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Winter Outlook: Smog, Drought, El Nino?

Oct. 18, 2004 – The University of Utah will host a workshop that will focus on high-pressure weather systems and how they help trigger inversions with winter air pollution episodes in places like Utah’s Salt Lake and Cache valleys and California’s San Joaquin Valley.

News media representatives are invited to cover the 11th Annual Workshop on Weather Prediction in the Intermountain West from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. on Thursday Nov. 4, 2004, in the 6th floor auditorium of the university’s Huntsman Cancer Institute. Pay parking is available in the institute’s garage.

“The objective of the workshop is to improve weather and climate forecasting over the western United States by identifying areas of needed research and communicating advances relevant to improving weather prediction,” says meeting organizer Jim Steenburgh, an associate professor of meteorology at the University of Utah.

The workshop will include scientific talks and poster presentations on a number of topics, including the prolonged drought in the West, fog, thunderstorms and wildfire smoke. But the theme is “Impacts of Intermountain Anticyclones.” Steenburgh explains that anticyclones are high-pressure systems that rotate clockwise – the opposite of cyclones – and favor calm surface winds that enable development of temperature inversions, which in turn trap pollutants during the winter in valleys.

These two lectures likely will be of particular interest to news media:

— 3:00 to 3:15 p.m., “Drought in Utah,” Randy Julander, Utah Snow Survey, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

— 3:15 to 3:45 p.m., “Formulation of the CPC’s winter 2004-2005 forecast and possible impacts on the western United States, Ed O’Lenic, National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center (CPC), Camp Springs, Md. (An Oct. 6 CPC news release about the winter outlook may be found at but is to be updated Oct. 21. A news release about the expected return of mild El Nino conditions this winter may be found at

In addition, here are some other potentially newsworthy highlights of the workshop:

— 8:45 to 8:45 a.m., “Reflections on the North American Monsoon Experiment,” Erik Pytlak of the National Weather Service, Tucson, Ariz. (The monsoon is the weather pattern that helps produce summer thunderstorms over the American Southwest.)

— 9:15 to 9:30 a.m., “The potential for smoke to ventilate from wild land fires in the United States” Jeanne Hoadley, U.S. Forest Service, Seattle. (This lecture will deal with wildfire smoke and how it does or doesn’t disperse to cause air pollution.)

— A 9:40 to 10:25 a.m. poster session will include scientific findings dealing with leading computer forecast models, what stable (non-radioactive) isotopes reveal about Utah’s “greatest snow on Earth,” the structure of valley inversions and the climatology of Great Salt Lake breezes in the Salt Lake Valley.

— 11:30 to 11:45 a.m., “Strong cold fronts over the Intermountain region: When, where and how do they occur,” Jay Shafer, University of Utah.

— 12:45 to 1:15 p.m., “Cold air pools,” C. David Whiteman, University of Utah.

— 2:00 to 2:15 p.m., “The application of surface and radiosonde [weather balloon] data to the prediction of San Joaquin Valley dense fog episodes,” Mark Burger, National Weather Service, Hanford, Calif.

— 2:15 to 2:30 p.m. “Evaluation of forecasting tools for a Salt Lake City airport fog event,” Mark Struthwolf, National Weather Service, Salt Lake City.

— 3:45 to 4:00 p.m., “Snowpack hydrology: The effect of snowmelt on runoff,” Steve Goldstein, National Weather Service, Reno, Nev.

In addition, at 10:25 a.m., the annual Len Snellman Award will be presented to Jan Paegle and Julia Nogues-Paegle, emeritus professors of meteorology at the University of Utah.

Steenburgh says they will be honored “for 30 years of service to the Intermountain weather community, and educating three generations of meteorologists and climatologists.”

The award is named for the late Len Snellman (1920-1999), who worked for 39 years for the Air Weather Service and the National Weather Service, including 17 years as the NWS western region’s chief forecaster.

The workshop is being sponsored by the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Regional Prediction (CIRP), which was established in 1996 by the University of Utah and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – the parent agency of the National Weather Service. CIRP conducts research aimed at improving operational weather forecasts in regions with complex terrain.

The complete workshop schedule is available at:

For directions to the Huntsman Cancer Institute, see: