Note: I had a couple of posts brewing for the latter half of this week, including one on running, and another on Scrub Jays, but I’m doing this one instead for 2 reasons. First, it’s a great follow-up to the open question from Tuesday’s post, and second, as I have warned previously, my work-life is pretty, uh, “full” right now, and will continue to be so through December, during which my available research time is pretty limited.
So after Tuesday’s post, and the excellent and insightful comments from several of you, I stewed on the Why-is-Nevada-so-damn-cold question some more. I woke up yesterday, and thought about it while I drank coffee and read the paper. I thought about it while I sat and spun on the trainer and watched the news on TV, and I was still thinking about it when the weather report* came on.
And I as I watched the weather report, spinning and panting and sweating*, a thought slowly formed in my not-yet-quite-awake brain. It was: “Weather report… weather report… presented by a… meteorologist… who is a person who knows something about… weather…. Huh… I have a question about weather… Huh… Maybe, just maybe… I.. should… ask… (light bulb coming on) the… meteorologist!”
*In the running post, I want to get into the whole perspiration thing, which is really interesting.
And so yesterday morning I emailed KSL meteorologist Dan Pope with my bizarre, Why-is-Eastern-Nevada-so-cold? question, and within 2 hours he replied! Here’s Dan’s email back to me, with commentary added by me:
Note for non-Utah readers: KSL channel 5 is the NBC affiliate station in Salt Lake City.
That’s a great, insightful question, and I’ll be pleased to answer it. But first, let me just say how wonderful I think your blog is! I'm absolutely amazing the range of topics you cover, and your Awesome Graphics are simply unparalleled. Really you have set a new standard for Informative Science Blogging.
Haha! OK, no he didn’t really say that. Here’s what he really said:
In fact, after reviewing your blog with senior KSL executives (and noting how well-informed, articulate and photogenic you are) we’d like to invite you to appear on KSL-5 News as Guest Science Specialist…
Haha! OK, really, really- I’ll quit messing around. Here’s what he said:
Last night skies cleared completely over Nevada, and clouds moved into Northern Utah. That combined with just enough air movement, kept temperatures a little warmer in Park City than what they will be tonight. As skies clear tonight, and with snow cover on the ground and with light winds, Park City will be colder. Elko and Ely were out of the wind movement last night, and both now have snow on the ground and the clear skies allowed both to drop significantly.
OK that makes sense…
Eastern Nevada can and does routinely get colder than the Wasatch Front and even Park City. Ely is about the same elevation as Park City, but the mountains surrounding Ely are higher, so the air gets puddled into the Ely Valley. Elko has mountains surrounding it as well, so the cold air gets puddled (inversion). The other thing in Eastern Nevada is that the air is often drier than near Salt Lake City (due to the influence of the Great Salt Lake there is more humidity). The drier the air, the greater the temperature spread from high to low can be. Not that Park City doesn’t get cold due to dry air. It does.
Ahh… OK, 2 good items in here. First, the lower humidity. I actually wondered about, as it- specifically minimal tropospheric water vapor- is one of the factors we talked about in Tuesday’s post that is involved in cooling cP air masses way up in Canada/Alaska. And of course the lake- with its frequent associated “lake effect” storms- is a logical source for increased water vapor along the Wasatch Front.
Side Note: Commenters cmsparks and Colin* both suggested the lake as a factor. Good job, guys!
*I know Colin (aka Clean Colin) in real life and he is Way Wicked Smart. In fact he is a Phd Organic Chemist. That’s right, both OCRick and Clean Colin are organic chemists. And in fact I have several more Phd-Scientist friends (including Vicente.) And then practically everyone else in my life (including Awesome Wife, Hunky Neighbor, SkiBikeJunkie, Young Ian, Brother-Phil, Sister-Elizabeth) has- or is getting- an advanced degree. Everyone that is, except me. I barely squeaked out a Bachelor’s degree, and am the least-educated, most ignorant person in my entire social circle. Man, what a downer. I need some new friends. If you are reading this blog and are a high-school drop-out, I would like to start pal-ing around with you.
Second, I knew of course that many Eastern Nevada valleys experience inversions, which we talked about in this post and this post last year. But what I hadn’t thought of was the height of the surrounding mountain ranges. The Snake Range, to the East of Ely, peaks out (Wheeler Peak) at about 1,600 feet higher than Twin Peaks (East Peak), the highest part of the Wasatch, along Park City/Snyderville basin*.
*But this isn’t the case for Elko. It’s at 5,200 feet, and Ruby Range, to the East of town, peaks out (Ruby Dome) ~100 feet lower than Twin Peaks.
Side Note: Commenter KanyonKris* suggested inversions, so great job, Kris!
*I also know KanyonKris in real life, and although I don’t think(?) he has a Phd, he is also Way Wicked Smart.
One final thing to think about...is that Park City Main Street is warmer than the Snyderville Basin and Jeremy Ranch. Those locations are always colder than Park City Main Street. I'm not sure where you got your morning temperature of 3 degrees from, but the lower areas of Park City...even around the Golf Course are always colder than the readings from the Ski areas.
I just looked at the final morning lows. Silver Creek Junction was -16. Kimball Junction was -14. Park City Golf Course was -7. Elko was -22 and Ely -19. Salt Lake City dropped to 2.
Again, I think the clouds last night made a difference in the low temperatures. It will be colder tonight in Park City, Jeremy Ranch and the Snyderville Basin.
AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist KSL-TV
P.S. How do I get one of those cool WatcherSTICKERS- they’re awesome!*
*OK I made up that “PS” part too. But the rest of the email is real.
So there we have it, from a real live meteorologist, who took time out of his busy day to reply with a thoughtful answer to a stranger’s question. Clearly, although meteorology is complicated stuff, one thing we can all agree on is that Dan Pope is Way Cool.
Note: Special- and serious- thanks to KSL Meteorologist Dan Pope. As always, I am exceedingly grateful to topical experts who go out of their way to help a curious amateur.