Inversion

February 17, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

In late December I wrote about all the snow falling in Teton Country. It began snowing just before Christmas and kept at it for the next ten days or so - enough to completely erase the snowfall deficit from a mostly-dry late autumn. 

Then it stopped. 

There hasn't been meaningful snowfall in Eastern Idaho or Western Wyoming for weeks - even in the mountains. Snowpack, which ought to be in the neighborhood of 120% this time of year, is under 80% in some areas. I don't like driving in it but I'm rooting for a storm. Or three.

The Neglected Fence XIIThe Neglected Fence XII The seemingly endless parade of high pressure systems means conditions have been just about perfect for inversions. Lots and lots of 'em.

These occur when warmer weather aloft traps colder air below it. In the winter, inversions in the Snake River Plain often create dense fog which in turn can produce beautiful hoar frost. Sometimes they even generate a little bit of their own snow. The air masses are often confined by the Tetons so it's not unusual for conditions to linger.

When that happens we get socked in for days at a time; it almost makes me feel like I've been transported back to winter in the Midwest. Sun? What sun?  

So while the inversion suppresses temperatures and keeps things dreary along the I-15 corridor, over on the other side of the Tetons the mercury climbs and the sun shines. Just 60 straight-line miles but it may as well be a world away.

You'll often find me prowling around on foggy mornings looking for scenes featuring lacy white hoarfrost. Oddly, one recent inversion sent visibility plummeting to zero at many reporting stations across the region but failed to produce frost. Still, the landscape was striking even without it. That day I decided to stick around very close to home and head up to one of my favorite local subjects: the fire-scarred, derelict buck and rail fence just a few miles away.

It seemed even more pitiful and neglected in the dense fog. 

I spent about an hour there. Could have stayed longer - the fog had actually gotten even thicker while I was working - but since I'd bolted out of the house without grabbing chemical glove inserts my (numb) hands were pretty insistent about stopping.

What, I wondered, was the situation at that moment in Grand Teton National Park? Upon returning to the house I checked the webcam over there:

How's that for night and day? They're slathering on the sunscreen in Jackson Hole while we can't see across the street. A weather smorgasbord!

The fog hung around all day, finally lifting just before sunset and just in time for temperatures to begin to drop - thus setting the table for the next round.

And so it goes. 


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