October 2014 Summary

As with most Octobers, we were blessed with a few days of powder skiing on a shallow snowpack mainly from some wet snows the first week followed by fair weather through mid-month.  The last week was dominated by clouds and brisk north winds creating some slabs.  As of today snow totals at upper elevation are three feet of settled snow with wind entrained snow along most E/W gullies and couloirs.  The past few days have seen intermittent snow showers in the Pass with improving conditions on north aspects while south aspects are sun eroded.

The DOT wind graph grab is off the DOT site on the Pass.  Unfortunately, the site antenna temperature sensor has been down for the past month, but the pavement surface temperature sensor is pretty close.


Gap Winds Oct 26-31

Of note was the Loveland Glacier.  The two crevasse fields that were rather benign and small expanded greatly over the past summer, so extra care is advised until the snowpack builds not only on this glacier but others.. Many glaciers are feeling the impacts of human-caused global warming as it continues it’s onslaught on the Chugach Range and the snows that smother it.  The 27-Mile Glacier has lost enough ice last summer to dramatically increase it’s angle at the terminus from 32-35 degrees to Kings Throne atop the icefall.

Valdez remains snow free as of Nov 1st with the snow line at about 1500′  We are still well below normal for precipitation for 2014.  With the Valdez NWS on reduced data collection and staff, we will not break records as Valdez is no longer “official” in that regard.  So even if we get what may look like a record snowfall for a day, month, or for the season, no new records for Valdez will be established in the future.  Valdez may be the snowiest place, but we will no longer be collecting reliable enough data to prove it.  Of course it will take some time to access the impact on the community regard to general transportation and recreational use and the acute avalanche hazards that develop in Thompson Pass  This also goes for record temps, snowpack depth, etc… We will see a few consecutive days where no snowpack information is collected, breaking the data trail since 1977 of daily observation as of last April  All data will be collected at a minimum of once a day Monday through Friday.

Daily totals for Valdez were available in simple forms updated twice daily.  As you can see, it is not easy or reliable anymore.  The monthly summary below was edited for this site.   If you want daily climate info for Valdez, click HERE and type in the parameters of your search.  You will also notice that all past Valdez historical data is nonexistent or garbled.  In the past, data was easily found and made for good weather trivia and noting records.  For instance, 2014 appears to be on track to be the driest year on record, but the data no matter what it reveals, is not reliable enough to establish a new annual record.

What does this mean for us skiers?  Looks like a bit more work to collect accurate information.  The loss of the NWS staffing in Valdez will have a significant impact in how many of us collect weather information to solve the science of avalanches and weather to nail the goods.

VALDEZ OCTOBER 2014 (M=missing)

Max Min Avg HDD Precip
1  M M M M M
2  M M M M M
3  60 34 47 18 0.39
4  47 37 42 23 0.54
5  42 32 37 28 1.34
6  42 32 37 28 0.13
7  41 34 38 27 0.00
8  44 34 39 26 0.00
9  44 31 38 27 0.19
10 40 33 37 28 0.39
11 44 33 39 26 0.43
12 49 40 45 20 0.43
13 M M M M M
14 49 40 45 20 0.01
15 55 34 45 20 0.00
16 50 37 44 21 0.01
17 M M M M M
18 M M M M M
19 M M M M M
20 51 31 41 24 0.03
21 M M M M M
22 M M M M M
23 M M M M M
24 48 31 40 25 0.18
25 M M M M M
26 M M M M M
27 43 31 37 28 0.44
28 37 23 30 35 0.00
29 34 21 28 37 0.00

30 36 24 30 35 0.03

31 41 23 32 33 0.03

Month 4.57(precip)