Thursday, November 8, 2018

Late Autumn 2018_High Knob Massif


November 14, 2018
Moisture Capture By Trees
Looking Across Big Cherry Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

History Of Christmases Past
55-Years ( 1963-2017 )

Clouds engulfing the high country of the High Knob Massif transformed the landscape into a RIME forest, as standing trees captured a vast volume of super-cooled cloud vapor.

November 14, 2018
Moisture Capture By Trees
Looking Across High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Trees are critical to moisture extraction throughout the year, with the results being most evident and majestic during rime formation when the actual captured product becomes clearly visible for everyone to see.

November 14, 2018
Moisture Capture By Trees
Northern Slopes Above Flag Rock RA
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Scroll down the page where more 
rime photograph can be viewed.

November 3, 2018
Powell Mountain Block of High Knob Massif
Looking SW Across Big Cherry Lake Basin

Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

While many bare trees are featured in the high country as this final month of meteorological autumn begins, pockets of color remain and 
leaf coverage is much greater than usual. 

November 3, 2018
Large Crest of High Knob Massif
Looking SE Across High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

For three consecutive weekends snow flakes flew atop the High Knob Massif, with this third weekend marking the first, actual accumulation of snow and rime at highest elevations.

November 3, 2018
Rime On Cow Pasnip (Heracleum maximum)
Photograph by Layton Gardner - © All Rights Reserved

Around 1" of predawn snow fell, along with riming.

November 3, 2018
Snow-Rime On High Knob Peak
Photograph by Layton Gardner - © All Rights Reserved

Accumulation was short-lived, with significant melting by around 1130 hours (11:30 AM ) when Layton captured these beautiful scenes.

All snow and rime was nearly gone by Noon, save for a couple inches which had blown up against the Lookout Tower (*).

*Some kids were making the first 
snow balls of the season out of that!

November 3, 2018
Looking Toward Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Layton Gardner - © All Rights Reserved

Air temps climbed to around freezing by 1120 hours, even on northern exposed slopes; although, a little bit of snow-rime did linger through 1500 hours on Eagle Knob (36 degrees at 3 PM).

Eagle Knob
High Knob Project
UVA-Wise Research

A total of 16.0 hours at or below freezing 
( 32F or 0C ) were observed on Eagle Knob.

November 3, 2018
Looking WSW Across Roaring Branch Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The coldest temperatures observed during Autumn 2018 ( through November 3 ) dropped into the 20-25 degree F range during October 21-23, from high mountain ridges down into colder mountain valleys at upper elevations.

November 3, 2018
Looking NW To Pine Mountain on VA-KY Line
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

November 3, 2018
High Knob Lake - Water Elevation 3520 Feet
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

November 3, 2018
Elevation Around-Below 3000 Feet
Lingering Color Along State Route 619
Northern Slopes of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved


Beauty And Beast Storm
November 13-16, 2018

This was a Beauty And The Beast storm for upper elevations in the High Knob Massif where gorgeous riming during November 13-14 gave way to major ice storm conditions into the overnight-morning hours of November 15 ( prior to a change into snow ).

November 14, 2018
Rime Covered Big Cherry Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2018
High Knob Lookout Tower
High Country of Cumberland Mountains
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Rime extended from highest peaks into deep gorges.

November 14, 2018
Benges Branch Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2018
Looking Across Grindstone Ridge
Rime Covered Head of Big Cherry Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2018
Benges Branch Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A notable inversion layer, visible during afternoon hours of November 14, was an ominous foreshadowing of trouble into the upcoming night.

November 14, 2018
Inversion Layer Visible
High Country of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2018
North Slope Rime Forest of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2018
Looking SW Across High Knob Massif
Fog Layer Over South Fork Powell River Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2018
Looking Across High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2018
Mountain Wave Clouds
Looking Across Big Cherry Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2018
Water Elevation 3318 Feet
Spillway At Upper Norton Reservoir

Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2018
Flag Rock Recreation Area
Rime Surrounds Famous Flag Rock
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Major icing developed at highest elevations in the 
High Knob Massif into the overnight and morning hours of November 15, with many broken tree limbs and small trees as the BEAST of this early winter storm reared its destructive side ( beautiful but destructive ice ).

November 15, 2018
Major Ice Accumulation On Eagle Knob
Cody Blankenbecler Image - © All Rights Reserved

So many broken tree limbs impacted High Knob, Eagle Knob, Little Mountain Knob, and areas toward Camp Rock that roads were blocked and had to be cleared of debris.  It locally looked like a ''war zone'' in places.

November 16 at 12:02 PM
Chunks Of Ice Falling Into Snow On Eagle Knob
Cody Blankenbecler Image - © All Rights Reserved

Chunks of ice began falling into a couple inches of snow by mid-day on November 16, which accumulated at the end of this system, as bent trees remained visible in the background ( numerous roads were impassible ).


Major Winter Storm
December 9, 2018

December 10, 2018
Orographic Snow Clouds Capping Massif
High Knob Massif Webcam_UVA-Wise

Long-lived orographic clouds laying for miles across 
the High Knob Massif added even more moisture to 
trees with rime deposition in the high country.

December 10, 2018
Orographic Snow Clouds Capping Massif
High Knob Massif Webcam_UVA-Wise

A majestic mountain landscape was observed in wake of a general 1 to 2 feet of snow from the elevation of Wise up across the high country of the High Knob Massif.


Time Lapse Excerpt From Winter Storm
UVA-Wise Undergraduate Research Program

This short example from the storm episode was selected to illustrate huge snowflakes which often tend to be part of these types of systems.  Note also how difficult it was for snow plows to keep roads cleared.

Huge Snowfall & Depth Gradient Across Massif
GOES-16 Visible Image

A huge snow depth gradient was observed between the rising air side of the High Knob Massif and the sinking air side, with more than a foot along the Clinch River Valley to contrast with 1" or less along portions of Powell Valley and the Powell River Valley 
( between Norton and Pennington Gap ). 

The maximum snow depth difference was around 2 feet, or locally more, between the high country of the massif and the adjacent floor of Powell Valley and the Powell River Valley.

*It was actually MUCH more if you include drifts, with Tony Dockery of VDOT taking a photograph of 5-6 foot drifts on High Knob ( submitted courtesy of my friend John Varner, night superintendent of the East Stone Gap VDOT ).

Differences between Big Stone Gap and Wise were highlighted by a couple of my former students, with Dylan Richardson reporting 0.5" of snow at his home in Big Stone Gap versus the 13.5" that were measured by Layton Gardner at his home on 
Pole Bridge Road of the Wise Plateau.

This is not; however, merely a mountain to valley phenomenon as more than 2.00" of water equivalent in the High Knob Massif was 1.00" or more greater than observed at similar high elevations on Black Mountain.  This has been a documented aspect with previous TIM events.

925 MB Analysis At 1:00 AM December 9

925 MB Analysis At 7:00 AM December 9

925 MB Analysis At 1:00 PM December 9

While flow at lowest levels is always important, it does not necessarily dictate the impacts when you have high mountain terrain which stands upward to near 850 MB and generates atmospheric waves which stand and extend terrain influences higher, to occasionally much higher, into the troposphere (waves even propagate upward and break into the stratosphere at times).

In events like this the City of Norton is typically right amid the transitional zone between more TIM Circulation impacts versus Wise with less impacts.  Norton always gets more total precipitation since 
it is closer to the standing wave axis but beneath where air starts sinking aloft, 
such that precipitation type becomes 
more of an issue.

The City of Norton Water Plant measured 1.91" of total precipitation with 8.5" of snow depth on the morning of December 10.  


Nearby Wise had more snow depth but less total precipitation with less mixed types.

All TIM events I have documented have displayed this same type of precipitation distribution and all events have also seen 

Big Stone Gap receive little to no snow and much less total precip at the Wastewater Treatment Plant versus the Big Stone Gap Water Plant which, like Norton WP, is closer to the standing wave axis.

Locations on the cold side of the standing wave axis, and TIM Circulation, always get hammered with heavy snow. That correlates to the high country of the massif ( typically most extreme from Bowman Mountain of Stone Mountain to Thunderstruck Knob 
of Powell Mountain ).

Although communities such as High Chaparral, Robinson Knob, Moore Knob, East Moore Knob, and Flat Gap tend to also get very heavy snow, documented totals have not been as great as those in the Little Mountain and Johnson Pastures-Cox Place communities.  Measuring in nearly all locations is problematic given blizzard conditions and extensive drifting from horizontally falling snow during these events.

850 MB Analysis At 1:00 AM December 9


850 MB Analysis At 7:00 AM December 9


850 MB Analysis At 1:00 PM December 9

Air flow in the 900-600 MB layer streamed toward the High Knob Massif from the ESE-SE, with air flowing from the VJI-TRI corridor (Abingdon to Tri-Cities) across Scott County toward a standing wave formed 
by the massif with flow over (through) the wave and subsidence (sinking) to its lee (downstream of the 
high country) along the Powell River Valley. 

This is part of a Thermally Indirect Mesoscale (TIM) Circulation first identified by Wayne Browning more than 2 decades ago during climate research, with topographic anchoring of a rain-snow-mix zone along the northwestern edge of the massif.  In this case, cold air rises on E-SE air flow up across the high country side while warming air is forced to sink downstream of the massif and anchored transitional zone wave form.

700 MB Analysis At 1:00 AM December 9


700 MB Analysis At 7:00 AM December 9


700 MB Analysis At 1:00 PM December 9

This system was not as potent as the January 1998 and December 2009 storms; although, more cold air along the Great Valley did allow that corridor to receive more snow than observed during these previous storm events (so it was worse for this interior valley).


Frigid In High Mountain Valleys
December 11, 2018

High mountain valleys from the High Knob Massif to Burkes Garden plunged to frigid levels into the morning hours of December 11 as the combination of dry air advection over deep snow allowed the bottom to literally drop out.


Courtesy of Blacksburg NWSFO

Min temperatures dropped to -9 below zero in Burkes Garden and locally as cold or colder in the High Knob Massif.  This generated a large vertical temp gradient between high valleys and those at low elevations which either had no snow cover (Big Stone Gap) or had freezing fog formation (with latent heat release).



Storm Snowfall Totals And Recap
December 8-10, 2018 Period

Meadow Elevation 3880 Feet
Afternoon of December 15, 2018
Camp Rock Meadow of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Nearly a week after the first major winter snowfall 
of the season and the high country of the High Knob Massif was engulfed in orographic clouds. 

A general 3" to 7" of snow depth continued 
to cover northern slopes and higher elevations.

Drifts stretched for miles along high crest lines, with deepest snow being along the west to northwest sides of ridges given this storm was dominated by E-SE winds.

I sampled a single quarter mile section and 
measured the following drifts as I came to them:

*Measured Drifts

8"
16"
10"
18"
11"
8-16"
12"
12-16"
8-16"
24"
8-14"
10-20"
12"
13"
12-20"
12-18"
21"

*As of 3:00 to 3:30 PM Saturday ( December 15, 2018 )

Following several days of above freezing temperatures, orographic clouds (fog with latent heat of condensation release), and some rain, snow depths had come WAY down from max depths on December 9-10.

Meadow Elevation 3880 Feet
Afternoon of December 15, 2018
Camp Rock Meadow of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

This included drifts, with VDOT driver Tony Dockery reporting 5-6 feet drifts in the gap between High Knob and Little Mountain Knob on December 10.  Drifts in that area on the afternoon of December 15 were no larger than ones I measured, and did not look to be 
as deep as drifts up along adjacent crest lines.

*As typical, some of the biggest drifts blocked Route 237 
in the Davenport Gap area going toward Big Cherry Lake.

Snow Melt Run-off With Roaring Water Levels
Big Stony Creek Crested 1 Foot Below Flood Stage

December 15, 2018
Robinette Branch of Benges
Legion Park In City of Norton 
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

( Long-time exposure at sunset in Legion Park ).

Resulting run-off had creeks gushing on December 15, especially the large streams such as Big Stony Creek, Little Stony Creek, Clear Creek, and South Fork of Powell River to note a few.

December 15 was the designated Christmas Bird Count day and conditions made this difficult with persistent clouds and wind up high and much water noise in the valleys and hollows down below.


Snowfall Totals

December 9, 2018
Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge
Beautiful Snow Along Tennessee Valley Divide
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved

High Knob Crest Zone
23.0" with 4-8 foot drifts
(Partially based upon snow cores)

High Chaparral Community
19.0" with 16-18"+ depths

Natural Tunnel State Park
14-18" with 2 foot drifts

Duffield
14" to 18" depths

Pole Bridge Road-Wise Plateau
13.5 of snow with 11" mean depth

Castlewood
13" depth

Nora 4 SSE NWS
10.3" ( 1.37" storm total )

December 10, 2018
Nora 4 SSE on Long Ridge
Nearly A Foot In Wake Of Winter Storm
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved

City of Norton WP
8.5" ( 1.91" storm total )

Clintwood 1 W NWS
8" ( 1.25" storm total )

SE Side of Powell Valley
5-10" depths

Head of Powell Valley
4" depth

Wallen Ridge
4" depth

Big Stone Gap
0.5" depth

December 10, 2018
Bluebird House In Snow
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved

More than 27,000 homes and businesses lost electricity during this event, with Scott County, Va., being the most severely impacted county in the region ( up to 70% or more of Scott County lost power ).

December 10, 2018
Beauty Along The Tennessee Valley Divide
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved

The beauty of this storm could not be denied, nor could its destructive impact with locations upstream of the High Knob Massif being hardest hit.

AEP Outage Map At 2:45 PM on December 9
Does Not Include Old Dominion Power Outages

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Early Autumn 2018_High Knob Massif


September 29, 2018
High Knob Lake Recreation Area
High Knob Naturalist Rally 2018
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

These Websites Are Sponsored By The:
Proudly Serving The Mountain Region

( Large section - Allow Time To Load )



Pleasantly cool conditions graced the high country during this year's High Knob Naturalist Rally.  What an awesome event!

Time Is UTC
High Knob Naturalist Rally

Low clouds and fog were featured during the morning, with lingering clouds well into the afternoon before conditions finally improved to generate some warming sunshine.  The PM MAX barely touching 
60 degrees on High Knob and Eagle Knob ( above ).

Temperatures were in the 50s during most of this year's Rally, peaking at 63 degrees at High Knob Lake and 60 degrees on High Knob and Eagle Knob with some help from mid-late afternoon sunshine.

These conditions were in dramatic contrast to a PM MAX of 81 degrees in the Tri-Cities, Va-Tn., ( from which some welcomed visitors came! ).

2018 High Knob Naturalist Rally
Beautiful Water Flows Into High Knob Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A heavy rain event prior to this year's Rally had water flowing abundantly, with up to 3.50" being measured 
in the area.

2018 High Knob Naturalist Rally
Beautiful Water Flows Out Of High Knob Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Now this is the way to conclude a day ( below ).

2018 High Knob Naturalist Rally
Fishing From A Kayak On Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Be sure to check out this published series which talks just a little about what makes High Knob Special.

What Makes High Knob Special
by Wayne Browning & Wally Smith

Part 1 - Coalfield Progress

Part 2 - Coalfield Progress

Part 3 - Coalfield Progress

Part 4 - Coalfield Progress

Part 5 - Coalfield Progress

Part 6 - Coalfield Progress

October 18, 2018
Rugged Northern Slopes of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Beautiful Maples In Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Color Along Big Cherry Lake Road
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Autumn At Big Cherry Lake of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Water Elevation 3120 Feet
Reflections On Big Cherry Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Big Cherry Lake of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Autumn Along Big Cherry Lake Road
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Big Cherry Lake of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Moon Rise Over Little Mountain
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Flag Rock Recreation Area
More Beautiful Maples - Elevation 3200 feet
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Flag Rock Recreation Area of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Pickem Mountain of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Benges Branch Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2018
Sunset From The High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

This section is under construction.  Please check back.