TAHOE/TRUCKEE - If you're gambling on the weather, snow looks like the underdog.
Much of the western U.S., including the Lake Tahoe Region, is most likely to have below normal precipitation for the next three months, according to updated outlook maps released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Thursday.
Lake Tahoe is included in a darkly shaded region centered around the San Francisco Bay Area forecasters have determined has a 50 percent chance of having below normal precipitation from March through May.
The same region has a 33.33 percent chance of experiencing average precipitation and a 16.67 percent chance of having above average precipitation during the time frame, according to an online explanation of the forecasts. The maps use the past 30 years' worth of observations when determining average precipitation.
Slight chances of snow are possible Friday night into Saturday and Monday in the Lake Tahoe Basin, according to the National Weather Service in Reno. The storms aren't expected to bring much in the way of precipitation, meteorologist Tony Fuentes said Thursday.
The jet stream could drop down into the Pacific Northwest and Northern California toward the end of the month and into the first week of March, bringing stronger storms than those experienced this week, according to Fuentes. Whether the model-predicted pattern materializes, "remains to be seen," Fuentes said.
If Lake Tahoe doesn't receive additional snowfall in February, the area would experience the lowest amount of precipitation for any combined January and February in more than 100 years, the meteorologist added, referencing data for Tahoe City.
Heavy early-season snowfall has helped keep the basin near average for year-to-date precipitation, according to electronic SNOTEL monitoring data. Lake Tahoe has received 97 percent of its average year-to-date precipitation, according to the data, but without additional storms, the area could be looking at a dry summer.
A drought is expected to develop throughout much of Northern California through May, with drought conditions expected to persist or intensify throughout nearly all of Nevada, according to NOAA's outlook.
The section of the U.S. affected by severe or extreme drought is slightly smaller than the 61 percent at the start of 2013, according to the Associated Press.
A separate map released by NOAA Thursday is inconclusive about expected temperatures in the Lake Tahoe region through May.
Much of the U.S., except the Pacific Northwest, is likely to see above average temperatures during that period, according to the outlook.