Tahoe is really not looking good, humans. It literally hasn’t snowed yet this winter. I know that we all need to hold onto the hopeful idea that one big storm could change everything, but that one big storm is not on the horizon. There is nothing in the two week forecast, again. We are looking at nothing until at least mid-January…or later. I want to be optimistic, but we have to look at the numbers.
I called up Randall Osterhuber at the UC Berkeley Snow Lab at 6,900 feet on Donner Summit to find out more.
NUMBERS FROM DONNER SUMMIT SNOW LAB:
*Note: A water year is defined as October 1st – September 30th (Thus, the 2012 water year started on Oct. 1st, 2011). It is designed this was as California reservoir levels are at their lowest about October 1st each year.
– December 2011 = 2nd driest December on record at 4 cms of snow so far (it doesn’t look like it’ll snow again in Dec)
– Driest December on record = 1989 at 0 cms of snow (ended up being an Above Average year at 1,150 cms or 453”)
– 3rd driest December on record = 1976 at 13 cms of snow
– Average December precipitation = 200 mm
– December 2011 precipitation = 2 mm = 1% of average December precip.
– *In general, if we don’t get any snow for a whole month, we will have a below average snowfall for that winter. Thus, this winter will more than likely be a below average year.
“If we lose a month of precip, we usually are unable to make up that precip and make it to an average winter. Last year being the exception.” – Randall Osterhuber, Donner Summit Snow Laboratory
THE 6 WORST SNOW YEARS IN TAHOE:
Average Snowfall at Donner Snow Lab = 1,100 cms (433”). Last winter = 1,63o cms (642”) = 4th best winter
#1 – 1977 = 464 cms (182”)
#2 – 1976 = 579 cms (228”)
#3 – 1987 = 597 cms (235”)
#4 – 1988 = 599 cms (236”)
#5 – 1992 = 604 cms (238”)
#6 – 1994 = 632 cms (249”)
“just like this year, a lot of ice skating those years.” – Randall Osterhuber
MOST SNOW/LEAST SNOW IN TAHOE HISTORY:
– 1977 was the worst snow year on record at 464 cms (183”) of total snow, a max snow depth of 87 cms (34”)
– 1952 was the best snow year on record at 2,060 cms (811”) of total snow
LA NIÑA TO THE RESCUE?
-There is hope and her name is la niña. Some la niña forecast still have Tahoe getting hammered with snow for the latter half of January, all of February, and all of March.
– This is what we have to hang on for. In the mean time, you need to take advantage of this dry weather: backcountry ice-skating, hiking, kayaking the lake, surfing on the coast, mountain biking, enjoying an uncrowded holiday season in Tahoe.