January 27, 2014

2013 Versus 2014: The View from Space

The snow pack over the western U.S. is dramatically less in mid-January 2014 than for the same time  in 2013.   The view from space is startling and scary.  I have selected two days when high pressure was overhead (January 20th, 2013 and 2014), so that clouds do not obscure the view.  The pictures are from the NASA MODIS Aqua satellite.

The picture on the top is from 2013.   Plenty of snow on the Sierra Nevada, and northern and central Nevada is covered by snow.  The Klamath Mountains/Siskiyou Mountains on the Oregon/CA border have snow.  Even the higher terrain in the Oregon coastal mountains have some white.  Life is good.

Now take a look at 2014.   Same date, one year later.  Wow..what a difference.  Sierra Nevada have very little. Virtually no snow in Nevada.  The mountains of northern CA/southern Oregon have nearly nothing. Not good.  One thing in common between the two years?  Low clouds in eastern Washington!

Let me impress you further.  Here is the came comparison (2013 top, 2014 bottom, but with close ups over California.  Pretty amazing reduction in 2014 of snow cover.

Let's really look close....in this case examining the region around Lake Tahoe.  What a huge difference, lots of white (snow) in 2013 (top), almost nothing in 2014 (bottom).

The lack of precipitation in the Sierra Nevada is so severe that the famous Yosemite Falls is virtually dry (see picture taken a few days ago), something that is very unusual in January (but not unusual during the late summer and early fall).

Want a small bit of good news?   Modest precipitation is returning to the western U.S.  Here are the precipitation totals for the next two 72 hr periods.  The fun starts early on Tuesday.  Cascades do the best, but the second period shows an area of heavy (2-5 inches) precipitation over the Sierra Nevada.  Those folks need precipitation...badly.


  1. In the Lake Tahoe closeup, take note of the reservoir level in the lower left. That is scary.

  2. 500mb pattern/18z ensembles progressing, storms are coming.


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