March 25, 2011

Amazing Sierra Snows

Although the Cascade snowpack is roughly normal this year (which is low for a La Nina year in which we expect it to be above normal), the central Sierra Mountains of central CA have been hit very, very hard.

The Alpine Meadows ski resort near Lake Taho is closed today due to unprecedented snowfall, high high winds and avalanche hazards.

The nearby Squaw Valley has had the greatest seasonal snowfall on record, with 45 inches overnight at 8200 ft.

Snow has even hit lower elevations in northern CA, with highway 101 closed between San Francisco and Eureka.

The good news for California is once they get through Saturday that West Coast trough that has taken the cold and precipitation down into California (and yes, generally away from us) will shift back north. The Northwest should be visited by increased rain and mountain snow next week.

All of the above shows the dangers and uncertainties in an El Nino/La Nina winter forecast. We had expected WA to have above normal snow and the Sierra's less than normal. Hasn't quite worked out that way. Statistical relationships are just that...and having something more probable does not mean it will happen.

But don't give up on the Northwest snowpack---it will probably increase significantly during the next week as the jet moves our way.


  1. Whew! Just when I thought all the snow around the house was going to melt. 2.5" this morning and its almost the end of March! Glad to hear we're going to get some more, should make for a very interesting May/June runoff.

  2. Here is a good slideshow of the snows, courtesy of the Weather channel:

  3. So are El Nino and La Nina purely statistical phenomena, or are they actual physical phenomena? Did the entire prediction of this being a La Nina year go awry, or is there a deeper uncertainty in the complexity of climate prediction?

  4. I recommended your blog while discussing the risk of Japanese radiation in PNW and was met by suspicion - who is the writer? some student at UW?

    Would you consider putting up an "about" section?

  5. Interestingly, the year of the Donner Party also had record snows similar to what the Sierra Nevadas are getting this year. One of the best books written on the Donner Party is The Indifferent Stars Above by the Seattle author Daniel James Brown. He speaks to the weather related phenomena that hit the area in the winter of 1846-1847 in the book. The Kindle version is here: The Indifferent Stars Above.

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