JACKSON, Wyo. — The month of November has featured large variations in weather patterns. Overall, the month will finish with above-average snowfall and slightly colder than average temperatures, but settled snow depths are below average at the end of the month thanks to recent dry weather, which looks to continue into December as well.
Following record cold temperatures in late October, November started out with dry conditions and well-above average temperatures. The Jackson Hole Airport recorded highs of 63 degrees on November 4 and November 5, and the town of Jackson weather station broke a daily record high when it hit 62 on November 5.
The dry spell came to an abrupt end on November 7, and the period from November 7 through November 16 saw a dramatic shift in the weather pattern with heavy snow and cold temperatures. During this nine-day stretch, the Rendezvous Bowl Plot at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort recorded 70 inches of snow and the town of Jackson recorded 13 inches of snow.
From November 17-20, the Rendezvous Bowl Plot received an additional 8 inches of snow, but a significant warm-up also occurred with temperatures reaching the 40s in town for three straight days with lows struggling to fall below freezing, which resulted in a quickly shrinking snowpack in the valley from the days prior.
Over the final 10 days of the month, a cold and dry pattern settled into place with below-average temperatures, frequent inversions, and little snowfall. From November 20-30, the Rendezvous Bowl Plot at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort received only 8 inches of snow.
Temperatures at the Jackson Hole Airport fell below zero on six occasions during the final 10 days of the month, including a monthly low of -11 on the morning of November 30. Overall, temperatures were 0.8 degrees below normal for the month of November (preliminary, through November 29) with an average high of 37.9 and an average low of 13.4.
For the month of November, the Rendezvous Bowl Plot received 86 inches of snow and the town of Jackson received 13.5 inches of snow, both of which are above average. Season-to-date snowfall is also above average at all elevations as of November 30.
However, because the vast majority of this snow fell during a 10-day stretch in the middle of the month and conditions have been much drier since then, settled snow depths are below average as of November 30 at all elevations.
While the mid-November storms boosted the snowpack and allowed for a solid opening weekend at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the outlook for early December is not so good for snow lovers.
A strong ridge of high pressure will set up over Western North America from approximately December 1 through December 10, which will act as a barrier to any storms arriving from the Pacific. Aside from a weak disturbance on the night of November 30, the first 10 days of December look almost completely dry.
High pressure should eventually break down and allow for a storm to slide into the Northern Rockies around December 11. However, it’s much too soon to know how strong (or weak) this storm will be and how favorable of a track it will take for Jackson Hole, but at the very least this looks like our next opportunity for snow.
Beyond this storm, models are projecting a ridge of high pressure to rebuild over the Western U.S. but it’s possible that the ridge sets up just far enough west to allow for additional storms to sneak into Jackson Hole from the northwest. We’ll just have to wait and see how this pattern evolves moving forward.
Long range models (beyond two weeks out) have been consistently pointing toward a more active second half of December across the Western U.S. While long-range model skill is not that reliable, these models can be useful for looking at trends, and given the recent consistency, there is reason for hope for snow lovers that the pattern could turn more favorable later in the month of December despite an unusually dry start. It is still early in the season after all, and anyone who’s spent much time in Jackson knows it can turn around in a hurry.
As for temperatures, we will likely see frequent inversions during this dry stretch in early December with mild temperatures in the mountains and cold temperatures locked in the valleys (especially in the mornings), but if we manage to break out of the inversions at all (due to wind, for instance), then it wouldn’t be a surprise to see an occasional warm day in the valley before more active weather arrives.
Alan Smith, Meteorologist
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