Caught in the Act!

Caught in the act putting up a new 8dBi gain external WiFi antenna on the Glencoe Rescue Station at 2800ft for the Webcams to replace an internal antenna. The external attenna should improve strength and thus relability of the wireless link to the top of the Access Chair, over which the mid mountain webcams and SSC weather station connect.

webcam capture

In case anyone is wondering why a spirit level wasn’t used to make sure the antenna was vertical, it’s supposed to be tilted downhill, so the band of strongest signal is aiming at the Top of the Access, not some 1800ft above Rannoch Moor. Higher gain omni directional antennas are only omni directional in the horizontal plane, there’s no free lunch with RF technology, the higher the gain is horizontal plane, the narrower the main beam of the signal becomes. A truly omni directional antenna, the theoretical isotropic antenna, radiates in all directions with uniform intensity – a perfect spherical radiation pattern. Think of a high gain omni directional antenna field more as a pancake!

That’s why in home WiFi putting a higher gain antenna vertically orientated upstairs likely wont improve your downstairs reception, but instead make it worse!

2010: Year of the Endless Winter

2010 was quite literally the year of CairnGorm Mountain’s Endless Winter, with a number of skiers notching up not just 12 consecutive months sliding on CairnGorm itself, but completing the full Calendar Year with sliding every month. The count as of Hogmanay is 14 consecutive months, the New Year and new month will be the 15th.

Here is the year that was 2010 on CairnGorm Mountain, in pictures, month by month.


^JANUARY: Sunday 24th, the final run of the day back through the trees to the Glenmore Gates.


^FEBRUARY: No filters, no doctoring – it really was that blue. West Wall Poma and Chairlift on Sunday 21st.


^MARCH: A sign of the times on Loch Morlich, Wednesday 3rd.


^APRIL: Friday 16th, the Funicular passes an absolutely loaded and full width White Lady with superb spring riding on offer.


^MAY: Beautiful spring snow under blue skies, Coire Cas T-bar, Saturday 15th May.


^JUNE: The lift served season officially ended on Monday 21st. Boarder rides a rope tow in the Ptarmigan Bowl on Sunday 20th. Rope Tows in the Top Basin and lift assisted descents of the Ciste Gully, by walking back over to the Funicular for the Solstice. Ptarmigan Tow run 5th and 6th June.


^JULY: H11lly and Jamie grab some final turns in the Ptarmigan Bowl after a visit to the Ciste Mhearaidh.


^AUGUST: H11lly skiing the Coire Cas Headwall, photographed by George Paton from the Fiacaill Ridge.


^SEPTEMBER: H11lly sets off for some September turns on CairnGorm. My last turns on winter 2010’s snow in the Ciste Mhearaidh, Thursday 2nd September.


^OCTOBER: A beautiful crisp autumn day for the first turns of winter 2011 on Monday 25th Oct. Hiked to the Summit and skied the Marquis Well, and onwards down the Traverse, 105 and upper Cas to just short of the Zig Zags.


^NOVEMBER: Skiers and boarders head out of the Ptarmigan on the first lift served day of the new season, Saturday 13th November.


^DECEMBER: Fresh tracks above the Ciste Bowl on the day of the Winter Solstice. Photo by H11lly.

Loch Morlich breaks free, but the thaw eases

The sustained thaw of recent days has been steadily weakening the ice that had kept it’s wintry grip on Loch Morlich for 94 days and alas the overnight gales coupled with rising water levels eventually fractured the weakened ice and within hours the Loch was open and choppy, once the ice fractured the wind and increasing waves accelerated the break up.


^Loch Morlich remains ice bound at dusk on Thursday.

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^But by late morning the Loch was free from the grasp of winter.

Sad in a way that the Loch did not remain frozen for another week to break the 100 day mark and it will seem slightly strange to look down from the ‘Gorm for the first time in three months and not see the white frozen expanse below.

The bit of good news for snowsports though is that the air temperature was back below freezing at the Summit late afternoon and dew points are below 0c and it’s dry, plus the wind is moderating. Snow should be setting up firm higher up and drying out and crunching up lower down – the thaw for now has relented.

Adam Watson reports that by the afternoon snow had stopped thawing and was firming up about 150-200ft above the car park level at Glenshee and at 2600ft the ground was still frozen where snow free. Frozen ground is as good as a base in that any new snow falling sticks straight away, it might almost be the Spring Equinox, but spring can stay on hold just now, we’re hopefully not yet done with winter 2010.

Coldest Winter?

Earlier in the Season I posted up that for Scotland as a whole, the December and January combination was the coldest such combination since Scotland wide records begun in 1914.

As 1st March is the official start of the meteorological spring in the UK and is used as such for climate data the provisional Scotland wide figures are now available for winter 2009/10.

Winter 2009/10 has been the coldest winter in Scotland since 1962/63 and surpasses 1979.

The provisional average temperature for the whole of Scotland for Dec, Jan and Feb 2009/10 is +0.24°c, the 1971/91 average is +2.7°c and the provisional figure is just +0.08°c above 62/63.

Following winter 2008/09 the Met Office had the following to say:

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2009/pr20090225.html

“The cold weather has been in contrast to the run of very mild winter temperatures that have been recorded over recent years.

Natural variability of climate means that the UK will continue to see spells of colder weather at times. Although, if it had not been for the general warming already observed in global temperatures, this winter may well have been even colder.

Peter Stott, Climate Scientist at the Met Office, said: “Despite the cold winter this year, the trend to milder and wetter winters is expected to continue, with snow and frost becoming less of a feature in the future.

The famously cold winter of 1962/63 is now expected to occur about once every 1,000 years or more, compared with approximately every 100 to 200 years before 1850.”

Coldest Winter?

Wednesday 3rd February will mark another significant milestone in winter 2009/10, seven weeks of consecutive snow lie at even relatively low altitudes in places such as Aviemore. Indeed even here in Central Inverness, you need to go back the same 7 weeks to find a time when the immediate surrounds has been completely snow free and there is a light dusting of fresh this evening as well.

At least some patches of snow on the ground for 7 weeks at ~10m above sea level in Inverness… 7 days of snow lie is quite rare consecutively for low levels!

It’s now officially the coldest December and January period for Scotland as a whole since Scotland wide records begun in 1914. What about the Coldest Winter? Well we’re still a good bit short of the coldest recorded 2 month period and February would need to make the festive period look quite benign to get close the coldest winter record.

However, could this be the fabled Hale Winter everyone was talking about 2 or 3 years ago?

Fresh Snow in Aviemore.

Fresh Snow in Aviemore.

Reverse Zonality?

OK, this is just one distant chart from a suite of some 20 ensemble members from the GFS model, but it’s something pretty special none the less. Complete reversal of the mid latitude zonal winds, Easterly from one side of the chart to the other screaming across the UK.

If such a scenario were to happen it wouldn’t so much be weather, more a complete breakdown of the fundamental laws of physics! Did the Earth’s direction of rotation change?

Reverse Zonality?

Slow thaw, but Inverness stays white.

While a thaw is now affecting many lower parts of Scotland there is certainly no thaw in the hills and only the slightest one away from Coastal areas.

The blanket of snow outside remains complete here next to the centre of Inverness, the street  a tarmac free zone since before Christmas Eve. Wednesday morning saw the snow notch up another milestone, 4 weeks of consecutive snow lie at not quite 10m ASL in Inverness.

Stop and think about that, it’s really quite hard to grasp in a way, but when the slow thaw becomes a faster thaw and eventually the snow is gone from low ground, it’s actually going to seem kinda weird.  The lack of wind for the main part of this cold spell prevented the spell reaching the severity of the ’79 and it’s still far to early to tell if the winter will go the way of a 1963. Never the less it has been a remarkable spell of weather, the three weeks of ever improving conditions that by Friday 8th had moved from epic to pretty much historical on CairnGorm Mountain had been achieved without a day lost to weather.

How that has changed since the weekend, ferocious winds coupled with 185cm of straight down snow fall still lying loose and unconsolidated means the drifting and extent of the snow redistribution on CairnGorm Mountain has been simply phenomenal, with long stretches of the down road from Coire Cas under 13ft of snow. The depth may not beat any Ski Road records, but the sheer extent of the road under such depths seems to be up there, with even the snowblower overwhelmed. Such drifting has not been restricted to the high mountains, above about 1000ft (lower in places) the snow is still loose to drift with all roads across the Dava Moor choked with snow this evening and traffic on the A9 being convoyed over Drumochter at times during Wednesday.

Can anoyone remember a longer spell of low level snow in the Inverness Area?

The Snow – Happy 21st Birthday!

Though cloud is now coming over and there’s been the odd flurry this afternoon, much of Wednesday was an amazing winter’s day with blazing sunshine, with cold crisp snow on the ground and a lunch time temperature of -5c in the city centre of Inverness.

Today marks the 21st day, 3 full weeks, of lying snow at just 15m above sea level near to the city centre in Inverness. While people can remember deeper snow or colder temperatures what is setting this cold spell apart is it’s persistence.

If the forecast models are correct, we should pass the one month of lying snow in Inverness mark next week, I can’t recall snow lying so long at such low levels with no significant thaw? Tarmac has not been seen on my street since before Christmas, when people were wondering could the snow possibly hang around long enough for a White Christmas?

Inverness was one of those places that caught some snow showers on Christmas Day itself, making it truly a White Christmas in every sense.  A robin is sitting hopefully out the back for more bread.

First Snow of the Winter !!

October has marked it’s arrival with the first Snows of the upcoming winter, as a Northerly Plunge sends temperatures diving. Thursday saw the first reasonable covering of snow on the higher tops of the Cairngorms, and there’s also a smattering on the tops in the West.

It all add’s to the excitement and anticipation at the season ahead, but don’t get too carried away just yet – winter proper is officially 11 weeks away yet, that said it’s another sign of the seasons unstoppable march back to winter.

The past two seasons started the last weekend of November (2006/07) and first weekend of December (2007/08) on CairnGorm Mountain with lasting snow, though cover became more limited in the run up and around Christmas both years.

You can now watch how things are shaping up this autumn with our mid-mountain webcams and live weather real-time weather station on CairnGorm Mountain which are now back online following completion of the reinstatement works to flood damage on the hill road (which necessitated the switch off of the power supply for safety). Our cams and AWS are situated in the Scottish Ski Club Hut at 2500ft near the foot of the White Lady.

CairnGorm Mountain has also installed an automatic weather station and two new webcams for the new season, these can be viewed at www.cairngormmountain.com/web-cam and the AWS is located just under 1000ft above the SSC one at the Tunnel Mouth.

The First Snow at the Mid-Station:

First Snow

See also Pix from the Slopes for a couple of photos from up top on Thursday 2nd October.

Roller Coaster No 2 & the Traditional Early December Mild Spell

After opening weekend it’s back to the weather Roller Coaster this week as the Atlantic really roars in to life unleashing a bought of zonality that comes with one of those dreaded full on South Westerly assaults on Tuesday.

Whether our recently formed early season base is either consolidated or robust enough for the top at CairnGorm to come through remains to be seen, we will just have to wait and see.

However don’t be too despondent to have had a base at all is actually quite good for this stage of the game as early season turns are often on baseless snow and the early part of December is traditionally a mild, wet and often stormy time.

Graphs of the average 850hpa (approx 4500ft) temperature actually show a rising trend for early December as we climb out of a marked November dip, before average temps start to drop off again later in the month as the decline towards thermal mid-winter in the second part of February begins. (see below)

GFS ensemble 850hpa Temperature Chart

Tuesday looks to be the worst day with winds exceeding 100mph in stronger gusts on the tops and Munro Level temperatures nudging painfully close to double figures for a time.

There will however be some snow preceding and following the warm sectors this week, much will depend on timing and exact tracks of the storms. The further North they track unfortunately the wider the mild sector we’re exposed to.

It doesn’t provide much comfort to skiers and boarders but it’s not uncommon to see the Scottish Mountains stripped completely in the first half of December, indeed even in bumper winters like 2001 the big snows of November 2000 were almost completely obliterated in the mild, wet and stormy first half of December. On the Gorm anyway only limited snow in the Top Basin and where it had been packed down by funicular construction traffic on the Traverse held out.

It’s also contrary to increasingly popular belief not a new phenomenon. V A Firsoff wrote in his 1949 book ‘The Cairngorms on foot and ski': “In November and December there may be considerable precipitation at higher levels, as a rule accompanied by high winds, but Old Yule is more often black than white and the heavy snows do not come till the second half of January, sometimes not even then.”

That was very true of the 2001 season as well, January was cold, but largely dry, surface conditions were often decent, but the runs were very narrow, it wasn’t till the tail end of the month and first days of February that the first big snow storms since late November arrived.

Any sliding done in Scotland before Hogmanay is a bonus, snow often comes between Christmas and New Years Day, but even January historically is still early season in Scotland. Spring is King and the best snows often don’t come till March or even into early April. So please don’t put the toys back in the loft at Christmas!