A powder hound’s crystal ball: NOAA Station 51101

December 20, 2017

Station 51101 from ndbc.noaa.gov

Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors delight. Move over Punxsutawney Phil, Utah has a new weather crystal ball, affectionately called Station 51101.

Local snow enthusiasts use one of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) monitoring buoys to predict snow storms in the Wasatch, anxiously hoping to schedule that day off and nab some of the first runs on the coveted powder day. As a low pressure front moves in across the Pacific, waves increase in height, raising the buoy. Such buoy “pops” are then the predictors of (2 week later) storms in the Wasatch. Larger and longer lasting waves correlate with bigger storms.

Wave heights showing a recent “pop” from powderbuoy.com

As one might expect of a buoy enthusiast, Hank Manninen is a surfer of both water and snow who spends part of the year near the watering grounds of 51101. Because NOAA provides real time buoy data, Hank began to see trends, noting wave height correlated with future snow storms. Another snow enthusiast and Park City resident, Mike Ruzek, picked up the trail and now maintains a website and Facebook page following the ups and downs of Station 51101.

While this might sound like local folklore, the Facebook page has over 5,000 followers, Mike said Station 51101 predicted storms 83% of the time last ski season, and it seems likely one of your snow buddies has called in sick to work 2 weeks after a buoy pop.

–Amy McCarty, CCF Volunteer

Comments are closed.