Early winter storm doesn’t mean 2010-’11 will happen over all again, meteorologists say
October 7, 2011
LAKE TAHOE — With the first flakes come the whispers of how the upcoming winter will match up to big ones in the past. Will it be as cold? Will there be as many storms? Will it snow as much?
Rolling off last year’s early opening and record-breaking La Niña winter, ski resorts around the lake are taking advantage of the recent snow to market their season pass deals and the season ahead.
“The early snow that has blanketed the mountain has certainly stoked everyone out in anticipation of another big year,”; Kirkwood Mountain Resort spokesman Michael Dalzell recently said in a statement.
On Thursday, Squaw Valley’s website read, “Get the Tahoe Super Pass and don’t miss a day of what is sure to be a historic season!”
Heavenly Mountain Resort released a video that states, “La Niña returns. Welcome back.”
Sierra-at-Tahoe posted photos of the recent snow under the title, “She’s back!La Niña Round 2.”
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And back on the North Shore, Northstar-at-Tahoe boasted its mountain — which will be closed Friday to bikers and hikers due to the storm — has been “blanketed … top to bottom.”
But all the hype might not measure up, according to weather forecasters.Though this winter will be anotherLa Niña season, meaning predicted above-average precipitation and lower than normal temperatures for Tahoe and the Northern Sierra, experts are saying it is unlikely to match up to last year’s tremendous snowfall.
“Statistically, the chance of that happening again is pretty darn low,” said Ken Clark, a California forecaster for Accuweather.com with more than 37 years of experience. “Could it happen again? I guess.”
La Niña is usually defined as a pattern of colder surface water temperatures through the eastern Pacific Ocean. It can mean a lot of things for weather along the West Coast of the United States.
“It usually means above-normal precipitation and below-normal temperatures for the Northern Sierra,” Clark said. “That’s typically the case. It isn’t always the case.”
This year’sLa Niña pattern looks to be fairly moderate, Clark continued. But sometimes La Niña isn’t even responsible for heavy precipitation, he said.
“There’s also been some La Niña years where we’ve had less than average precipitation,” said Brian Brong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.
The biggest factor in the amount of snowfall that will accumulate in the Sierra Nevada this winter is the moisture content of storms that pass over the area and whether or not the “Pineapple Express,” a flow of tropical moisture from Hawaii, sets up toward the West Coast, as it did last year in mid-December.
“The Pineapple Express could develop for a period this winter and take aim at Northern and Central California,” said Paul Pastelok, a meteorologist for Accuweather.com, in the website’s long-range winter forecast. “That could lead to monster snowfall and heavy valley rain with the risk of flooding and mudslides.”
Accuweather.com’s long-range forecast continues with a more subdued outlook, suggesting the snowfall would be around or slightly above average. A long-range forecast from the National Weather Service is expected within the next 10 days.
In the short-term, though, don’t expect the current slew of snow to last long. According to NWS in Reno, temperatures will again turn mild into the weekend, and highs in the mid-60s at the like are expected — and the lower-70s in Truckee — by early next week.
Boreal Mountain Resort — the annual winner of the unofficial race each fall to be the first regional ski resort to open — planned to begin snowmaking operations at 4 a.m. Friday, the resort announced late Thursday, adding to the 20 inches it received from this week’s storm.
“Boreal is known for opening its ski slopes early. We are shooting to be the first open in the country so skiers and riders can maximize their season,” said Jon Slaughter, marketing director at Boreal.
While Halloween was Boreal’s target opening date, an earlier opening is anticipated thanks to the cold temperatures in the long-range forecast, according to the resort.