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28 Aug 2015
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Summer in Tahoe

Tahoe folks in the middle of summer begin an important annual ritual. Procrastinating on what sort of winter it will be be. This is also known as grasping for straws for our desired result. We will look at squirrel activity, sun spots and some almanac written in New England to reassure us that the much needed snow will finally arrive here in the Sierra. This year everyone is talking about El Nino and the Blob.

I like to follow the weather musings of Snow Forecaster Bryan Allegretto from the Tahoe Daily Snow. I’ve found his forecasts to be accurate and his analysis is detailed and interesting reading. He, like all forecasters worth their salt, says that while we are getting better and better at near term forecasting, we really can’t predict what the weather for a given year will be like this far in advance. We can, however look at past trends.

First, he says that while a strong El Nino is predicted for this year, (a warming of the ocean in the Pacific), El Nino’s are not a guarantee for big snow. “Four of the last six strong El Nino seasons brought above average snowfall to the Tahoe mountains, but we don’t want to overlook the two season that brought well below average snowfall,”says Allegretto.

And then there is The Blob. A warm body of water in the Northern Pacific that was in place last year and some say blocked storms. How does a blob and the El Nino interact? Some say The Blob could negate the moisture producing impacts of El Nino, but Allegretto says:

“the thought among a lot of forecasters is that the strength of this upcoming season’s El Nino will negate the affect of the warm blob of water, and that would be good news for Tahoe. That said, we haven’t seen this situation (strong El Nino + strong blob) often in the historical record, so we can’t test that theory very thoroughly.”

In other words: No one has a clue until the flakes start to fly. I do take comfort in these words from Allegretto: “After the last 4 years of drought, and 6 of the last 8 seasons below average for snowfall, I continue to be cautiously optimistic as we look towards to next Winter.”

In other words. We are due. It is time for a big winter…or just an above average winter would be nice. This is after all the Sierra Nevada. One of the world’s great snow makers. So I’m tuning up my snowblower and my skis and planning on getting in 100 days of XC skiing this year, just like the good old days. See you out there.