Saturday, February 26, 2022

February Precipitation_High Knob Massif

26 February 2022 at 2:49 PM
High Country of High Knob Massif
Looking West From Eagle Knob Summit 
Cody Blankenbecler Image © All Rights Reserved

Double digit February precipitation has been observed for the fourth time in five years within 
the high country of the High Knob Massif.

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26 February 2022 at 2:49 PM
High Country of High Knob Massif
Looking West From Eagle Knob Summit 
Cody Blankenbecler Image © All Rights Reserved

Observed February Precipitation
Big Cherry Dam of High Knob Massif

2018: 14.37
2019: 12.50
2020: 13.01
2021:   7.42
2022: 10.32

5-Year Mean: 11.52"

(15-Year February Mean: 7.55")

Around a FOOT of precipitation, in the mean, has now been observed during the five February's from 2018-2022.

26 February 2022 at 2:49 PM
High Country of High Knob Massif
Looking To High Knob Lookout 
Cody Blankenbecler Image © All Rights Reserved

Distant and majestic rime coated ridges beyond High Knob Lookout Tower, in Big Cherry Basin, have been mostly within clouds this week.

They did briefly appear before cross-barrier 
flow increased in advance of more significant precipitation.

Reference this section for more details:

23 February 2022
Enhanced Thermal Gradient
High-Eagle Gap Cross-Barrier Flow
Virginia-Kentucky Communications © All Rights Reserved

Precipitation Update

High Knob Massif
(Upper Elevations)

(Totals Listed By AM Measurement Format)
Monthly Total Precipitation
Big Cherry Lake Dam
(Elevation 3139 feet)




Winter 2018-19
(1 Dec-29 Feb)




Spring 2019
(1 Mar-31 May)




Summer 2019
(1 Jun-31 Aug)


( 5.89" to Midnight 31st )

( 7.04" to Midnight 30th )

Autumn 2019
(1 Sep-31 Oct)


2019 Total: 82.92" (M)
 (January 1 to December 31 Period)




Winter 2019-20
(1 Dec-29 Feb)

( 10.77" to Midnight 31st )


(6.90" on Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif)

Spring 2020
(1 Mar-31 May)


(10.48" to Midnight 31st)


Summer 2020
(1 Jun-31 Aug)



(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 0.5")

Autumn 2020
(1 Sep-31 Oct)

(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 34.0")

2020 Total: 96.80" (M)
 (January 1 to December 31 Period)


***(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 34.0")

(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 19.5")

Winter 2020-21
(1 Dec to 28 Feb)
(21.70" on Eagle Knob)

(11.14" to Midnight 31st)

(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 2.5")

(Eagle Knob Snowfall: Trace)

Spring 2021
(1 Mar-31 May)




Summer 2021
(1 June-31 August)



(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 1.5")
3 days with 1" or more depth

Autumn 2021
(1 Sep-30 Nov)

(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 1.0")
Several days with Trace depths

2021 Total: 68.87"
 (January 1 to December 31 Period)


(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 40.0")
29 days with 1" or more depth

(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 3.5")
14 days with 1" or more depth

November 2019-October 2020: 102.34"

Autumn 2018 to Summer 2019: 91.21"

Autumn 2019 to Summer 2020: 94.44"

Autumn 2020 to Summer 2021: 73.84"

(M): Some missing moisture in undercatch and frozen precipitation, with partial corrections applied for the 24.4 meter (80 feet) tall dam structure where rain gauges are located.  Corrections are based upon 86-months of direct comparisons between NWS and IFLOWS at Big Cherry Dam (including occasional snow core-water content data).

26 February 2022 at 2:18 PM
High Country of High Knob Massif
Looking Into Big Cherry Lake Basin 
Cody Blankenbecler Image © All Rights Reserved

This recent pattern has increased already huge precipitation differences across Virginia between the High Knob Massif and the New River and Shenandoah River valleys.

(28 February 2022)
Big Cherry Dam

Today:                   0.00
Month To Date:   10.32
Since DEC 1:        23.69
Since JAN 1:        19.06

For comparison:

Blacksburg, Virginia

Roanoke, Virginia

Danville, Virginia

Lynchburg, Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia

While southwestern Virginia has received a general 2-5 times the average precipitation during the past 7-days, portions of central and eastern Virginia had only a quarter to one-half as much as their average for this time of year.

19-26 February 2022
Percent of Normal During Past 7-Days

26 February 2022 at 2:08 PM
High Country of High Knob Massif
Looking Across High Knob Lake Basin
Cody Blankenbecler Image © All Rights Reserved

Hydrology of February 2022

February 2022
Big Stony Creek of High Knob Massif

Whitewater creeks draining the High Knob high country dissipate a tremendous amount of energy as water levels rise above 3 to 4 vertical feet on the Big Stony Creek gage, with direct correlations to the South Fork of Powell River, Clear Creek, Little Stony Creek, Cove Creek, Stock Creek, Burns Creek and many others when precipitation and/or snowpack melt is widespread.

Abundant run-off dominated the month, with 
two major periods at the beginning and end that generated prolonged ROARing water levels.

28 January-28 February 2022
Clinch River at Speers Ferry

While the highest peak occurred on headwater steep creeks during 4 February, with a combination of rain and snowpack melt, highest levels on main-stem rivers were observed on 25 February.

Whitewater Draining High Knob Massif
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Evolution of hydrological networks within the 
High Knob Massif are a product of interrelated systems that undergo self-organization across space and time.

The sound of ROARing water and perceptible vibration of the ground when near these steep creeks is part of this self-organizing system.

Energy = Power X Time ==> Power = Energy / Time

The above further implies that Power = Work done per unit Time given that Energy = Work, where the rate of using energy is equal to the rate of doing work.

Since the discovery of deterministic chaos by Edward Lorenz in 1963, an increasing focus on the nonlinear nature of geomorphic systems has led to the recognition that system outputs (responses to inputs) are often not proportional to system forcings (inputs).  This is a 
classic characteristic of complex systems.

Theoretically, this wettest terrain in Virginia should accomplish the greatest amount of work as the largest energy input in the state is dissipated per unit area across space and time.

Observed Climatology 
of February Wetness

500 MB Height Anomaly Pattern

Heavy to excessive February precipitation has 
high correlation to a ridge-trough-ridge pattern that develops across North Ameria and the Northern Hemisphere.

February 2022
500 MB Height Anomaly Pattern

The main difference between the February 2022 pattern (above) and that during the previous three wettest February's of recent years is that the ridge-trough-ridge pattern was a little farther east.

500 MB Height Anomaly Pattern

A composite mean of the four wettest February's of recent years, that generated an average of 12.55" at Big Cherry Dam (2018-2019-2020-2022), continues to  produce a strong climatological signal (below).

500 MB Height Anomaly Pattern

Interestingly, the observed increase in total February precipitation during 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022 was 166% at Big Cherry Lake Dam and 
164% at Blacksburg in the New River Valley.

2018, 2019, 2020, 2022
Four Year February Mean

Blacksburg NWSO: 4.64"
Big Cherry Dam:  12.55"

Actual means, however, were radically different 
(as previously highlighted) between these two sites.

925 MB Vector Wind
Compsite Mean February 2022

Clearly, there is much more than just the upper air pattern working to cause such huge precipitation differences.  To better understand this a look at 
the orographics are in order.

A 925 MB flow trajectory was chosen given it is in between the surface and 850 MB, near the middle of mean surface-850 layer air flow across the terrain.

925 MB Vector Wind
Composite Mean 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022

Mean air flow trajectories streaming into the 
High Knob Massif do not encounter any higher mountains upstream, prior to reaching the lofty basin of Big Cherry Lake, as they flow through 
the Great Valley of eastern Tennessee.

2018, 2019, 2020, 2022
Approximate 925 MB Composite Mean
February Trajectory Into High Knob Massif
Base Map Courtesy of Macrostrat

This setting is radically different from air flowing into the New River Valley on this type of mean SSW-SW trajectory.

2018, 2019, 2020, 2022
Approximate 925 MB Composite Mean
February Trajectory Into New River Valley
Base Map Courtesy of Macrostrat

Moisture extraction downstream of mountains along the Tennessee-North Carolina border, and northern Georgia, reduces moisture available for lifting and precipitation even at higher elevations surrounding the New River Valley on this type of air flow trajectory.

An Orographic Forcing Perspective
Climatology of the Southern Appalachians

I highlighted this aspect in a graduate school video, along with other factors that collectively have large influences on Virginia climatology (and therefore, interconnected geomorphology and biodiversity).

Meteorological Winter 2021-22
Orographic Precipitation Differences

925 MB Vector Wind
Compsite Mean Dec-Feb 2021-22

Nearly the same type of mean low-level flow in 
the Meteorological Winter period of December-February was impacted by the same type of orographics, with large differences observed 
from west to east across southwest Virginia.

December-February Period

Superimposed upon regional orographics are 
local impacts that generate large gradients, as exemplified by precipitation differences between the High Knob high country and lower-middle elevations across Dickenson-Wise-Buchanan counties downstream of the massif.

Base Map Courtesy of Macrostrat

During the December 2021 to February 2022 period of Meteorological Winter, the Levisa Fork Valley in Grundy received only around half as much precipitation as Big Cherry Dam along 
a mean airflow trajectory that approximately followed this terrain cross-section (above).

Taking flow trajectories observed during every day from 
1 December to 28 February, adding them up and deriving 
a composite mean for the entire 3-month period. 

Recent Example
High Knob Massif
Orographic Capping Pilatus Cloud Deck

It must again be stressed that much more than just vertical elevation is at work, with extensive capping pilatus (orographic feeder) clouds vital to enhanced precipitation reaching the surface across the 
High Knob Massif.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

High Knob As A Self-Organizing System

This brief section is devoted to Self-Organization, 
a concept vital to understanding and dealing with problems facing planet Earth.

(Written for Earth Day upcoming on 22 April 2022)

High Knob is nested within the Climate (Earth) System as an extraordinarily complex system in its own right that is dominated by gradients that keep it continuously in a state of non-equilibrium.

This was exemplified on 23 February 2022.

23 February 2022 
Standing Above The Clouds
High Knob Massif Flow Blocking
View From Eagle Knob Summit
Cody Blankenbecler Image © All Rights Reserved

Dramatic weather conditions were featured in 
wake of the latest heavy rainfall event during 
23 February 2022.

This is merely a single example of how the great High Knob Massif is a self-organizing system as part of the complex natural world.

23 February 2022
Looking Across Cloud Tops
High Knob Massif Flow Blocking
Cross-Barrier Thermal Gradient
Virginia-Kentucky Communications © All Rights Reserved

Multiple layers of orographic clouds developed as low-level cold air, flowing from right to left in the above time lapse, was forced to rise against its natural tendency (to sink).  This thermally indirect circulation played a role in both terrain blocking and vertical sheaing of the flow that produced rotating tubes of horizontally spinning air.

Random, chaotic movements of air molecules became increasingly self-organized as thermal gradients formed across the mountain barrier.

23 February 2022
Enhanced Thermal Gradient
High-Eagle Gap Cross-Barrier Flow
Virginia-Kentucky Communications © All Rights Reserved

Please observe the counter-clockwise trajectories of air streaming through the high gap between the peaks of High Knob (with Lookout) and Eagle Knob, curving 
from right to left in the above time lapse.

Looking east from Eagle Knob, the massif crest possessed a nearly stationary, ragged cloud mass.  If not knowing better, one would think that the mountain was on fire!

23 February 2022 at 4:54 PM
Looking East Across High Knob Massif
Cody Blankenbecler Image © All Rights Reserved

This cloud marked an interface between colder and 
milder air with the edge being a condensation line 
where orographic lifting was battling against vertical 
stability (warmer air above colder, low-level air).

23 February 2022 at 7:00 PM
NAM Model Interpolated Sounding

From another perspective, this orographic cloud also had a rolling shelf cloud-like appearance but with a downward slope to the surface of the crest.

24 February 2022
Orographic Pilatus (Cap) Cloud
Looking Toward The High Knob Massif
Courtesy of Computer Science-Mathematics Department

Following yet another wave of significant rainfall, persistent orographic clouds lingered across upper elevations of the High Knob Massif throughout the daylight hours of 24 February 2022.

Orographic pilatus clouds are dynamic, ever-changing and are maintained by gradients that drive flows of mass and energy as part of a self-organizing setting.

In this section I have mainly looked at self-organization in the atmosphere, using relatively simple examples of complex settings.  In reality, given that the atmosphere is a highly nested system, these examples are intimately linked 
to the entire Climate (Earth) System.

Climate System Components:

The Climate System is an open composite 
system consisting of five, major heterogeneous components linked by non-linear fluxes of mass, energy, and momentum across space and time.

The great High Knob Massif functions as a natural laboratory within which these important processes and components can be studied.