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Better late than never for snow-bearing cold fronts

Craig McIntosh, Tuesday July 16, 2019 - 14:38 EST

It took about a month, but Australia's ski and snowboard resorts finally got the dump of snow they were waiting for, with more on the way.

With only around a measly 20cm of natural snow falling during the first month of the 2019 snow season, the recent run of cold fronts have dumped more snow than we had this time last year in some resorts, which ended up being a bumper season. Luckily, the 50cm+ that fell the week before the official opening helped save the first month, assisted by very cold temperatures and a lot of man-made snow.

This time last year, the higher ski resorts in NSW and Victoria had around a one metre natural snow base, and a bit less for lower resorts and those in Tasmania. As of Monday, Spencers Creek in NSW was under 122cm of snow, with about 80cm of that falling in the last week.

The delay in snowfalls was partly attributed to what's called a positive phase of the Southern Annular Mode, or SAM. In a positive phase, SAM, the north-to-south movement of the westerly wind belt over southern Australia, migrates closer to Antarctica, taking the cold fronts south with it. SAM turned negative lately, and sure enough, the cold fronts were north enough to cross the mountains.

The negative phase of SAM should continue for most of the remainder of July, meaning more snow is on the way. Expect the next cold front on Wednesday to deliver an average of around 5-10cm of snow across Australia's alpine resorts, with lighter falls on Friday. More fronts are due next week, with the best chance of healthy snowfalls around Wednesday 24th.

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