mountain is dressed in numerous shades of green. These difference shades show where the tulip poplars, oaks, beeches and lindens grow.

Fall, of course, brings the most spectacular dress. Color begins at the top, then moves down the slopes and continues until she is magnificently clothed.

All too soon she disrobes, from the top. Leaves drift down until only gray, barren limbs and the brown forest floor are visible.

Occasionally she dresses in a mantle of white --- in my youth, a time to follow the tracks of a fox or mink while unraveling the story of a previous night's search for food and survival, now a time to look from my dining room windows --- and wish for Spring!

I am intimately acquainted with this mountain. Since early childhood she has drawn me like a magnet. I've touched every tree, rested on every mossy log, I've feasted on her bounty. I've gathered her walnuts and hickory nuts, her pawpaws and wild plums. I've quenched my thirst from her clear, cold springs, picked her berries and, yes, I've taken a few of her trees for my workshop. I've given little in return --- only my admiration and perhaps a special kind of love.

The Valley and the mountain have, in a sense, dominated my life. There have been times past when I gave more of my time to them than to Elizabeth, and sometimes I brought bouquets of wildflowers as penance offerings, or to soften my feelings of guilt, though Elizabeth never complained.

There are those who find it difficult to understand the depth of feeling a mountaineer, such as I, can have for 
his land.

Elizabeth and I live in the home we began building when we were married 68 years ago. It is adjacent to my grandparent's farm which we bought many years ago. This land has been in the family more than 150 years ( as of 1993 ).

Three times each day we sit in our dining room, which is mostly glass, and admire the beauty around us.

We are blessed!

The touching, beautiful words in BOLDFACE above, spoken by Addison, are part of the FOREWORD in one of my book volumes about the High Knob Landform ( as he describes "The Mountain" ).

Powell Valley - Hidden Within High Knob Massif
Photograph by Dan Weemhoff - © All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December Starts Frosty, Wild, and Squirrely!

Frosty Fog - Powell Valley of High Knob Massif - Dec 1

Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The dawn of December 2009 was greeted by a frosty, cold fog on the floor of majestic Powell Valley, as air drained outward from South Fork Gorge of the High Knob Massif.

High clouds streaming far ahead of the first important Gulf of Mexico storm system of the winter season, could already be seen above this frozen setting.

High Clouds Above Frozen Valley Floor

Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Fog vapor oozing outward from South Fork Gorge encased dormant winter vegetation within ice, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the much more abundant vapor which coats highcountry trees with RIME in sub-freezing air ( although via much different atmospheric processes ).

[ Rime coated the highest elevations of the High Knob Massif into the morning hours of December 4, with freezing drizzle down to below 3000 feet in elevation.  A more substantial rime event was just starting to take shape during the evening of December 4 ].

Encased In Frozen Vapor - December 1, 2009

Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The above is sometimes called Hoar Frost, and produces a heavier deposition on objects than typical frost due to the presence of greater amounts of available moisture.

Frozen Tranquility In Powell Valley

Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Tranquility associated with this wondrous mix of  fog vapor and frost would prove to be relatively short-lived, as storm clouds surged across the mountains on ROARING SSE-SE winds during December 2.

Wind speeds of 30-60+ miles per hour were common across the area, with Wayne & Genevie Riner clocking a 56 mph gust from the SSE on Long Ridge at just after 1 PM ( sustained speeds reached 35 mph ).

Exotic Storm Clouds - December 2, 2009

Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

That high winds became especially prevalent during a break in the steadier rainfall, indicated that enhanced downward transport was aiding the process ( with locally energized turbulent mixing via the breaking of orographically generated gravity waves leeward of mountain crestlines ).

Photographer Roddy Addington reported that wind gusts were exceptionally strong on the open floor of Powell Valley, in the area of his frosty fog photographs above, which suggested gravity waves lee of the High Knob Massif were aiding downward transfer of high momentum air ( especially given that is a documented wave cloud formation zone on SE winds ).

Dramatic skies, complete with multiple rainbows, made for a memorable setting amid this high wind event.

Brilliant Rainbow Above Mountains - December 2

Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Dramatic double rainbows were also captured by photographer Wayne Riner during the rainfall break, in advance of a secondary line of powerful winds and rain ( with embedded thunder ).

Double Rainbows - December 2, 2009

Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

A peak wind gust to 55 mph, out of the SW, was clocked on Long Ridge with the evening activity during December 2.  A prolonged period of ROARING SW winds followed, post-frontal, with gusts to around 40 mph being measured at Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise into the early hours of December 3.

[ Numerous reports of tree and localized structural damage were documented across Wise County and adjacent localities ].

Although this event was relatively short-lived, orographics also had a distinct impact upon rainfall distributions into the windward slopes, and leeward zones, of the High Knob Landform ( HKL ) and adjacent mountain divides.

While Doppler radar from Jackson, Ky., is a little skewed, it had the best look at the event and reveals the most accurate rainfall estimations verses reality.

Doppler Radar Rainfall Estimate - JKL Doppler

Image Courtesy of Plymouth State Weather Center

Rainfall totals of 1.00-1.50"+ were generally estimated across the High Knob Landform, and within the zone approaching it from the southeast.

[ The JKL Doppler beam hits HIGH in the atmosphere to the southeast of the HKL, so not all of the rain it indicated reached into the Clinch and Holston River valleys.  However, the Doppler was detecting the enhanced rising motion generated within the atmosphere as strong SE air flow approached the HKL and its remnant massif of highcountry surrounding High Knob.

In fact, it is no accident that the max Doppler estimated 1.50"+ amounts are concentrated upstream of where the High Knob Massif sits!

Of additional interest, winds were so strong with this event that there was a bit more leeward drift of rainfall elements, so that totals within the depths of Powell Valley and the Norton Valley were greater than are sometimes observed during pure SE flow "warm" events ].

A point measurement made by Elizabeth & Addison Stallard, in the Head of Powell Valley of the High Knob Massif, found 1.01" of rain falling almost exactly upon the northwestern edge of the solid 1.00" isoline shown by the Doppler estimate.

By contrast, a hand-measurement made in Whitesburg, Ky., within the YELLOW max downslope zone, found only 0.32" of rainfall.

[ The downslope zone also includes much of Dickenson County, but in this case the MAX downslope on SE winds typically occurs within a corridor centered upon Letcher County, Ky., which sits leeward of the great High Knob Massif, Black Mountain, and Pine Mountain ].

Meanwhile, the past weekend and month has also featured some "squirrely" activity down in Lee County of the HKL.

And, I do mean SQUIRRELY!

Fox Squirrel ( Sciurus niger vulpinus )

Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Meet Charlie, a handsome Virginia Fox Squirrel ( Sciurus niger vulpinus ) who just KNOWS he's gorgeous!

Charlie is a personal friend of Harold Jerrell, as one can surely tell by these perfect POSES!

Charlie Striking A POSE for the Camera

Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Charlie, rainbows, exotic cloud formations, frosty fogs and SO VERY MUCH MORE are all collectively what makes the High Knob Landform ( HKL ) and Cumberland Mountains so great. 

[ Reference this section of my website to review highlights: ].

They are the reason for this website, pure and simple!

A truly spectacular late autumn scene that exemplies this,          was recently captured by Harold amid his majestically beautiful Lee County homeland of the HKL.

Rugged White Rocks of Cumberland Mountain - HKL

 Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Do you believe now?

Monday, November 30, 2009

November 2009 - An Unusual Month

November 30, 2009
Calcareous Core of High Knob Massif
Majestic Misty Waves of Wind Blown Fog
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Rising upward across rugged mountain walls of the High Knob Massif, rimming Powell Valley, misty waves of wind blown fog reveal hidden hollows and folds not typically seen on clear days.

Ribbons and multiple layers of white vapor swirl through tree tops and rocky crevices of the landscape to create new scenes with every passing moment, as captured by photographer Roddy Addington during this final afternoon of November 2009.

South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Rolling across the highcountry, clouds break and thicken to cast varying shades of light upon this magnificent setting, during an afternoon many would deem as simply nasty!

Darkening Shadows Beneath Orographic Cap Clouds
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Wet snowflakes, falling through dense layers of cloud vapor capping the High Knob Massif crest zone, would eventually dust the summits with a substance rarely observed during November.


November 2009 was an unusual month. It began and ended wet, with many dry hours in between.

In numerous ways, November was more like October ( minus it's gorgeous colorations ) than the end of autumn!

November 2009 ended as the driest month in more than a year. Typically, that climatological distinction is owned by October.

It generated very little snow, even on the summits, which was more like that typically observed during October, when the first light snowfalls of winter whiten the highcountry.

An array of gorgeous sunrises, sunsets, and amazing displays of frosty cold mornings mixed with nocturnal fog formations made the month spectacular amid the great High Knob Landform.

Even without the more typical array of snow and RIME events!

Magnificent Landscape - High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

My friend Gary Hampton, superintendent of the Big Stone Gap Water Plant sitting amid great South Fork Gorge, reports that 3.88" of rain fell at Big Cherry Dam of High Knob during November.  That was 1.27" more than measured down at the Water Plant, and 2.01" more than observed at my official NWS station near Clintwood ( outside the lifting zone of the massif ).

November 2009 was the driest month observed at Big Cherry Dam since last October.

Monthly Precipitation Totals for 2009

Big Cherry Dam of High Knob Massif
Elevation: 3120 feet

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"

2009 Total: 69.84" ( M )
12-Month Total: 78.33" ( M )

In reality, as previously discussed, there has been around 3.00"   of evaporational loss at Big Cherry Dam during the year, between hand-measurements, so that if it had been possible to measure every day by hand the 2009 tally through November would have been approximately 73.25" .

The above not including wind induced rain gage undercatches, and other sources of moisture loss such as that which is more common with frozen precipitation forms.

For an overview of this, please reference the following section of my website:

The evaporational loss at Big Cherry Dam being based upon observed losses at my official NWS station, in Clintwood, during the past year.

Autumn precipitation in the High Knob highcountry was enough to keep the water rolling, and Big Cherry Dam overflowing its spillway throughout the entire month of November 2009.

Water draining from eastern portions of the massif, out of Bark Camp Lake, also kept whitewater moving despite somewhat less total precipitation than observed within the Big Cherry Basin ( as captured below by mushroom expert and photographer Johnny Stanley ).

High Knob Massif
Upper Falls of Little Stony Creek Gorge
Photograph by Johnny Stanley - © All Rights Reserved.

Joe Carter reports that the Norton Water Plant had 2.77" of rainfall during November, which was 1.91" below their 1983-2004 mean ( with some missing data prior to 1998 ). 

Monthly Precipitation Totals for 2009

City of Norton Water Plant
Elevation: 2342 feet

January: 7.34"
February: 3.27"
March: 5.24"
April: 5.13"
May: 9.72"
June: 7.95"
July: 5.46"
August: 5.19"
September: 6.08"
October: 3.46"
November: 2.77"

2009 Total: 61.61"
12-Month Total: 70.19"

The meteorological autumn season of September-November generated 17.33" of rain at Big Cherry Dam of High Knob, and 12.31" in the City of Norton. 

A general 13.00-14.00"+ of autumn precipitation fell from Robinson Knob to Eagle Knob, with my friends Otis & Nancy Ward measuring 13.31" during the autumn at their lovely home
( 3230 feet elevation ).

Autumn rains generally varied from just below average, to just above average, across the Cumberland Mountains ( falling in between the EXTREMES highlighted below ).

Pristine Water - Little Stony Gorge High Knob Massif
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Snowfall was MUCH below average during autumn, with only a general 0.5" to 3.0" across upper elevations, above 3000 feet, during the season.  A dramatic departure from last autumn, when a general 2-3 FEET was observed within upper elevations of the High Knob Massif during October 1-December 1.

Regional Extremes During November 2009

Extreme was the word to describe the regional setting during November, with HUGE variations in rainfall totals between the Ohio River Valley and Atlantic Coast.

For a change from previous 2009 patterns, this unusual November generated extreme dryness across much of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, and extreme wetness from the New River Valley to the Virginia Tidewater.

Thanks mainly to remnants of former hurricane Ida, the following Virginia locations had record setting November rainfall tallies:

Richmond: 9.60" - Wettest November
Danville: 8.33" - 2nd Wettest in 62 years
Lynchburg: 8.19" - 2nd Wettest in 117 years
Roanoke: 7.44" - 3rd Wettest in 98 years
Blacksburg: 5.12" - 5th Wettest in 58 years.

The 9.60" of rain in the state capitol of Richmond was much needed, and boosted the 2009 precipitation total to 40.16" ( just shy of average for the year ).

By contrast, the following locations reported among their driest November's on record.

November 2009 Precipitation Totals

Jackson: 0.80" - Driest November
London: 0.62" - 2nd Driest
Lexington: 0.96"

West Virginia
Charleston: 0.74"
Huntington: 0.79"
Elkins: 0.84"
Parkersburg: 0.93"

Perhaps the most dramatic regional swing occurred in Paducah, Ky., which had 10.55" of rain to establish its wettest October on record, followed by a mere 0.56" during the next 30-days to mark its driest November of all-time.  Back to back monthly EXTREMES!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Glorious November Amid High Knob Landform

November 20, 2009
Remnant Massif of The High Knob Landform
Lonesome Pine Stands Above Fog - Powell Valley
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A classic layer of fog, spreading out beneath scenic Powell Valley Overlook in Wise County, Va., was captured in gorgeous detail by photographer Roddy Addington early Friday morning.

Confined within the calcareous heart of the great High Knob Massif, and lapping up against its rugged mountain walls like water sloshing in a lake, the fog layer remained in place for hour after hour before dissipating.


The fluid nature of our amazing atmosphere revealed yet again!

Reference my 2009-10 Winter Discussion for more details
on the fluid nature of the air around us:

Flickering Like Fireflies - Vehicles Emerge From Fog
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Flickering like fireflies, tiny headlights emerging from the fog bank can be seen far beneath the plunging slopes of Little Stone Mountain ( the NW flank of the High Knob Landform and its remnant massif ).

Such scenes truly illustrate how very TINY we are amid this great mountain landscape, as U.S. 23 rises above the fog to create a simply spectacular drive for those along this exceptionally scenic stretch of famed Country Music Highway.

Turning pinkish-orange with the rising of the morning sun, lines of orographic wave clouds add to this already magical setting as air aloft flows across the High Knob Landform ( HKL ).

Could it get any better?

Weather conditions generating this awesome setting were a clash between lingering low-level moisture, in the wake of a cloudy, chilly, and damp November 19, and the transport of drier air aloft into mid-upper elevations.

A frosty cold morning in the City of Norton, with 28 degrees at the newly installed Norton Elementary School AWS Weatherbug site, was in notable contrast to 30s within foggy locations.

[ Downslope funneling of drier air aloft, from upper reaches
of the High Knob Massif, combined with higher elevations in the Norton Valley to dissipate most of the initial fog formation observed in the City ].

Glorious Sunrises & Sunsets 
In The High Knob Landform

November 2009 has featured many glorious sunrises and sunsets within the great High Knob Landform, with photographer Harold Jerrell showcasing spectacular examples from Lee County.

In The High Knob Landform
Awesome Colors Above The Farm
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

A wondrous sky, streaked with orographic wave clouds, stands in contrast to the dark, wavy crest of Wallen Ridge in Lee County, Virginia.

    Wondrous Sky Over Wallen Ridge of HKL
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

At home within the great calcareous heart of the High Knob Landform ( HKL ), and ringed by its ruggedly majestic mountain arms, is a peaceful solitude not commonly found in the world today.

At Home In The HKL
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Looking To The High Knob Landform
And Tennessee Valley Divide

Sunrise views looking southwest to southeast, toward the High Knob Landform and across the Tennessee Valley Divide, are often just spectacular from the highlands of southern Dickenson County.

                                        Glorious Morning Sunrise
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Changing colors through precious moments of time, as captured by photographer Wayne Riner and enhanced by orographic wave clouds rippling across the mountains, are often some of the most spectacular aspects of such amazing scenes!

Changing Colors of Morning Glory
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

The role of orographics ( mountain influences ) should never be taken for granted in shaping majestic skies above the great HKL and Cumberlands!

Stacked Waves & Rolls
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winter 2009-10: The Good, Bad, And UGLY

Wooly Bear Caterpillar ( Pyrrharctia isabella )
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Unlike our beloved Wooly Bears, as captured above by my friend and photographer Roddy Addington, the road to predicting what the coming winter will be like is not pretty, cute, and cuddly.

It's pure-dee UGLY!

By the way, Wooly Bear Caterpillars ( Pyrrharctia isabella ) wonder how in the world they ever got caught up in this chaos?

Wooly Bears are the larval form of the Isabella Tiger Moth.  They emerge in autumn, just before winter, and are actually able to survive frigid conditions by producing a substance that essentially is a natural form of antifreeze!

They naturally vary in color from brown to black, with the banding taken to represent what the upcoming winter will be like being markers of age. 

[ To again be completely honest, it can be a BIT more complicated since their family of Arctiidae does ONLY contain 11,000+ known species across the planet...but I'm working an angle here, so hang with me! ].

Yes, indeed, youngsters tend to be mostly black and the older, mature elders of the species tend to be mostly brown.

The BANDING actually marks different instar stages, so that its indicative of age and maturity, not to future weather. 

YOU SILLY ole Homo sapiens sapiens!

Oh well, back to the drawing board!

Now this is where it get's kinda UGLY, because the simple, honest, and sincere truth is that NO ONE ALIVE today, nor any Super-MACHINE, can tell you what the upcoming winter will be like weeks, and dare we say months, in advance!!

Anyone can guess that it will be either GOOD or BAD ( depending upon your definition of such ), and be right 50 percent of the time ( like tossing a single, unbiased coin ).

Although many valient efforts are made, and some claim HIGH success rates, the real nitty-gritty of the UGLY is that important details of daily, weekly, and monthly weather variations are sorely lacking for specific locations where you and I live, work, and play.

[ A large-scale trend that might dominate a couple weeks, or a MONTH, is often easier to define in advance than are the daily details of short-term weather changes.  In fact, some interesting climate patterns have been found that are just as important to future winter conditions as are the ones driven by the well known ENSO ( El Nino & La Nina of the Southern Oscillation )  ].

WOW, I'm glad that I am no foreACTOR, I mean foreCASTER!

[ Sorry my weather BIZ friends ( used to be ), I just couldn't let that one pass!!! ].

Seriously, there are some very good forecasters who put in a great amount of time and effort to crank out winter predictions ( a few of which I will be linking to later for you to check ).

Meanwhile, we'll be looking at the GOOD and BAD of this chaotic situation!

GOOD News - Major Forcings
Identified ( at least SOME of THEM )!

Frosty Cold Morn - Powell Valley of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Will the winter ahead feature more frosty cold mornings like captured by Roddy above, OR will it feature more dazzling WHITE mornings beneath a blanket of sparkling SNOW?

That is the BIG question which is ALWAYS numerial-UNO in the minds of both lovers of the "white stuff," and haters alike!

The Good News during 2009-10 is that there is a teleconnection running in which we know will have a major influence upon weather conditions.

It is the positive phase of ENSO, The El Nino-Southern Oscillation.

You see, El Nino is only the above "normal" warming of sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.  While that is indeed the real forcing factor, the positive phase of ENSO, of which El Nino episodes represent, is more than just oceanic warming!

During the 1920s, to present historical insight, a researcher by the name of Sir Gilbert Walker was in India trying to unravel the rather mysterious nature of the annual monsoon that is such a prominent feature of the Asian climate.

He observed that different seasons would produce monsoons of varying intensities.  Some seasons, for example, would bring great flooding, while others would produce so little rain that drought conditions would engulf the region.

These fluctuations could mean the difference between life and death for millions of people, such that the discovery of a way to predict monsoonal intensities would be, needless to say, of enormous value.

In his research Walker discovered what is known today as a


A teleconnection is where weather conditions occurring in one region on earth can force changes in another region FAR away.

Walker found that when sea level pressures are low, relative to average, in India and the western Pacific, they tend to be high, relative to average, across the central and eastern Pacific.

Likewise, when sea level pressures are high in India and adjacent regions of the western Pacific they tend to be low ( relative to average ) across the central and eastern Pacific.

Walker named these pressure swings the Southern Oscillation.

He had discovered an important piece of the puzzle that is so commonly called El Nino today!

Some 40 year later another researcher named Jacob Bjerknes became the first to make a connection between abnormal sea surface temperatures and the oscillations in pressure discovered by Walker.

He had discovered the oceanic forcing component called El Nino.

El Nino is spanish for the "Christ child."  Fishermen along the coastlines of Ecuador and Peru, in South America, originally began using the term to name a weak and unusually warm ocean current that would appear on an annual basis around the time of Christmas. 

During some years this warming would become strong, with significant and locally disastrous impacts upon both their fishing and the landscape ( it would stop the upwelling of cold waters and cause deadly flooding along the windward slopes of the Andes ).

But how can this be?

How can something like this, so FAR away, impact the High Knob Landform and southern Appalachians?

The FLUID Atmosphere

Looking from Pine Mountain toward High Knob Landform
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

[ When the ever present water vapor becomes visible in the atmosphere, as seen above, its wavy, fluid nature will eventually emerge, sometimes, in dramatic and breathtakingly stunning fashion ].

As I always teach, the KEY to obtaining an understanding for the workings of our amazing atmosphere are based upon its FLUID nature.  Mathematics are essential for a complete understanding, but anyone can learn by the way I teach from my research experience.

If you are not blessed enough to stand upon our high mountains and capture a scene so glorious as that which was documented by photographer Roddy Addington above, then go to the nearest lake or pond!

If you drop a pebble into a pond, waves ripple away from the point of impact.  If you drop two pebbles separated by a distance, the waves from each point of impact ripple outward and interact with each other in various and interesting ways!

Two waves approaching each other can either interact in a constructive way, and combine energies to form a larger wave with more total energy, or they can interact in a destructive way to cancel ( or partially cancel ) each other out ( dissipating their energies ).

A small pebble generates small rippling waves, while a large rock dropped into the water generates BIG waves.

And so it is with the fluid ATMOSPHERE.

On micro to meso scales, as illustrated by Roddy's photograph above, the fluid nature of the air around us is so VERY evident, energetic, and simply MAGICAL.

[ In the above photograph, taken on Pine Mountain and looking outward toward the High Knob Landform ( HKL ), sun exposed mountain slopes and the cool, foggy lower terrain acted to generate a vast array of rising and sinking waves, rolls, and other ripples along the surface of a morning inversion layer, revealing the truly dynamic nature of the air around us at all times ( its just not always so visibly gorgeous )].

On the SYNOPTIC or LARGE scale, the pebbles and rocks in question are all the forcing factors, like El Nino or ENSO, which perturb the fluid.

El Nino is able to perturb the atmosphere via the abnormal warming of the sea surface which initially generates a vast array of micro-turbulence that begins mixing and overturning air in contact with the air-sea interface.

In time, and with persistence of the temperature anomaly, this micro-turbulence grows exponentially in its scope and intensity, such that deep convection forms above the warmed ocean. 

Like a fire, which begins as a mere flicker and turns into a raging inferno, the influence of initial oceanic warming grows to influence the pressure patterns across the entire expanse of the equatorial Pacific, marking the formation of a positive phase of ENSO.

[ Its negative phase is called La Nina, in short-hand terminology, and marked by abnormally cold sea surface temperatures which generate opposite pressure oscillations across the Pacific Basin ].

In this way, ENSO can be thought of as a rock dropped into the water, with waves rippling outward from its point of impact ( the equatorial Pacific Ocean ) throughout the surrounding fluid ( global atmosphere ).

The communication of the ENSO influence beyond the immediate region of the air-sea interface depends upon the sensitivity of the atmosphere to changes in deep convection.

When ENSO is running, it subjects the atmosphere to constant forcing as its energy ripples away from the equator to interact in complex ways with a myriad of other oscillatory atmospheric disturbances.

Thus, ENSO is a TELECONNECTION, since from its point of impact, energy in the form of rippling waves moves outward to perturb the air in locations FAR, FAR away from where it began.

A WEAK ENSO of positive phase is analogous to dropping a small pebble into a pond.  It generates waves, but they are not nearly as STRONG nor as far reaching as those generated by bigger pebbles, and can therefore be more easily overcome or canceled by other waves originating from different "pebbles" in the pond.

A STRONG ENSO of positive phase is therefore analogous to dropping a BIG rock into a pond, with generation of significant waves that are far reaching and dominant in their influence over other waves rippling throughout the fluid atmosphere.

The above being a greatly OVER-SIMPLIFIED analogy in order to aid understanding.  Some of the true complexity will be noted subsequently.

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies - November 15, 2009
Image courtesy of Unisys Weather

The above graphic illustrates the present sea surface temperature anomalies across the globe.

The zone inside the YELLOW outlines the critical El Nino warming region.  Other areas of abnormally cold sea surface temperatures ( inside the PURPLE ), south of the Gulf of Alaska and the rugged Newfoundland Coast, are also very important ( especially if they persist over time ).

The current positive phased ENSO is moderate to borderline strong, and models run by the Climate Prediction Center indicate that it will remain at least weak to moderate through the 2009-10 winter season.

Here is a higher resolution sea surface temp anomaly map, courtesy of NOAA Satellite and Information Service ( NESDIS ) and the National Climatic Data Center ( NCDC ), which compares present anomalies to that of the recent 1971-2000 mean or base period ( soon to be replaced by 1981-2010 means ).

Here is a link to watch it change over time, courtesy of NCDC & NOAA:

[ An interesting note, during El Nino episodes the length of a day actually increases by a tiny fraction since the associated stronger westerly winds pushing against the surfaces of Earth require that its rotation slow ever so slightly, in order to abide by the law of conservation of angular momentum.  This according to a NASA funded research project and David A. Salstein ].

Using my analogy above, EVERY major disturbance or variation in the global atmosphere can be modeled as a pebble or rock dropping into it's fluid, with resultant waves rippling outward from where they originate.

All the other identified teleconnections are therefore included, as well as such things as the pattern and deposition of winter snow cover at mid to high latitudes.

A few other important teleconnections include:

AO - The Arctic Oscillation

NAO - The North Atlantic Oscillation

PNA - The Pacific North American Oscillation

EPO - The Eastern Pacific Oscillation

WPO - The Western Pacific Oscillation

MJO - The Madden-Julian Oscillation

PDO - The Pacific Decadal Oscillation

NPO - The North Pacific Oscillation

AAO - The Antarctic Oscillation

QBO - The Quasi-biennial Oscillation .

All of these teleconnections plus MANY more that are minor, or simply NOT yet known, are pebbles and rocks dropping into the fluid atmosphere.  Each one has positive, neutral, and negative phases, and each one impacts the atmosphere via waves rippling outward from their regions of origin.

ADD in the following facts:

1 ).  The Earth spins at 1038.0 miles per hour at the equator .

2 ).  The Earth's orbital speed around the sun is approximately 66.6 miles per hour.

3 ).  The Earth is frozen at the poles.

4 ).  The Earth is heated at the equator.

5 ).  The Earth's surface is 71 percent covered by water.

6 ).  The Earth has many mountain ranges that extend above its PBL ( planetary boundary layer ).

7 ).  The surfaces are Earth are CONSTANTLY being perturbed and changed by mankind, in addition to mother nature.

[ The surfaces of Earth act like synapses of neurons in the brain, or the interfaces of a computer, where information is selectively relayed to all other parts of the system.

Mankind, of all possible species alive today, possesses the ability to impact Earth most through changes he makes in its surfaces ( thus disrupting the natural communication and flow of diverse forms of energy within the climatic system that by definition includes the biosphere )].

The Complexity of the Problem

The complexity of the problem facing a super-computer, not to mention a human forecaster, is to take the positive phase of ENSO and to combine it with ALL of the other teleconnections and factors listed above.

That roughly ( very roughly ) covers the LARGE or Synoptic-scale.

Now add in the vast array of regional to local scale forcing factors, such as the orographics of the High Knob Landform, to the above mixture, shake it up, and what do you GET??

You get back to the pure-dee UGLY in which we started!

Hey, I thought this was the GOOD NEWS section?

Well, there is HOPE.  All is not lost.  Amid this resultant chaos, of which the above generates, there is some trends which can be assimilated into at least a bit of ORDER.

What We Know:
Thank God for Climatology

Yes, indeed, thank the good Lord above for daily weather observers, researchers, and climatologists who GRUNT out the hard work of not days, not weeks, not years, but literally decades and life-times to find unknown facts and patterns which could not be discovered otherwise.  Its no glory job, that is for certain!

What we know from observations and research, over long time periods, produces some basic generalizations that I will break down into two categories.

1 ). Cold-Snowy Winter

For those wishing for a cold, snowy winter within the High Knob Landform, the southern Appalachians, and across the eastern United States in general, the following teleconnection phase combinations would be nice:

+A deep covering of snow across
eastern Canada and the NE U.S.A

 --NAO with --EPO = Prolonged Arctic Outbreak
[ Strongly negative NAO & EPO = Arctic Outbreak ].

The -NAO referring to the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation, which possesses a rather high correlation with cold, snowy weather across the eastern United States.  A negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation also has correlation to more eastern U.S. troughing and coldness.

A look at the recent indices of these is illustrative, along with a peek at their short-term forecasted trend.

NOTE:  All the following graphics are courtesy of the Climate Prediction Center.

Observed Arctic Oscillation Index

An inspection of the observed AO index already shows a high correlation to recent weather conditions, with the -AO from July into early August being associated with unseasonably chilly summer conditions across the great Appalachians.

Note that the flip to a +AO, from mid-August through the month of September, also possesses a rather high correlation to the local change into humid, wet, and warmer conditions.

The return to a highly -AO during October was accompanied by a chilly month, with near to below average temperatures being widespread across the region.

The most recent index has mostly featured a +AO, and conditions in November have been mild compared to average.

Observed and Forecasted AO Index

With the above in mind, the forecasted trend is for the AO to go highly negative heading into late November and early December.  Could that mean a BIG pattern change to colder, snowy weather?

Let's look at the North Atlantic Oscillation, and see if it follows the AO trends.

Observed North Atlantic Oscillation Index

The observed NAO index pattern looks amazingly similar to the AO, and has also shown a high correlation to weather conditions observed within recent months.

The -NAO has been associated with cooler than average temperatures, and the +NAO intervals have been observed during periods which had near to above average temperatures.

The downward trend during November, toward the current -NAO, however, has not been associated with colder conditions.

Sometimes there is a small lag time ( otherwise, another forcing like +ENSO may be acting to cancel its effect ).

Lets now see what the forecasted trend is on the NAO.

Observed and Forecasted NAO Index

The NAO index is also forecasted to go negative during late November and early December.  So the score is 2-0 for a turn toward colder conditions ( 2 for / 0 against ).

[ NOTE: The AO and NAO are not predictable more than a few days to a couple weeks in advance, due to various reasons, and are not as good of a forecast indicator for longer ranges as they might appear to be ].

Let's keep marching onward to the Pacific North American ( PNA ) index.  A +PNA tends to be associated with eastern United States troughing, and western U.S. ridging, while a -PNA tends to help force a RIDGE in the eastern United States.

Observed Pacific North American Oscillation Index

As can be seen by the observed PNA index, there is also a good amount of correlation between cooler local conditions and +PNA formation, and warmer local conditions and -PNA development.

Lets see what the forecasted PNA is to do in coming weeks.

Observed and Forecasted PNA Index

The PNA is forecast to go positive during late November-early December, which again would support a change toward colder local conditions ( Score: 3 to ZIP ).

So there appears to be something upcoming.

A major pattern change toward eastern United States troughing, and colder conditions during the Thanksgiving Holiday to December 1 period.

Lets now look at the forecasted EPO index, since a strong +EPO tends to be associated with strong zonal flow across the Pacific, which is likely to spread mild, oceanic air into the United States. 

A -EPO is desired for colder air within the eastern United States and, as previously noted, when a --EPO ( strongly negative ) phase couples withstrongly negative phase of the NAO ( --NAO ), a prolonged arctic outbreak into the eastern United States is often likely during winter.

Forecast of EPO and WPO

Ensemble forecast model runs at NCEP ( the National Center for Environmental Prediction ), predict that the EPO will go strongly negative during the week of Thanksgiving.  So this is yet another factor favoring a major pattern change during the holiday period.

A unknown then becomes, what impact will the forcing from a moderate to borderline strong +ENSO have on these above teleconnections.

Remember, waves emitted from each will have to interact together, with the resultant outcome generating the type of weather conditions to be observed over any given area.

Ideally, a near neutral to weakly positive ENSO ( +/-ENSO ) is better for colder weather in the eastern United States.

The +MJO noted above, within the teleconnection list, refers to an active phase of the Madden-Julian Oscillation, with positioning that allows input of energy into the polar westerlies.  The MJO is an oscillation which travels through the tropics of the globe, with a 30 to 60 day frequency. 

The MJO influences the North Pacific jet stream, which in turn can help develop a PNA pattern.  If a +PNA develops, this makes downstream trough formation more likely across eastern North America, to again show how various wave supported oscillations can work together to impact conditions FAR away from where they actually develop.

Another important factor, that is itself relayed to the atmosphere and transfered in wave form, is mid to high latitude snow cover.

The covering of snow across high latitudes early in a season can be very important to the evolution and development of winter patterns.

Lets look at the current snow cover status across the Northern Hemisphere.

Northern Hemisphere Snow & Ice as of November 18

A 30-day loop of Northern Hemisphere snow cover changes:

As the above well illustrates, REAL wintry conditions have been on the other side of the North Pole and across Alaska.  Rapid and huge increases in snow cover have occurred across Asia, deeply into China during the past month.

By contrast, the snow field has had a difficult time claiming and maintaining its hold on the southern half of Canada, and has been essentially absent from the lower Forty-Eight of the great USA, outside of the higher elevations of the Rockies, Cascades, and Sierras.

This does not initially bold well for a harsh winter in the eastern United States, but there is still time for rapid expansion and coverage of the white stuff into the Thanksgiving to Christmas holiday period.

The amount of snow cover across Asia can not be ignored, since a cross-polar flow could work to transport bitterly cold air masses into Canada, amid the long arctic nights, and eventually threaten the United States.

That would require our teleconnections to get into the right phases, such as a -NAO / -AO with a +PNA and -EPO.  If phasing were then to occur with a +ENSO enhanced sub-tropical jet stream, the stage could be set for some of the most severe winter conditions since the 1970s and 1980s.

[ From an ecological perspective, we NEED to have at least one SEVERE cold wave, with minimum temps dipping to -20 F below zero or lower, in order to kill out the Hemlock Wooly Adelgids ( Adelges tsugae ) which are threatening to drive our majestic, beloved, and so precious Canadian Hemlock ( Tsuga canadensis ) trees into extinction ].

How snow cover can alter the course of a winter will be highlighted in my Historical Climatology section below.

Despite the above favorable indices, toward a colder pattern by Thanksgiving, the generally favored and superior European Medium Range Forecast Model is not yet showing a definitive push of cold air, with establishment of a long-lived wintry period.

European 10-Day Forecast Charts - Nov 18

[ The RED lines on the panels above are the 500 mb geopotential heights, while the BLACK lines are the surface isobars.  A dip in the RED lines signifies a trough, while a bulge indicates a ridge, much like one observes when reading a topographical map.  A trough in the atmosphere is like a great valley, while a ridge is analogous to a great mountain ].

Here is the European Model Run for November 19 at 1200 UTC, for a comparison with the model run of 24-hours ago ( above ):

European 10-Day Forecast Charts - Nov 19

[ Note the differences between these two model runs ].

European 10-Day Forecast Charts - Nov 20

Note in the most recent model run above, from 1200 UTC November 20, that the longer range is becoming progressively colder, relative to the model runs of 24 to 48 hours ago.

It will be VERY interesting to follow the European model ( as well as others like the GFS, GEM, and UKMET ) through the next five to ten days, in order to see IF it begins to strongly reflect the wintry nature suggested by teleconnections highlighted above.

If it does not, then it could mean that the +ENSO may, indeed, be the BIG DOG and dominant WAVE-form to rule the 2009-10 winter season.  Time will surely tell.

Updated - TIME IS Telling

Time is indeed telling, as each new forecast model run of the European ( as well as others like the GFS, GEM, and UKMET ) are growing increasingly cold and wintry looking by the Thanksgiving Holiday.  Check out the latest run from this morning ( 1200 UTC on November 21 ).

European 10-Day Forecast Charts - Nov 21

The European is now showing the first widespread snow accumulation of the season, from the highlands of the southern Appalachians into New England, during the Thanksgiving-Black Friday period of this coming week ( especially along the western front range of the mountain chain ).

This is being echoed by the GFS and other models, with details of the event ( of course ) yet to be worked out.

Perhaps most significant, this looks to be part of a MAJOR pattern change that will present the region with a jet stream phased winter storm threat by the end of November.  Stay tuned!

[ An interesting point, made numerous times by forecaster Larry Cosgrove, of WeatherAmerica, is that the +ENSO enhanced sub-tropical jet stream is running much farther SOUTH than is found during more typical El Nino events of moderate nature.

Climatology agrees.  For example, instead of hammering southern California, the sub-tropical jet stream has been running south of the Golden State and passing across the Gulf of Mexico and up the Southeastern coastline.  This could be a VERY significant factor, with vast implications on the upcoming winter, should this trend continue ].

Update On The Update - November 28

The Thanksgiving-Black Friday event ended up being very weak, with generally 1" or less of snow across the High Knob Massif and higher elevations of the Mountain Empire.

Eagle Knob of High Knob - November 27
Image courtesy of Steve Blankenbecler

Just enough snow to cover the ground and high elevation roads, with a light coating of RIME on the trees.

COLD temperatures did allow some snow to linger across northern slopes of the massif into November 28, with early MINS in the 10s to lower 20s within colder basins and valleys.  BRRR!

The lack of local snow was thanks to a LACK of any Great Lake moisture, with very limited low-level moisture for the upsloping to work on ( despite ROARING winds which actually carried some of the snow across the windward side of the crest shown above, depositing less there ).

Some LAKE moisture allowed for 2"-5" snow accumulations to occur above 2500-3000 feet across the central-northern highlands of eastern West Virginia.

Despite the lack of snowfall so far during the 2009-10 season, the MAJOR pattern change noted above is still underway and will become apparent as December gets going.

All major indices are even more supportive than previously shown, with the latest -AO prediction being a classic example:

Observed and Forecasted AO Index

A strongly negative Arctic Oscillation is being forecast to occur into early December, to correlate with high latitude blocking and a southward suppression of the arctic-polar jet streams.

Get ready for some BIG changes!

2 ). Milder, Less-Snowy Winter

For those wishing for a mild, less snowy winter within the High Knob Landform, southern Appalachians, and across the eastern United States in general, the following teleconnection phase combos would be nice:

-A lack of snow cover across 
eastern Canada and the NE U.S.A

I will not go through each of these, as the impacts are just opposite to those noted above for their other phases.

However, I will note some interesting examples below in my Historical Climatology section.

I will also note that the ++ENSO refers to a strong epsiode ( strong El Nino ), such that warmth is more often than not dominant over coldness during the winter season relative to average.

That makes snowfall near to below average across the western front range and foothills of the Appalachians ( westward and northward of the HKL and Tennessee Valley Divide ).

In such a case, the train of waves rippling outward from a STRONG El Nino acts to overwhelm the other waves over any given area ( at least, in the seasonal MEAN ). 

The Bottom Line......

So what is the Good News?

It is that we have identified many major atmospheric teleconnections which impact global and regional weather conditions.  These can give us a guide to go by, but most are not as consistent and predictable in advance as are ENSO espisodes ( i.e., El Nino and La Nina )!

Once running, however, some have long-time scales ( like the PDO and QBO ) and can help generate a known setting within which ALL the vast array of other wave disturbances play.

Through long-term, daily weather observations and research a climatology has evolved to help guide us into the uncharted future.

I will highlight this more below.

So what is the Bad News?

The bad news is that the future is UNCHARTED ( with very few exceptions ) beyond the short-term.

I really do not want to focus alot on the bad news, since I always try to keep a positive outlook.  But the BAD news is that the state of our science, as I've noted before, is simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH to detail weather conditions for any given location more than a few days to a week in advance. 

Although 7 to 10 day forecasts look nice on TV, most are simply for appearance, as DAY 7 from DAY 1 will almost always be much different, sometimes radically so, from that which was initially predicted on DAY 1.

Thus, anything beyond a week is into the realm of pure fantasy, and guess work, when it comes down to giving any significant details ( predictability actually begins getting PUSHED HARD at 3 to 5 days ).

Its not a forecaster's fault, unless the forecaster blatantly tries to act like they always know what is going to happen a week from now ( i.e., just for the SHOW of acting or lack of knowledge ).

It is the combination of all the waves rippling through the atmosphere, as I've highlighted previously, from ALL the many known plus UNKNOWN disturbances, that takes initial forecast model input and drives it into pure CHAOS ( and that assuming the initial input data is GOOD ).

In fact, that is the definition of chaos, as the initial input increasingly departs from reality over time and creates a highly UNSTABLE solution which is not predictable from the starting point ( i.e., the final solution ends up being radically different from actual, real conditions ).

[ In reality, the initial INPUT data into forecast models is FAR too limited in both space and time to even begin to fully handle the complete state of the atmosphere.  Thus, forecast models often struggle with just predicting conditions during the upcoming 24 to 48 hours ].

That MUST be understood by everyone, since too much is often expected of forecasters ( despite all the fancy looking graphics of today ).

On the other hand, forecasters must not assume too much and be willing to take responsibility for relaying to the general public that the state of our science is simply NOT yet good enough to KNOW exactly when and where a tornado will strike, for example, or what conditions will be like where you live far into the future.

It's like a young couple planning a wedding asking:
What will the weather be like at 3 PM in the afternoon a month from this Sunday? 

The HONEST answer, it is NOT POSSIBLE to know. 


Historical Climatology

Tussock Moth Caterpillar ( Lophocampa caryae ) - High Knob
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The Tussock Moth Caterpillar above was captured by Roddy on High Knob during a day in which he said, "it looked cold, and out of place."

Weather conditions can also be out of place for the season during periods with many competing forces, fighting to control the great atmospheric domain.

The current global warming cycle on Earth, which is very REAL, in combination with a large-scale forcing factor like the +ENSO teleconnection, weights models used by the Climate Prediction Center too much, in my own personal opinion, and skews their needed objectivity away from the best possible solutions.

Here are the official forecast maps from the Climate Prediciton Center for the upcoming winter season:

[ These initial forecast maps were made on October 15, 2009 ]

December-February Temperature Trend
Courtesy of the Climate Prediction Center

The CPC official trend on these graphics calls for below average temperatures and precipitation across the local mountains. 

December-February Precipitation Trend
Courtesy of the Climate Prediction Center

[ UPDATED forecasts made on November 19, 2009 ]

December-February Temperature Trend

An inspection of the new CPC map trends, reveals very little change since their mid-October forecast.

December-February Precipitation Trend

Here is a link to an extensive, detailed report on the current evolution, status, and prediction of ENSO ( El Nino ) that is updated with passing time:

Many forecasters like to use "analog" years, with similar upper air or surface conditions as observed during the present year ( leading up to a winter season ).

Historical climatology shows that they can, indeed, be helpful, but it also reveals that EVERY new season is different, with outcomes that end up being unique in space and time.

A look back at +ENSO episodes reveals the above, with each event being different, due no doubt to modulation by complex wave interactions via the myriad of atmospheric teleconnections and other factors which are running at the same time as El Nino ( with many positive and negative feedbacks among them ).

External forcing factors, not yet even mentioned, must also be considered, such as the currently long SOLAR Minimum ( lack of sunspots ) that generated the least sunspot activity in a hundred years during 2008 ( with a similar pace being observed during 2009 ).

In the MEAN, as climatology will eventually GRUNT out, the tendency during +ENSO periods has been for below average precipitation & above average temps across western slopes of the Appalachians during the time of maximum ENSO influence ( generally the December-February period of meteorological winter ).

Local orographics skew this, with the wettest, coldest, and snowiest conditions being across the High Knob Massif, and along the crestlines of the northwestern-southeastern flanks of the HKL into windward slopes of the Tennessee Valley Divide ( which includes the Cumberland Mountain arm of the HKL and the lofty terrain of its great Cumberland Gap National Historical Park ).

Although that could be said of any given cold season, the distribution of the precipitation within the lifting zone of the High Knob Massif, in particular, is skewed from the more typical SW-W-NW flow dominated regime toward its S-SE-E facing crests, basins, and slopes.

The favored zones being shifted due to more S-SE-E flow events and forced upsloping along those slopes of the sprawling massif.  This also includes southern-southeastern slopes of the adjacent Black Mountains, along the VA-KY border.

Total precipitation amounts ( rain + melted snow ) for the winter season generally end up being ABOVE average within these favored orographic corridors.

Above average winter precipitation is also favored during +ENSO episodes along the Blue Ridge, with spill over into the Great Valley during strong El Nino events.

By contrast, below average cold season precipitation amounts are more likely to dominate northern Wise County, and the central-northern portions of Dickenson and Buchanan counties, due to increased downsloping on S-SE-E air flow trajectories.

This sub-average precipitation regime of +ENSO episodes tends to increase toward the west and north of the Cumberland Mountains, into the foothills and bluegrass of Kentucky and West Virginia, as well as into the lowlands of the Ohio River Valley. 

The 1982-83 ENSO, which has been the strongest positive phase on record, was interesting in that it resulted in winter snowfall totals which were 100-150% of average from the High Knob Massif across the Great Valley of northeastern Tennessee-southwestern Virginia.

This trend continued eastward across the Blue Ridge into the Piedmont, with seasonal snowfall totals which ended up being 200% of average around the Nation's Capitol.

Snowfall totals within the Clintwood to Wise corridor were 90-100% of average during the 1982-83 season, with a decrease to only 50-90% of average being observed across most of Kentucky and West Virginia.

A Mega-Snowstorm
Risk With +ENSO?

From a long-term climate perspective, it should also be noted that 3 of the 4 largest snowfalls of the past 60 years across the western front range of the Cumberland Mountains occurred during a +ENSO phase of the oscillation ( El Nino ); although, only 1 of those occurred with a strong El Nino within the critical 3.4 sector of the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

Thus, a +ENSO phase is somewhat suggestive of an increased mega-snowstorm risk, despite the general El Nino trend of near to below average seasonal snowfall to the west and north of the HKL and Tennessee Valley Divide.

[ The great snowstorm of November 1950 occurred during a negative ENSO ( La Nina ) phase ].

Harsh Winter's Occurred 
During Weak +ENSO Phases

The year of 1976 has been batted around as an analog year to the present event, however, it was much different.  Only marginal ENSO conditions occurred during the 1976-77 season, with above average sea surface temperatures being generally restricted to the El Nino 1-2 regions near the South American coast.

The 1977-78 season, however, did display a more typical and expansive region of positive sea surface temperature anomalies into the central equatorial Pacific Ocean.

These late 1970's winter seasons are, of course, legendary for their harsh winter conditions, with brutal cold and mean snow depths reaching 42"-48"+ across upper elevations of the High Knob Massif ( during just the seasonal buildup of the snowpack ).

The Importance of 
Higher Latitude Snow Cover

The importance of placement of high latitude snow cover was taught during the back to back winter seasons of 1995-96 and 1996-97.  These two winters generated the largest snowfall differences ever documented locally.

The 1995-96 winter established new seasonal snowfall records for Virginia, with 124.2" in the town of Wise and more than 200" at the summit level of the High Knob Massif.

The 1996-97 season was, by dramtatic contrast, a grand snow BUST with 100.2" LESS snow in Wise ( only 24.0" fell during the entire winter ).

The NAO was in its negative phase during both winters, with a prolonged -NAO showing up for the first time since the middle 1980s ( complete with abundant high latitude blocking ).

The SOI classification scheme places the 1995-96 and 1996-97 winters into the neutral ENSO bracket ( so that ENSO was considered to basically be a non-player during both seasons ).

The big player, as it turned out, was development and distribution of snow cover across Canada.

During the great 1995-96 season, an unusually deep field of snow developed across southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States by late autumn of 1995.  This set the stage for record breaking snowfall across the western slopes of the Appalachians, as the polar vortex became established over SE Canada.

The persistent location of the polar vortex kept the baroclinic zone ( the zone of max thermal contrast ) in a position to feed energy and moisture into one developing wave disturbance after another, with cold air in place to support abundant and heavy snows ( especially along the W-NW-N slopes of the mountains ).

During the next winter, by contrast, early season snow cover formed across western and south-central Canada, with expansion southward into the Rockies and Plains by late autumn.

The temperature contrast between the snow field and bare ground to the south, set up the baroclinic zone in a manner that held the storm track northwest of the Appalachians.  This kept the region within the rainy, warm sector of approaching wave disturbances, and dry slotted the area in their wake ( with often no snow at all despite influxs of cold air ).

LINKS to Winter 2009-10 Forecasts

Note: The inclusion or exclusion of anyone in the list below is not an endorsement, nor a rebuke, of their work, but merely offers different perspectives from different places across the nation.

Western North Carolina 2009-10 Winter Forecast:

Washington, D.C., Area 2009-10 Winter Forecast:

Weather Advance 2009-10 Forecast for USA:

NWS Forecast Office - La Crosse, Wisconsin:

Dean Grubbs - Raleigh, NC., Climate Examiner: