Could be wild winter for Tahoe
Predicting the weather is like trying your luck at the casino.
Yes there are data, there are figures and statistics that can help meteorologist make predictions, but the outcomes in the end are up to chance.
“It’s really hard to say what the weather will be like,” said California state climatologist Bill Mork. “It’s kind of a crap shoot.”
But one thing that is for certain is that any storm activity this winter will be affected by the situation down south.
“The situation this year has a lot to do with what is going on in the tropics,” Mork said.
The Northeast and the Great Lakes are colder and experiencing more snow than normal this year due to a low pressure system. Meanwhile, in the West a high pressure system is creating warmer temperatures than normal and less snow. However, one should note that cold temperatures and heavy precipitation don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
If the current pattern continues, the West could have a dry winter, but Mork pointed out, this is subject to change.
Last winter , the season started off extremely dry, but from Jan. 10 through March 10, the basin was hit with a series of strong winter storms that were consistent for as many as six to ten days at a time, Monk said. February turned out to be a phenomenal month for snowboarders and skiers alike. Snow removal services for the city of South Lake Tahoe were forced to work around the clock just to keep pace.
This year the equatorial waters are closer to average temperatures than last year, the last La Nina year, in which waters were colder than normal.
Usually during a La Nina year Southern California is dry and the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon and Washington are wetter than normal. Tahoe, however falls somewhere between that dividing line, making predictions of precipitation tricky.
According to historical trends, next year the basin should experience a weak El Nino year, in which equatorial waters will only be slightly warmer than normal, Mork said. In a strong El Nino year equatorial waters could be as much as 7 to 8 degrees above average. As to how that will affect the weather in the Tahoe Basin it is hard to tell, Mork said.
The strongest El Nino years were between October 1982 and September 1983 and again between 1997 and 1998. In the latter pair of years precipitation reached 150 percent above average and caused major rains in Southern California and floods in Ecuador and Peru.
The threat of global warming has raised eyebrows of environmentalists for years, but Mork said that temperatures have gone up and down throughout the world, essentially balancing out global averages.
“I don’t know of any direct impact that global warming would have, but it is somewhat warmer in the Sierra over the last 50 years,” he said.
According to the California Department of Water Resources, which surveys snow pack at a benchmark location near Echo Summit at Sierra-at-Tahoe, the Tahoe Area’s snowpack was 77 percent in April 2000; 146 percent in 1999; 138 percent in 1998; in 1997, 72 percent; 1996, 110 percent; and in 1995, it was 170 percent, the most of the decade. The year before, 1994 was the worst of the decade with 28 percent.
Year Inches of Water Content Percentage of Average
Average 28.1 100
1990 10.9 38
1991 20.4 72
1992 9.6 34
1993 37.9 134
1994 8 28
1995 47.5 170
1996 31 110
1997 20.3 72
1998 38.9 138
1999 41.1 146
2000 21.7 77
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