California Snow

When I first learned to ski, it was a bit “late in life” compared to most folks. I was in college, and a ‘flatlander’. That was during the 1970’s. We had just left the cold phase and started into the heating phase of the 60 year cycle. They were drought years. The folks then lamented the “Great years they had just had” and wondered what had caused these terrible years. I spent many years, skiing Squaw Valley, when they would scatter hay on the bald patches on “Mountain Run” as the “drought years” brought only sparse snow.

Well, things have sure changed. We’re now into the cold cycle. “Spring Skiing” usually runs a few months. With many feet on the ground and more falling, I think we’re likely to see “Spring” skiing in May, maybe even June. (It will depend on if we get rain to melt the snow in one big batch, or if it must melt slowly in the cool high altitude sun).

What I remember of the last time “about this part of the cycle” was that in the 50’s there were heavy rains, lots of floods, and California embarked on a major damn building project to tame the floods. I expect we’re going to see some of that “issue” come round again.

On one occasion in the Central Valley, near Chico, it rained so much that it looked like a lake for miles. The land is dead flat, the soil adobe clay. In one place the road came very near a small creek. It had flooded and overrun the road. Only about a foot deep, and not moving much. My Dad stopped the car and we joined some other folks “catching fish” by hand. There were a load of fair sized catfish and carp that had come over the curb onto the ‘dip’ of the road, but would not go back over it to get away. We kept the catfish, gave the carp to the French Laundry Family that lived next door (who loved ’em and thought a 1.5 foot long carp a great gift, 2 of them a treasure… She nailed it to a plank of wood and slow baked them with a basting of what I think was wine (I was only 5 then…) to dissolve the pin bones)

California dried out during the later ’70s and ’80s. Now 30+ years later, we’re back to cold rain and by the bucket. With loads of snow.

The cycle has turned. It has nothing to do with CO2, nor with human activities.

How much snow?

It’s snowing in the Sierra Nevada. It has been snowing in the Sierra Nevada. It will continue snowing in the Sierra Nevada:

Snow reports for California resorts
Top four resorts (by recent snowfall):
Squaw Valley, CA · 45″ new snow · 265″ base depth
Tahoe Donner, CA · 45″ new snow · 250″ base depth
Dodge Ridge, CA · 45″ new snow · 122″ base depth
Mammoth Mountain, CA · 44″ new snow

45 Inches of new snow. 3 3/4 FEET of new snow. 1.14 Meters.

That 265 inch base at Squaw? 22 FEET or 6.7 Meters.

How about Kirkwood? They are known for ‘a bit more’ and during the ‘drought years’ we would often head there if the other places were bare.


-At 6,230 feet (Tahoe City); Low 24, High 45 (Highest ~ 67 on Mar 27, 1988, Lowest ~ 04 on Mar 25, in 1995)
-At 8,000 feet; Low 19, High 43

Hi: 31°f /24°f (base/top)
Lo: 21°f /16°f (base/top)


SUMMARY FOR THE WEEK -//> UPDATED FOR FRIDAY, MARCH 25th…Today and Saturday –2 MORE STORMS, SIGNIFICANT/ HEAVY SNOW TODAY, LIGHTER SNOW ON SATURDAY– -> 2 more low pressure systems move through the region today and Saturday, and todays storm moves through far enough south to cause more significant snow across the area. Lighter snow is expected on Saturday as the relentless train of storms continues. This storm moves through farther north for less affect on the area.

The temperatures are a bit easy to jumble as they are written in different formats. I’ll rewrite them:

Base lo/hi: 21-31F
Top lo/hi: 16-24F
Average base lo/hi: 24-45 F
Average top lo/hi: 19-43 F

So I make that -3 / -24 base anomaly and -3 / -19 top anomaly. Yeah, cold.

With snow. A LOT of snow:

Time of Report: March 24, 2011 05:56

Snowfall: Mar 21: 22″
Mar 19: 18″
Season Total: 637″
Surface Conditions: Powder – Packed Powder
Base Depth: 203″ – 247″
Open Terrain: 72 of 72 trails open
2300 acres open
12 of 12 lifts running
100% open

Notice that “season total snow”? That’s 53 FEET of snow. 16 Meters.

Want to know what is happening with heat flow? It has left the ocean, literally by the ton, risen to altitude and dumped into the stratosphere and above. Then the left over frozen water has landed. Here. 16 meters of it.

That latent heat of evaporation and fusion of water is so vastly more important than the temperature of the air. Yet it is ignored in “climate science”. Maybe we can all chip in and buy them a Slurpy so they can experience “Brain Freeze” first hand and realize there is more to heat flow than just the temperature… or IR.

Surely I’m “overplaying it”? It snows every year, so what?

More Snow Hits California’s Sierra, Setting Records

21 Mar 2011 Becky Lomax, Western Editor

March 21 may signal the beginning of spring in some places of North America. But not in California’s Sierra. Yet one more snowstorm has brought powder to the region over the last four days, dropping feet of snow, not mere inches. So much snow has fallen in spring snowstorms at the Sierra ski resorts that many are setting records for season snowfall, and some resorts have extended their seasons.

The current storm rolled into the Sierra on March 18, dropping 5-to-8 feet of snow from Mammoth Mountain to Lake Tahoe. Avalanche advisories from the Sierra Avalanche Center bumped up to “considerable” based on wind slab formation and several weaknesses in the new snow layers.

Squaw Valley USA originally planned to open its High Camp swimming pool on Saturday, March 19, but too much snow caused the resort to postpone the opening until April 2. “It’s not exactly weather that you’d want to be out there in a swimsuit,” spokesperson Amelia Richmond told OnTheSnow. “This is the biggest storm of the year, and the powder was chest deep on me yesterday.”
Sierra-at-Tahoe posted 625 inches of season snowfall by Monday morning, March 21. The resort surpassed its seasonal average of 480 inches in late February.

Heavenly Mountain Resort accumulated more than 5 feet of snow in four days during this most recent storm. The storm bumped the resort over 400 inches for the season, which puts it in the record books as its third-best season.

Northstar-at-Tahoe has seen the most snow fall in 25 years. Its summit snow base topped 200 inches in this storm. The resort sailed beyond the 500-inch mark for season snowfall and announced that it would extend the ski season through April 24.

Boreal Mountain Resort amassed 7.5 feet of snow in the weekend’s storm. The new snowfall shot the resort into a record season with 679 inches of total snowfall.

Alpine Meadows recorded the snowstorm as its fourth-largest three-day storm, with 101 inches accrued at the summit.

Mammoth Mountain recorded up to 8 feet of snow in the storm cycle from Friday through Monday. Four feet of snow fell in upper elevations of the resort in 24 hours by Monday morning’s snow report. Mammoth topped the 500-inch mark, a record it’s only reached six times since 1970. But forecasts of continued snowstorms may well catapult this season to one of the top.

The storms in the Sierra are expected to take a short hiatus Tuesday and then launch into another wave pushing in Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. Predictions call for the new storm, which is calculated to run through Sunday, to drop several more feet of snow.

And it aint over yet. Heck, it’s not even slowing down…

Greater Lake Tahoe Area
Winter Weather Advisory
Statement as of 10:21 PM PDT on March 25, 2011

… Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect until 5 PM PDT

A Winter Weather Advisory for snow and blowing snow remains in effect until 5 PM PDT Saturday.

* Timing: snow will increase overnight and continue through
Saturday with the heaviest snow expected Saturday morning.

* Accumulations: 8 to 14 inches above 7000 feet with locally up to
18 inches along the Sierra crest… and 4 to 8 inches below 7000

* Winds: south to southwest 15 to 30 mph with gusts to 45 mph.
Ridge gusts in the Sierra up to 85 mph.

* Impacts: visibility dropping to near zero at times due to
snow and areas of blowing snow. Chain controls and travel
delays on most highways in the Lake Tahoe basin. Periodic
Highway closures are possible.

But that’s OK, I’m sure that with all the “Global Warming” snows will become a “Thing of the past”, only a distant memory, something only found in photographs from the past to show the kids… /sarcoff>

The Magenta / dark magenta is 10 inches to 12 inches, red is 5-6 inches, of total water precipitation SO FAR:

Sacramento Total Precip 26 Mar 2011

Sacramento Total Precip 26 Mar 2011

According to these folks

We’re at about 600% of “normal” for the last 14 days precipitation… But only 200%-300% for the month ;-)

Present “Stream Flow”

Real Time Stream Flow in California

Real Time Stream Flow in California

Streamflow Legend

Streamflow Legend

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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18 Responses to California Snow

  1. Verity Jones says:

    I you’ve got the down side of the cycle. The UK has lovely sunny weather at the moment so juts right now it looks as if you’ve got our rain too.

    I’m hoping for the cooler, but drier/sunnier summers I remember as a child from the early 70s. So far the winter snow has not disappointed. Now I just need the funds to go skiing again too.

  2. doyle says:

    I well remember the drought of the 70’s, I was in grade school and we were educated as to the best ways to help our state out by denying ourselves long showers, green lawns, etc. Driving over I-5 as it crossed Lake Shasta was always so dire looking, the water level change was/is SO dramatic! At the time I remember wondering when it would all be gone. I also remember that at the time, “The Late Great Planet Earth” was a popular book, prophecizing the end of life as we knew it via ice age.

    And I think it was ’75 when it snowed in Martinez(my hometown)

  3. Pingback: California Snow | Sullivan's Travelers

  4. A new version of the song “It never rains in southern California”must be composed to be sung during Solar Minima :-)

  5. E.M.Smith says:


    Ah, yes, the California “Everyone has to FEEL involved so let the pee and poo stink until there is a load of it to flush” save water stupidity.

    ALL “Domestic water use” is less than 5% of the total, less than that (FAR less, as the shower dominates) ends up in the Poo Bowl. But it’s just so dramatic to “Only flush for #2″…

    I’m sure there is some deep psychological clue to be found in their fixation with “toilet functions” and the present madate of the not-quite-flushing toilet, but what it might be “escapes me” ;-)


    Maybe “It never Snows in …”

    Oh, wait, it did.


    It’s that “loopier jet stream”. As the Rosbey waves wobble back and forth, you are either in the Arctic or the desert band. With a ‘flat jet stream’ you are in a more consistent temperate zone.

    Right now, the wobble has stablized with SFO / Tahoe in the weather band normal for Seattle… but move over to Texas (where the line curves up) and it is a drought as they are now in Norhern Mexico weather wise…

    As soon as, if, the “loop” moves toward the East, we will get a nice sunny warm day. I had a week of those about 3 weeks back, so planted out some things in the garden, that are now really grumpy at me….

  6. Verity Jones says:

    Well of course I had to look it up… Public water supply in the USA (year 2000) was estimated as 11% of total water use ( of which <1% was for domestic use.

    However within domestic use, 27% is used for toilet flushing (33% in UK) and ~17% for shower use (

    In the UK it is estimated only 3% is used in cooking. UK water use per capita is 150 liters/day (36 US gallons) which is much lower than in the USA.

    In California, most resrvoirs are at or above historical average: (good to see). Some are full.

  7. Level_Head says:

    It may well be that the few years of increased precipitation will fool California into not addressing the serious water infrastructure problem.

    In 2000-2001, there were two years at the peak of the hurricane cycle where no hurricane made landfall in the US — so Louisiana boys determined that the $30 million given to them by the feds for levee work should go into relatives’ pockets instead, and to add high-speed Internet to the stadium. (The Feds had put the perpetrators in jail over the missing $30.4 million just a few months before Katrina hit.)

    Chance “good” (or at least useful) weather can drive bad decisions, unfortunately. But underlying all of this is the AGW crowd’s unabating insistence that all of this is Catastrophic Climate Change.

    The is no apparent desire to look for cyclical effects here. Cyclical changes don’t work — it’s got to be an open ended Road to Destruction to suit the purposes of the CCC camp.

    We are grasshoppers only dimly aware of cycles beyond our short attention span and unable to plan for the future, especially if there’s an official political version of it that defies cyclical reality. We then “plan” our own undoing, which even the grasshoppers of the old fairy tale were disinclined to do.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

  8. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Droughts don’t work, Only farmers are hurt by droughts. Only floods will get the attention of city people and their politicians.
    A great flood or two and then maybe we can finish the Great California Water Project that my grand parents generation started and the Ecos of the cities stopped. One Pineapple Express on top of all that snow and there will be 20 feet of water in the Great Valley and it will be the Great Lake of California! Glad I live 2,000 feet above the valley. pg

  9. Tim Clark says:

    Did I lose a comment in the spam bucket?

  10. George says:

    It may well be that the few years of increased precipitation will fool California into not addressing the serious water infrastructure problem.

    California has experienced over the past 500 years one of the wettest periods of the Holocene. There is an article on Steve McIntyre’s blog from several years ago about submerged trees in Sierra Nevada lakes. Lake levels were tens of meters lower, about 1500 years ago, than they are now and they had been that low long enough for some very large trees to grow. These trees are now under water.

    Lake Tahoe has been below its outlet for centuries at a time during the Holocene. It looks like the past 500 years have been extremely wet by Holocene standards. Should the climate return to more “normal” conditions of this interglacial, we will see “megadroughts” of epic impact to the population here.

    The media will, of course, blame it on something we have done. But it will be nothing more than a return to more “normal” conditions.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @Tim Clark:

    Not that I can find.


    I take long showers (i.e. more than the 1/2 gallon the toilet is allowed and even more than the 5 gallons of the old one). Oh, and I took the flow restrictor out too…

    In California, watering lawns is a dominant consumption in summer (our bill roughly doubles) and we have more of the “delux showers” and were obligated early to the “Failure to Perform” toilets…


    We get the same loons who tell us we can’t flush or be clean, demanding that we let in 10 Million “new workers” from Mexico. Either the place is full, or it isn’t. If we’re out of water, stop the building and tell the new immigrants to try New York instead…

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    I remember the last time that happened. Several cities near my home town were on the ‘nightly news’. Since then, they have expanded the building in the low areas as they have stopped flooding…

    I expect “Olivehurst” to make the news again and we’ll see film of the Sacramento Bypass very full.

    FWIW, the spouse tells me that about 1/2 mile “downhill” from us the nearby “Creek” (that’s more of an open storm drain made of dirt…) flooded about a block. Looking at the near bit, it was about 2 feet below the top of the banks (bent over grass from water flow). Hits a minor choke point “downhill”… (Guess WHY it’s “downhill” ;-)

    Last time it did this was when we first moved in, about, oh, 26 years ago …


    OR, as we have cooled over the 9000 year scale, we are very slowly sliding into an ice age. And in The West, we get cold and wet together. So we’ll be leaving our droughts behind more often, but with more flooding each time around the cycle…

    Not advocating, just presenting an alternative to consider.

    On which time scale is the dry / wet occilating?…

    But yeah, we are just one “cranky sun” moment away from “water? what water?”

  12. George says:

    Well, there were two “6-year droughts” in California in the 20th century, 1929 through 1934 and 1987 through 1992. I remember the second one and I still get a chuckle out of one story from it. I was living in Riverside at the time. Santa Barbara had made it illegal to water your lawn. You could be arrested for running your sprinklers. Some enterprising college students made a killing offering a service where they would spray your dead grass with a very life-like green vegetable dye. I remember thinking that I wish I had those kids’ names because I would want to remember them in case I ever got a chance to hire one of them.

    There really is a lot on common between the 1933 warm cycle and the 1998 one. Never did get quite as hot in ’98 as it did in ’33, though.

    I agree with you, we will likely see each cold period getting just a little colder and just like as happened after the 1933 hot spell and we went into a period of cooling in the 1950’s and 1960’s, I expect to see a period of cooling in the 2010’s and 2020’s.

  13. Terry Jackson says:

    Do we get one guess where in the cycle the Donner Party fell? Or the snows of the rail construction?

    January 1969 at Paradise and Stirling City (near Chico) there was a storm that leveled a number of buildings and left 6′ of snow on the level. Had to use a D-8 CAT to clear the road from Inskip up the hill, and then up to the water intake for Stirling City. They used a flume system and it was clogged with slush and not flowing.

    Ah, memories.

  14. John F. Hultquist says:

    It might be interesting to inquire about lake levels from the locals later this spring. Back in December on WUWT there was a bit of discussion about Lake Mead as the level has been dropping toward a critical level of 1075 feet. At the time, I checked and it was raining over the region. The level reached a low of 1081.94 in November and has been rising since then; now listed at 1095.78 (Feb.).

    Data are here:

    Found on the link below (from a person that has paddled a “kayak from Pearce Ferry, on the east end of Lake Meade, into the very pretty western Grand Canyon”) is a chart, discussion, and interesting photo:

    Related: About 6 weeks ago here in Washington State east of the Cascades (“the dry side”) folks began to talk of the lack of snow in the mountains. Newspapers picked up on this and an article or two commented on the possible lack of irrigation water for the coming summer. Just days after the buzz, storms have regularly crossed the region and it seems the rain and snow hasn’t stopped. We had a bit of snow here at 2,200 feet this morning. Mt. Rainier shows new snow also – see here for cameras:

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @John F. Hultquist:

    Nice Chart! of lake Mead depths. I’d explored lake depth as warming / cooling indicator here:

    and found some charts of old data (ended in 2003) but couldn’t find the the more recent stuff… That chart really helps.

    Any chance you can find the same thing for The Great Salt Lake? ;-)

    While this posting is mostly static images from that moment in time, it includes links to the various places where I found the “streamflow map makers” for making current live charts:

    I’m expecting it to be “exciting” when this stuff all starts melting…

    The present Washington map is here:

    and as I type shows most of the streams at normal or above normal.

  16. John F. Hultquist says:

    Great Salt Lake (home page)

    Then on the left they have “Project Links”
    Click “Elevations”
    This seems to be a source of data for Great Salt Lake. It is not as intuitive as that table for Lake Mead but with some probing it may yield additional information.
    From this page, click on the fourth of the 4 links; the one that says “Long-term water-surface elevation graphs . . . ”

    I remember the mid-80s peak as it got a lot of press when they sandbagged streets to get the water to flow through town and not into buildings. I recall a National Geographic article (cover story, I think). Here is a similar story with not-very-good photos.

  17. Pat says:

    Does John Q Public really get anything except what they are spoon fed on the 6pm News??
    Instead of having a “Bitch and Stitch” here,why not be pushing your local Newscasts with the things that you have posted here.
    Believe me,WWF et al are NOT standing back.They are PUSHING what they believe.

  18. E.M.Smith says:


    For the simple reason that I am but one unemployed person. I need to live my life, make some minimal money to pay the bills as best I can from trading my retirement money, and get done all the things that must be done to keep life livable.

    As it is already, I’m drowning in “ToDo” lists that never get done. Everything from cleaning the rain gutters (and some repairs on them) to getting my “Stock tracking” computer running again (as I had to take it down to move it due to some “Honey Do’s”) etc.

    So I do what I can. What I can do is write here. It is free so my limited money is not consumed (I’m not paid to do this) and it gets reasonable exposure.

    Anyone who finds something of merit here is “free to push it” if they wish.

    So, to be trite about it: I’ve done my part, I’ve done what I can. From this point on, someone else needs to do some torch carrying.

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