Cold snap setting records |

Cold snap setting records

Time to turn up the thermostat and go skiing.

It was 7 degrees below zero early yesterday morning at the Truckee Tahoe Airport District, a new low for the season. Yesterday marked the second day in a row early morning lows have dropped below zero degrees Fahrenheit at the airport. Highs, in the last week, have only reached the 20s and 30s.

The chilly temperatures arrive after the season’s biggest storm, which has continued to deposit precipitation on Donner Summit every day beginning Monday, Jan. 8. Since then, Donner Summit has received 36.5 inches of new snow with the largest accumulation last Wednesday of 26 inches, according to snow hydrologist Randall Osterhuber at the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory in Soda Springs.

Officials at the California Department of Water Resources last week reported a snowpack at only 52 percent of normal for the year, but that did not incorporate accumulation from the most recent storm.

While the storm may have valley farmers breathing a sigh of relief, avalanche forecasters with the U.S. Forest Service are concerned over a snowpack that has had variable layer formation, leading to snowpack instabilities and avalanche potential.

The Forest Service in Truckee rescinded their avalanche advisory for the eastern Sierra from Sonora Pass north, but Osterhuber reports that Mammoth Ski Area maintains a high avalanche advisory.

The same cold temperatures that make the upper layer of snow light and fluffy for skiers also create differences in moisture content in buried snowpack layers. Osterhuber recommends caution if venturing beyond the lifts.

Truckee’s cold temperatures are not uncommon for the time of year, but it has been unusually cold across much of the nation. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists announced Jan. 5 that the U.S. national average

temperature during the November through December two-month period was the coldest such period on record.

Jay Lawrimore, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at the National Climatic Data Center, said, “Two months in a row of much below average temperatures resulted in the coldest November-December U.S. average temperature on record, 33.8 (degrees) Fahrenheit.” This broke the old record of 34.2 degrees Fahrenheit set in 1898.

The scientists worked with data from the world’s largest statistical weather database at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

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