Mother Nature does dry January |

Mother Nature does dry January

Laney Griffo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Lake Tahoe saw record breaking snowfall in December. Now, January is experiencing historic weather too, but for different reasons. January 2022 is slated to be the 5th driest January in more than 50 years.

Despite little precipitation, snowpack is still healthy.
Mike Peron/ Tahoe Daily Tribune

“The east side of the basin down to Mammoth has hardly had any snow or precipitation, but the Snow Lab near Donner Summit has recorded over 1 inch of precip. and 9 inches of snow during the 1st week of January,” said Bryan Allegretto, Forecaster, OpenSnow.

As of January 27, the Basin average precipitation is 1.5 inches. Records go as far back as 1970, since then 2014-15 was the driest year with only .35 inches of precipitation received.

1983-84 saw 1 inch, 1990-91 saw 1.02 inches and 2012-13 received 1.34 inches.

Nevada Natural Resources Conservation Service has a grimmer outlook.

“Based on SNOTEL precipitation data for the 11 SNOTEL sites in the Lake Tahoe basin this January ranks as the driest since SNOTEL records began in 1981,” said Jeff Anderson, NCRS Snow Survey. “This assumes we don’t get any precipitation for the rest of the month”

The chance for more snow before the end of the month is not looking likely.

“Blocking high pressure will likely maintain dry and generally quiet weather through the end of January. Low pressure and a cold front will bring increased winds and cooler temperatures for the start of February, but the storm track looks less favorable for bringing meaningful precipitation to the Sierra or western Nevada,” a national weather service report stated.

The whole State of California is suffering from the lack of precipitation. U.S. Drought Monitor shows the Tahoe region as experiencing moderate drought and most of the state as experiencing severe drought.

“Unfortunately for those of us waiting patiently for snowfall to return to the Sierra in 2022, it may still be a while. A ridge of high pressure is forecast to strengthen along the west coast during the first week of February with week 2 outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center now leaning to below-normal precipitation through at least the first 9 days of February,” the report added.

Luckily, because of the historic snowfall in December, the Basin still has snow on the mountains.

“December was so big that we will still be at 148% of average snowfall at the end of January even without any more snow. The snowpack as of today is at 102% of average for the date,” Allegretto said.

Anderson is not giving up hope for more snow. He pointed out that 1991, which also had a dry January, saw snow later in the season.

“In terms of snowpack (measured by a snow pillow which is different from a precipitation gage) it is interesting that 1991 had a HUGE miracle March. The Tahoe Basin snowpack went from 18% of median on March 1 (lowest March 1 snowpack on record) up to 77% of median by April 1,” Anderson said. “On the other hand, 2015 [the driest January on record] ended up with the lowest April 1 snowpack on record at just 9% of median.”

So, now is time to pray harder than ever for snow.


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