The snowiest place on Earth?

Discussion in 'Advanced weather & chasing' started by MClarkson, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. MClarkson

    MClarkson EF5

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    I've been thinking about this for some time, talked to few other mets, and basically we agree that the snowiest place is likely the upper slopes of a tall mountain in regions which receive significant onshore flow. There are of course very few reliable observations anywhere near most of these spots. So I am going to run through the last 3 years of GFS forecast data, adding up precip if the temperature just below the summit is <1C. Not a perfect method, as there will obviously be some error in how the ~30km grid handles topography at each different spot. Individual high peaks(volcanoes) will get less snow in such a course resolution than they should, as the terrain will be smoothed out too much. Larger topography, the larger or more solid ranges, will be handled better. Or so the theory goes. It will be interesting to see what the results are. Maybe there will be a clear winner.

    Here is the list of mountains I am entering. If anyone spots a mountain/location that is obviously missing, or something you would like to see added just for fun, please point it out.

    The favorites
    St Elias
    Fairweather
    Waddington
    Kangchenjunga
    Nevado del Huilia

    The challengers
    Pacific russia 55.5, 158.4
    Chistobal
    Chimborazo/Cayambe/Cotopaxi
    A couple peaks in Patagonia
    Baker
    Rainier
    Kangto
    W Coast Japan
    Cook
    Everest
    K2
    Denali
    South Caspian Sea/Damavand
    East Black Sea/Caucasus
    Huascaran
    A few spots in Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Antarctica


    Not contenders - added for fun.
    Mount Washington, NH
    Alta
    Aspen
    Mont Blanc
    Whitney
    Shasta
    Hood
     
    #1 MClarkson, Mar 14, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 14, 2013
  2. Stan Rose

    Stan Rose EF4

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    Cool! Sounds like fun. Waddington and St Elias were the first two that popped in my head, and you have them covered. Of course, the problems go far beyond just the terrain resolution, but also the model physics, parameterization, initialization, etc etc... For example, while the 12km NAM does much better in capturing orographic snow patterns than the 40km GFS here in the central Rockies, there are plenty of times the GFS forecasts more snow than the NAM. You could assume the errors average out for a large dataset--but im not sure that's a good assumption. Still, it should be interesting! Also, FWIW I believe the most snow is actually found on mid-slopes rather than "upper" slopes. Look forward to your results!
     
  3. MClarkson

    MClarkson EF5

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    True, there are many errors, but I think the topography smoothing is the one that would blatantly favor some mountains over others even within the same model or run. The others I think would even out more, as you say.

    Mid-mountain vs upper mountain depends on the hill. Too cold has too little moisture. Too much of the year spent above freezing is also going to cut into snow totals. Isolated peaks have less orographic convergence near the very top, since the air can diverge both vertically and horizontally, instead of just vertically on more uniform ridgelines. For example on the 8000m peaks, the summit is clearly too cold for peak snow. St Elias is likely mid-mountain, whereas Whitney would be the very top. Regardless, I am taking accumulated precip at the model surface, which is the only easy way I can see doing that. And then temperature near the top. Maybe I will grab the temperature level a bit lower on some of the larger or more isolated peaks. Ya, I think that is a good idea. Thanks!

    This method is crude enough that values will have to differ widely to have statistical significance.
     
  4. Jacob Ferden

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    I'm not a met. or anything, but this is an interesting question. A couple others I could throw out there that wouldn't necessarily be favorites but would be interesting to look at, based on my knowledge of world topography and my casual interest in mountaineering would be Nanga Parbat (isolated, but over 8000m and closer to the Arabian Sea than the other big mountains in Pakistan) and possibly certain peaks in the area around K2 i.e. Broad Peak, the Gasherbrums, etc., which are at or just above 8000 m but lower than K2.

    Elsewhere in the Himalaya, another would be India's Nanda Devi, which is over 7000 m and relatively isolated in the Garwhal (sp?) Himalaya. Also Lhotse, which is just to the south of Everest and over 8000 m.

    One more that might be worth a look would be Minya Konka, which is on the far east end of the Himalaya and is still around 24000 ft...actually a bit closer to the South China Sea than the Bay of Bengal.
     
  5. MClarkson

    MClarkson EF5

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    The K2 and Everest area 8000m peaks are so close (some in the same GFS grid square) to each other that there will be no major difference using this data set. A higher resolution model would reveal differences I am sure(like a 1km WRF), but such a dataset is not available for more than a fraction of these peaks(mostly in Europe or NA). For example, I bet the south face of Lhotse picks up more snow than Everest, but that is beyond the ability of global modelling at this time. For this simple study, I consider both the same region of uplift. The eastern Himalaya where it comes closest to monsoon moisture is high on the list. Kangchenjunga, Kangto, etc. I added Minya Konka. Thanks!
     
  6. Michael Snyder

    Supporter

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    Mt baker or mt rainier, world record holders for snow in a year.

    Crystal mountain (close to mt rainier) has a top 24 hour total of 65"

    Once you start getting too high you lose your moisture.

    I imagine the snowiest place on the planet maybe some unreported place in British Columbia or the north cascades in Washington.
     
  7. MClarkson

    MClarkson EF5

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    After running through the first year of data (the 12 previous complete months), the leading region is the equatorial Andes. Specifically, Pico Cristobal Colon (or its nearly identical neighbor, Pico Simon Bolivar). A nearly 19,000 foot mountain near the warm and energetic waters of the Caribbean. Its summit is fairly consistently near-but-below freezing, a good combination for snow mass. Huila and Chimborazo are up there too. I still have a few years of data to run through.
     
  8. amytierney

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    If it is not just including mountains, Anywhere along Lake Superior shores. Thunder Bay, Ontario; Marquette, MI; Munising, MI; Copper Harbor, MI; Isle Royal, MI...just to name a few. I know that the last few winters have been fairly dull (not including this year), but as for "on earth" probably not within reach of some of these other places. I would be interested to see how they hold up though. :cool:
     
  9. MClarkson

    MClarkson EF5

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    The results are in... Over the last 3 years of GFS forecasts, the snowiest place on Earth is the very top of Pico Christobal Colon, with 515 Feet of snow per year (assuming 10:1 ratio). The actual total may be even higher, summits and upper slopes usually get more snow than global models forecast, as the course resolution removes much of the extreme topographic influence of the tallest peaks. This mountain has upper slopes that are just above the freezing level yet nearby warm tropical Caribbean waters. This mountain has a twin right next door that has similar numbers.

    The runner up is nearby, Chimborazo, with 310 feet of snow per year. This does not surprise me... I attempted to climb Chimborazo once, and turned around after realizing it was an avalanche deathtrap.

    #3 is in the same region as well Nevada del Huila.

    Not till #4, Fairweather, do you get outside of the northern/tropical Andes. At 190 feet per year, this is nearly 3 times less than our winner. I think it is pretty safe to say that the northern Andes is the snowiest region on earth...


    Assuming 10:1 ratio
    [TABLE="width: 193"]
    [TR]
    [TD]Peak[/TD]
    [TD]Feet/Year[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Cristobal[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]515.1263[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Chimborazo[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]310.5153[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Nevada del Huila[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]286.2399[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Fairweather[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]194.119[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Kangto[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]163.6687[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Patagonia[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]160.1426[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Kilimanjaro[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]158.9714[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Cotopaxi[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]132.9817[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Denali[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]126.72[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Peru[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]119.9413[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]cancoastals[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]112.7727[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Antarctica[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]107.3809[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Baker[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]102.8948[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Elias[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]102.6739[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Everest[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]101.3509[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Konka[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]100.1537[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Rainier[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]86.00235[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Cook[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]84.76331[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Waddington[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]73.43392[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Kangchenjunga[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]72.10112[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Elbrus[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]68.72885[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Iceland[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]55.43125[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Blanc[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]50.23904[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Olympus[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]48.85387[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Japan[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]39.63307[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Hood[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]39.32821[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Norway[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]37.45781[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Caspian[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]33.86251[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Shasta[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]32.83317[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]K2[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]31.97525[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]PacRus[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]29.97568[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Whitney[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]25.28587[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Greenland[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]23.54485[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Alta[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]18.59168[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Aconcagua[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]18.27328[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Washington[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]13.22635[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Vail[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"]13.18635[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [/TABLE]

    These numbers match up well with observations of snow water depth and ski resort totals. For example, Alta gets 35 feet per year at 25:1 ratio.
     
  10. Kevin Walters

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    My driveway from late February through May 3rd this year.
     
  11. Giles Whittell

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  12. Giles Whittell

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    Hi MClarkson
    I'm new to this site and have only recently seen this investigation of yours into the snowiest place on earth. It's fascinating. I would love to know if you've had much feedback on Pico Cristobal Colon taking the top spot. Looking at snowforecast.com earlier this year I saw that above 5000m there were some huge snowfalls forecast for this mountain but I think this is on the basis of statistical modelling similar to your own. Not many people seem to have actual experience of the place. I would be really grateful for any update you can offer on your investigation. By way of background I'm a journalist for the Times of London and am - very slowly - trying to put together a book on snow.
    Hope this reaches you and thanks very much for your help.
    Giles Whittell
     
  13. MClarkson

    MClarkson EF5

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    I have not looked into this more, except that I have seen nothing in the model data to make me doubt the original conclusions. I am not aware of any actual observations for the snowiest mountaintops... remote and unforgiving spots to both man and machine. I would say that the models in question are not statistical at their core, although stats were used to tweak precip totals for elevated terrain.

    Cristobal colon is extremely remote and rarely visited. #2, Chimborazo, is a pretty rough place up high but it is fairly commonly climbed. Although you won't find a snow gauge there, you would be able to talk to people who have been there if you want to go that route.
     
  14. Royce Sheibal

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    Have you run this for Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa? I read once that they would likely have the highest accumulating snowfall on earth did it not rapidly melt. Despite this they are often snow-covered. Would be interesting to see what your model would output.
     
  15. MClarkson

    MClarkson EF5

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    Mauna Kea/Loa are just a little too short given their low latitude. The upper slopes/summit spend a lot of time around +5C or so. While that certainly bumps around enough to get them occasional snow, the majority of their precip is rain.
     
  16. Michael Snyder

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    And the majority of that Precip falls at the 7,000-8,000 foot level. (Trade Inversion)
     
  17. MClarkson

    MClarkson EF5

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    Agreed. Those mountain tops can stay pretty dry too. Great place to watch stars!
     

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