Prologue: The SPADE forecasters had been waiting for this storm for at least a week when we noticed unimaginable amounts of precipitation on the long range GEM models. As the day got closer, the models still suggested large amounts of precipitation that at the time had a few of us a bit skeptical.
Our team waited for the 12PM MDT GEM model runs which came out close to 6PM MDT and we made a 24 hour plan expecting precipitation to begin at 0100 MDT. We were a bit surprised when we checked the radar around 8:30 PM and saw the rapid speed of the storm to the North making its way towards Fortress.
Fortress team (which consisted of Juris, Charlie, André and Cécile) readied themselves for the early start and we left shortly after. Excitement and adrenaline was high, much like the first Calgary storm. We even had several laughs as we filmed a tour of our trailer.
An eventful night at Fortress Top
Hilary and Juris arrived at Fortress at 0542 MDT. Skies were clear with most of the action occurring to the east and north of us. ECCC issued a snowfall warning for Jasper National Park.
Shortly after arrival the newest GEM 2.5 runs came out and the amount of precipitation expected decreased substantially. Most of the precipitation was occurring further north of our location, where several snowfall and rainfall warnings were issued For Wednesday and Thursday, with the main event occurring Wednesday early morning from 0300-0600 AM.
I (Juris) took the first shift, updating radar to see what was in the horizon. Observations began at 0750 UTC, when I noticed a cell to the west of the divide moving towards Fortress. At 0800 UTC it looked as though the smallest of particles were slowly falling, but being swirled around and staying suspended in the air for long.
GEM 2.5 timing for precipitation beginning at 0900 UTC was very close and started at Fortress around 0940 UTC. A thunderstorm continued across the continental divide during Hilary’s shift with a few loud thunder claps with its passing. The thunderstorm lasted for approximately half an hour, and, at certain points, the timing of the lightning and thunder was very close together. Winds were fairy strong during the storm. The thunder seemed to be extra loud in the mountains. Definitely an exciting part of the night!
The second round of precipitation that GEM 2.5 predicted was also very close in timing and accurate with the type of precipitation, which was forecasted as mixed. At 1420 UTC Juris observed a couple of ice pellets that were translucent in colour and then shortly after what appeared to be liquid core pellets with a very thin outer shell. Graupel then began around 1425 UTC which both Hilary and Juris noticed to resemble a diamond, though this was short lived and ended at 1430 MDT. Mixed precipitation then began and we were able to get some pictures of graupel. Winds were pretty strong, with strong gusts, with moderate visibility and precipitation was falling as strictly solid precipitation, with some occasional larger aggregates. By 1500 UTC the system had passed us, heading southeast. Both Hilary and Juris left shortly afterwards to head home to BGI.
- Hilary & Juris
Field Participants: Hilary Smith & Juris Almonte
A beautiful day to download data and check the precipitation gauges
Selina, Juris, and I (Hilary) went to visit the Nipika site to make sure that all instruments were functioning properly and to complete a data download. Everything was working properly and once the data download was complete, we left to check on Selina's FLNRORD precipitation gauge transect and to download more data. After a beautiful drive to precipitation gauge 1, we were delighted to find that it was still standing upright and recording data, albeit with a few loose screws. After downloading the data and securing the screws into the platform, we taped around the platform to ensure that we wouldn't lose any screws should they become loose again. We also made sure that the platform was level and that the guy lines were tight. We have a strong suspicion that the issues with this gauge are due to the strong katabatic winds and that this will likely be a continuing problem. It was my first time driving that far up the road and visiting the gauge, and wow - such beautiful scenery! The views are incredible and the roar of the two waterfalls in the background was very peaceful. I will volunteer to visit that rain gauge any day! Check out the youtube video we made of Selina explaining her gauge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABMWQYUJ3Qs (see if you can spot the special cameo at the end...). We then drove to gauges 2 and 3 where we downloaded the data and encountered no issues. We returned back to Radium Hot Springs around 5pm after a very successful day.
Field Participants: Selina Mitchell, Juris Almonte & Hilary Smith
The SPADE team had been highly anticipating this snow storm for a full week, as the models were all suggesting plenty of snow (~20 to 40 cm of snow) and on both sides of the Continental Divide. This was viewed as an opportunity for our team to deploy the MRR pro along with a few other instruments at Storm Lodge, with field participants taking observations and snow crystal photos on site. Snowfall warnings in Kananaskis, Bow Valley and Banff were issued by ECCC.
Checking up on the precipitation gauges
Nothing was expected over the SPADE region, so Jeremy and I took advantage of the quiet Sunday to collect the data from the tipping bucket rain gauges (provided by FLNRORD) and to check up on Nipika.
Neither of us had been down the transect previously, but with a handheld GPS and guidance provided by Selina and Stephen, we were able to find all three sites. Unfortunately, precipitation gauge 1, the closest site to the continental divide and Fortress Mountain was found dangling on its cord (see pictures below).
Thankfully, no damage was done to the unit, but we suspect that high winds were the issue, given the exposure to katabatic winds from the mountains. Jeremy had also noticed that the guy wires were loose, adding to our suspicion of high winds. Moreover, no signs of a bear were found close to the site. We downloaded the data, which showed several tips on the 24th and 25th. Jeremy took a look at the data and suspects the gauge came down on the 25th. We made sure to test the gauge prior to our departure. After an excessive amount of manual tips, we decided it was still functioning properly.
The gauge platform was reinforced with a second bracket and levelled. No snow was observed in the area, in the creek nearby, or in the narrow avalanche chute. Across the creek, however, we did see some remnant snow in the shade.
The remaining two sites were both in great condition. Again, no signs of bears and all data were downloaded. Both sites also recorded precipitation on May 24 and 25, with May 25 being the higher precipitation event. Overall the drive was stunning, with a few quick photo stops along the way.
Following the work along the rain gauge transect, we stopped in at Nipika for a site visit. Data downloads were conducted and some general tidy up was done. This included changing the solar panel system grounding setup, which is buried directly underground. Looking over the most recent data, we noticed the Geonor had been repeating the same measurements for the past few days. Thankfully no precipitation was recorded by the MRR or disdrometer, and with a quick logger reset the Geonor started logging as intended. Further investigations are to be undertaken to determine and remediate the cause of error.
-Juris & Jeremy
Field Participants: Juris Almonte & Jeremy Morris