Early snowfall not a good season indicator
This year’s water year, which began Oct. 1, has already garnered nearly an inch more perception than four out of the five past years. Still, researchers and forecasters are hesitant to say if this is indicative of a good snow year.
“There’s no statistical evidence that shows that an earlier snow means more snow,” said Nevada State Climatologist Jeffery Underwood.
Still, Underwood said he was happy to see the precipitation, particularly with Northern Nevada coming out of two very dry years.
According to information from the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory on Donner Summit, the precipitation for October 2006 was 1.20 inches and 1.64 inches in October 2005. But in 2004, 10.44 inches fell during October with 2.23 inches by Oct. 18. So far, 2.64 inches have fallen in October 2007.
“Because our snow totals somehow parallel some other years is no indication of what this next winter will be,” said Randall Osterhuber, a snow hydrologist at the snow laboratory.
This year’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Forecast Climate Prediction Center reports that Northern Nevada has equal chances of getting more or less snow this year, Underwood said.
“It’s kind of like reading a crystal ball, it’s a general statement that can apply to many situations,” Underwood said.
Even though an emerging La Nina system could bring record rain to Northern California, Underwood said those weather trends are not necessarily indicative of Northern Nevada’s weather.
A La Nina system is triggered by cooling waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, and brings extra wet conditions to the Pacific Ocean and droughts to Southern California. Because areas like northern Nevada are in the middle of these two areas, it’s hard to predict which way the rain will fall.
Still, Underwood says he’s happy for any snowfall this early in the season.
“Even though I don’t see statistical relationship between biggest snowfall and the earliest snow fall, the more snow we get the happier I am,” Underwood said.
Early snows probably won’t begin to stick to the ground until mid-November, Osterhuber said. Usually permanent snow ground cover for the season begins around Nov. 17, Osterhuber.
Still, early snow is good for the Tahoe Basin’s ecology, Osterhuber said.”
“The storms this time of year don’t necessarily add to the snow totals, especially when the snow keeps melting,” Osterhuber said. “But it’s important in jacking up the soil moisture especially after the long dry summer that we’ve had.”
Underwood said he’s hoping for average or better snowfall this winter to counteract two dry previous years. The average annual snowfall near Incline Village according to Underwood is 81 inches.
“Early snow doesn’t hurt anything either,” Underwood said. “There isn’t a negative relationship.”