Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 2011 Begins With A GUSH

January 2, 2011
South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Gushing Whitewater Draining Big Cherry Basin
Photograph by Bill Harris - © All Rights Reserved.

The High Knob Landform

A gush of gorgeous whitewater drained lofty 
Big Cherry Basin of the High Knob Massif via rainfall and ALOT of snow melt as the new year 
got started at the dawn of January 2011.

Rugged South Fork Gorge
Majesty of South Fork of the Powell River
Bill Harris Video - © All Rights Reserved.

[ Don't you just LOVE this sound! ].

Photographers Bill Harris & Roddy Addington 
were there to capture this awesome beauty as whitewater tumbled down through the jagged, boulder filled chasm that is extremely rugged 
South Fork Gorge of the High Knob Massif.

A tinge of yellow indicates some sediment transport, but
even in a mostly pristine watershed that tends to happen
when a gushing creek plunges 1433 vertical feet in 4 miles downstream of Big Cherry Dam ( an American Whitewater
Class V+ steep creek ).

January 9, 2011
Hanging Rock Recreation Area
Little Stony Creek of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Rod Addington Photography

Some 15 air miles east of the South Fork, on the Scott County side of the massif, plenty of water was also gushing out of Little Stony Gorge by beautiful Hanging Rock Recreation Area on January 9   ( despite another winter storm and bitter temps ).

High Knob Massif - January 9, 2010
Beautiful Water Of The Little Stony
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

As the snowpack builds once again in the High Knob highcountry, and across all elevations, whitewater is certain to gush much bigger on a future date to continue a 26 consecutive month stretch of general wetness ( broken only by relative September & October dryness in 2010 ).

Big Cherry Dam of High Knob Massif
Monthly Precipitation Totals
Observers: Gary Hampton & Staff
Elevation: 3120 feet

November:  4.36"
December: 8.49"

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

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

12-Month Total: 65.60" ( M )

26-Month Total: 159.79" ( M )

26-Month Mean Monthly Precipitation: 6.15"

Mean Precipitation Per 12-Months: 73.80" ( M )  

( * ) - Indicates that total was estimated or partly estimated due to severe winter conditions.

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

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

The above precipitation totals do not take into account any wind induced rain gage undercatches, with the most recent December 2010 total being partly estimated based only upon physical gauge loss ( i.e., much more snow fell than the gage could hold ).

NOTE:  This website has viewers from Europe and many other countries where rain "gauge" is often used instead of rain "gage."
I will use both spelling forms on The High Knob Landform, with "gage" being merely a variant for "gauge". 

Winter Storm of January 7-8, 2011

January 9, 2010
High Knob Massif ( low elevations )
Hanging Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The winter storm of January 7-8 dropped more significant snowfall upon the Wise, Scott, Lee county triad of the High Knob Landform and adjoining sections.

This event featured a WHITEOUT along an Arctic Cold Front followed by bands of intense snow squalls into morning hours of January 8.  Predawn clearing into the morning of January 9 generated sub-zero MINS, with 0 to -5 below readings common.

Lee County of the High Knob Landform
Wilderness Road State Park - January 7, 2011
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

My friend Harold Jerrell once again captured the beauty of snow falling as it might appeared 200 years ago upon wilderness homesteads of the Powell River Valley.

January 7, 2011
Wilderness Road State Park
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Winter Storm Blankets The Wilderness Road
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

January 7, 2011
The Fort - Wilderness Road State Park
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

A mixture of cedars and deciduous trees spreading outward from the meandering banks of the majestic Powell adds to the surreal beauty of this landscape, still so evident today!

Storm Snowfall Totals
for January 7-8, 2011

Nora 4 SSE: 5.9"
Clintwood 1 W: 8.7"
City of Norton WP: 10.0"
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif: 11.6"
*Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif: 12.5"

*Variable ground depths with solid, old snow still remaining across upper north slopes of High Knob Lake Basin, Big Cherry Basin, Benges Basin, Clear Creek Basin, Lost Creek Basin
and other sections prior to the January 7-8 episode.

January 9, 2011
Hanging Rock Recreation Area of High Knob Massif
In The Wake Of A Bitter Morning
 Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The character of these first days of January 2011 were just full of variety, as so well highlighted and described by my friend Wayne Riner in the rugged highlands of southern Dickenson County.

January 5, 2011
Glorious Dawn - Before The Storm
 Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Three Bluebirds ( Sialia sialis ) watch a glorious dawn illuminate an array of wave clouds before the next winter storm spreads more snow across the highlands of the southern Appalachians.

January 8, 2011
Tennessee Valley Divide
Living On The High Ridges - Long Ridge
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"Waiting to be fed, Princess's calf called Baby Princess by the owners has weathered the morning snow and high wind.  The deep hollow is Wakenva, about a 600 foot drop just back of the cow.  A gas well road is in the next ridge over."

Snow Starts Again - January 8, 2011
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"While being outside during a brief period of sun, another wave of snow starts again.  Time to go in."

January 8, 2011
Winter Road To The Orchard
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"For a few minutes the snow and high winds stopped and revealed the snow drifts along the orchard road."

January 8, 2011
South Patio After The Storm
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"The sun came out just enough to take a picture of the results of this first wave of ( January ) snow."

Winter Storm of January 10-13, 2011

 NASA Infrared Satellite at 11:31 PM
Lake Michigan Moisture ( Snow ) Plume

I simply love nights when all the weather people covering southwestern Virginia say "its winding down or ending" as snow falls furiously outside and the reality is very different from what is being predicted to occur!

It really should not be this way, amid this modern age, as the NASA IR Image above clearly shows for all the world to see a distinct and most important connection from Lake Michigan into southwestern Virginia ( a visible plume of moisture that was cranking out a fury of dendritic crystals in bitter air to show how "Lake Effect" impacts the High Knob Landform & Tennessee Valley Divide ).

Also distinct is the visible shadowing lee of the High Knob Landform, as the colorized clouds indicative of colder, taller tops vanish in an arch to its lee with sinking air into the Clinch, Holston, and collective Great Valley of southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee ( clouds appear again as air is lifted once more to drop snow at higher elevations along the Tennessee-North Carolina border ).

For those sharp, they might catch on that under the "right" flow direction a strip of clouds and potential precipitable moisture can squeak by the eastern end of the High Knob Massif from the Wise Plateau and cross it in the Flatwoods-Guest River Gorge section to reach the Clinch River Valley and points to the southeast toward Bristol, Virginia.

Impacts of the above are most dramatic from the High Knob Massif northward, and along the spines of Black & Pine mountains, where air with the richest moisture is initially lifted ( and with good moisture it extends into the backbone of Clinch Mountain and to the windward side of the Mount Rogers-Whitetop Massif ).

The continuous fall of moderate to heavy snow amid plumes with well defined Great Lake connections, as this case is a classic example, is therefore unique to this portion of Virginia where nearly all of the remainder of the state lies leeward of the West Virginia highlands ( which extract moisture from plumes, reducing their vigor in all but unique settings ).

This being the most important point from a prediction or forecast perspective, as the heavy snow in this most impacted portion of southwest Virginia extends from the deepest hollows to the summits and is not just relegated to the higher, windward facing slopes as most forecasters only recognize ( i.e., this tends to be widespread in nature and not just concentrated into narrow bands such as observed with snowstreaks or training squalls ).

From a climatological or long-term perspective, this is one of the most important aspects making the High Knob Massif and locales to its NW-N the snowiest in all of Virginia for their respective elevations ( i.e., atypically high average annual snowfall at low-moderate elevations of less than 4300 feet ).

Over the long-term only higher elevations within the Mount Rogers-Whitetop area, which also do not lie leeward of West Virginia, could be snowier than the High Knob Massif in Virginia ( any given location in the state can be the snowiest place during a particular event ).

The High Knob Massif does appear to contain the wettest locations in all of Virginia, as previous assumptions that Mount Rogers is the wettest due to it being the highest summit in the state are flawed given that long-term annual wetness is influenced by much more than just elevation ( while more study is needed, ALL data available points to this being true ).

Storm Snowfall Totals
for January 10-13, 2011

Nora 4 SSE: 7.7"
Clintwood 1 W: 8.5"
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif: 9.6"
Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif: 13.7"

Snow depths during the morning of January 13 varied from 10" to 12" at the Norton Water Plant, on northern slopes at the base of the High Knob Massif, to around 21" at a snow marker on Eagle Knob ( with more than 2 feet on upper north slopes where some old snow lingers from December / not including drifts ). 

Clintwood 1 W gained 4.5" of new snow from sunset January 12 to sunrise on January 13, amid the Great Lake plume, to generate 6" to 10" depths at its 1560 foot elevation ( low mountain hollow ).

Major settlement occurred on the snowpack during the January 14-15 period, with some well exposed locations having a 6-10"+ drop in total depth ( via the low density, fluffy nature of this latest fall ).  By contrast, snow remained significantly deeper ( as it typically does ) on shady, northern exposed slopes.

January 14, 2011
Tennessee Valley Divide
The Snowy Garden - Long Ridge
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"The sun came out this week to find our garden place covered with snow. The aparagus, now brown, was salvaged from wild plants discovered along the road. Covered by snow is a hand cut sandstone rock. I have enjoyed sitting there watching the garden grow and being close to bluebirds feeding their young."

Seasonal Snowfall Tallies
( November 1, 2010 to January 13, 2011 )

Clintwood 1 W: 53.2" at 1560 feet
Nora 4 SSE on Long Ridge: 61.5" at 2650 feet
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif: 80.8" at 3300 feet
*Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif: 99.5" at 4178 feet

*Only approximate total as greater and lesser amounts have likely occurred within the main crest zone of the massif between Bowman Mountain, Camp Rock, and Thunderstruck Knob where 15 peaks ( locally called knobs ) reach 3600 feet or higher in elevation above mean sea level.

A general 80" to 100" of snow have now fell this season across upper elevations ( above 3200 feet ) in the High Knob Massif, as 2010-11 gets off to a fast start in the southern Appalachians.

Comparison With 2009-10 Season
( October 17, 2009 to January 12, 2010 )

Clintwood 1 W: 37.8" at 1560 feet
Nora 4 SSE on Long Ridge: 43.7" at 2650 feet
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif: 59.0" at 3300 feet
Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif: 81.0" at 4178 feet 

Compared with this point in last winter a general 60" to 80" of snow had accumulated across upper elevations of the High Knob Massif, with around 40" in lower-middle elevations to its north.

The 2009-10 winter season was characterized by a prolonged, deep snowpack in the High Knob highcountry with a notable lack of harsh coldness ( i.e., sub-zero temps ) despite all the snow.  

The big-ticket storm of last winter, of course, was the December 18-19, 2009 Mega-Disaster event which crippled the area for weeks courtesy of a Miller A Storm packing high density snowfall from the Gulf of Mexico.

The 2009-10 winter generated a significant amount of NW Flow snowfall but, compared to this point in time, not as much as the current winter ( the major difference between the two seasons to date ).  Nearly every system during the 2010-11 season has so far found a way to generate intervals of Great Lake enhanced NW flow snowfall into the southern Appalachians.  A very notable trend, as some winters may pass with very few Great Lake connected flows into the southern Appalachians which do not benefit from such flows as often as central portions of the mountain chain.

The high occurrence of NW-N flow snows so far during this winter season has held the official National Weather Service Cooperative Station near TRI ( Tri-City Airport ) to just 13.1", with even less reported at the NWS Coop in Kingsport, Tn., up through January 13, as such air flows must first pass across the High Knob Landform ( HKL ).

While much above average for this point in a winter season, these TRI snowfall totals would be much greater if large amounts of moisture were not first being extracted from air flowing across the wide High Knob Massif and Tennessee Valley Divide.

Note in almost all historic cases, and events this winter, greater snow amounts occur in Kingsport and at TRI when air flows do NOT have to first pass across the High Knob Massif.

An incredible NW to SE gradient in snowfall develops between the High Knob Massif and Kingsport-TRI, with 67" to 96" ( 5.6 to 8 FEET ) more so far this winter amid these higher elevations located a mere 23 to 36 air miles to the NW-N of Kingsport-TRI.

A truly dramatic and classic example of snow shadowing which was never fully recognized prior to my climatic research.

Square Pants Survives Another Storm!
  Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

That is one TOUGH little DUDE!    

Special Feature:
Bad Branch State Nature Preserve
Pine Mountain of the Cumberland Overthrust Block

January 15, 2011
Pine Mountain - Letcher County, Ky
Icy Wonder of Bad Branch Waterfall
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Just northwest of the High Knob Landform is a rugged, pristine section of Pine Mountain that is a favorite local destination during all seasons of the year ( along the Pine Mountain Anticline ).

January 15, 2011
Isaiah Addington Capturing The Wonders
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Part of the extensive system of natural areas of the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission & The Nature Conservancy, Bad Branch Waterfall is only one of the gems found amid this rugged section of Pine Mountain.

Recall The Cumberland Overthrust Block 
consists of these major geological features:

1 ).  The Powell Valley Anticline 
of the High Knob Landform

2 ).  The Middlesboro Syncline

3 ).  The Pine Mountain Anticline

The Powell Valley Anticline is the structural framework of the great High Knob Landform, the most dominant feature of the 3125 square mile Cumberland Block.

Bad Branch SNP - January 15, 2011
Flowing Water & Frozen Water
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Winter is a special time to visit any of our many waterfalls, as all forms and phases of water are typically on wondrous display!

January 15, 2011
Rugged Sandstone Cliffs In Bad Branch SNP
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Pristine blue skies made the perfect backdrop for these rugged sandstone cliffs, decorated by a myriad of LONG icicles!

January 15, 2011
Colorful ICE Display of Bad Branch Falls
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The morning did not begin so clear, but beauty was not diminished as all sorts of colors were created by the magical interplay between light, rock, and water frozen in time!

January 15, 2011
Bad Branch Gorge In Winter
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

More than 30 species of plants & animals rare to Kentucky are found amid this rugged mountain landscape of boulder filled gorges, as the climate changes more distinctly here with W & NW air flowing across the foothills getting its first big lift upward into the Cumberland Overthrust Block.

Bad Branch SNP is also near the northeastern end of an extended corridor which acts to generate maximum downsloping on SE winds as air flows across the High Knob Massif, northeast end of the Black Mountains, and this portion of Pine Mountain.

Locations to the northwest of these mountains often record anomalously low precipitation amounts during individual storm events, and more rarely during months or even years, when SE air flows dominate ( the greatest SE flow precip amounts, by contrast, occur along windward sides of the sprawling High Knob Massif ). 

January 15, 2011
Letcher County, Kentucky
Bad Branch State Nature Preserve
ICE Cave - Winter Product of Ice & Rock
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Roddy captured a winter product of ice and rock that looked like an ice cave, at least a Mini-Me version!

January 15, 2011
Remote Majesty of Bad Branch of the Cumberland
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Bad Branch is literally at the very head of the extensive 688 mile long Cumberland River system, and has been designated a Kentucky Wild River of the Bluegrass State.

January 15, 2011
Letcher County, Kentucky
Pristine Water of Bad Branch State Nature Preserve
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Pristine water of Bad Branch is matched in Kentucky only by a few other creeks, such as those tumbling out of the rugged northwestern arm of the High Knob Landform ( geological Powell Valley Anticline ) in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park ( the Cumberland & Stone mountain arm of the HKL often being called a geological mirror image of Pine Mountain, or visa versa, by geologists ).

Beautiful Mix of Water Phases & Light - Bad Branch
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Unique settings complete with all forms of water phases and light were captured by Roddy along the rocky course of Bad Branch.

January 15, 2011
Ice Crystals Over Rippling Water - Bad Branch SNP
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

January 15, 2011
Ice Formations Along Bad Branch of the Cumberland
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Bad Branch SNP is only a short distance from gorgeous North Fork of Pound Lake, in northern Wise County, Va., at the head of the Russell Fork Basin of the Ohio River. 

January 15, 2011
Bad Branch State Nature Preserve
Isaiah Addington Making Memories
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

There is nothing like having a good buddy on a long hike, with a father & son combo being the best!  Isaiah is making memories that will last a life time in the wild lands with dear Ole Dad.

January 15, 2011
Sponge Bob Rides Again - Bad Branch SNP
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Its always great to have an extra friend too!