Last month wasn’t such a ‘miracle’
April 6, 2006
This week marked the start of the Major League Baseball season, but here in Truckee theres not a green field in sight thanks to the coldest March on record in Tahoe and its 24 days of snowfall.
Some powder hounds and resort officials are calling it Miracle March, but according to weather historian Mark McLaughlin, they’ve got it all wrong.
The real miracle occurred in 1991 during a year set to be the driest on record, McLaughlin said. Then came March, with 14 to 20 feet of fresh snowfall that boosted lake levels and a snowpack that dwindled to 19 percent of the average.
But that’s not to say last month wasn’t an anomaly. March brought this winters total water content to well above 150 percent of the usual, McLaughlin said, and Alpine Meadows pulled in a record-breaking 197.5 inches of snow 308 percent above normal.
March was not only the largest March we’ve had in 35 years in snow recording history, it was the largest month period, said Alpine Meadows spokeswoman Rachael Woods.
As far as conditions go, they don’t get any better than this.Some old school residents and weather pros, such as McLaughlin and Randall Osterhuber, who heads up the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory on Donner Summit, swear that big years come in cycles.
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There are some ups and downs, but no regular patterns, Osterhuber said. While predicting annual snowfalls or patterns is still nearly impossible, some traces of global warming are noticeable.
We do see the slightest trend, Osterhuber said. Our winters are getting slightly wetter each year. But only slightly.
Osterhuber said the snowpack depth seems to be shrinking by 3 millimeters each year.
McLaughlin also noted that the snowpack is melting faster these days than it was 50 years ago, and that while individual storms and seasons shouldn’t be chalked up to global warming, the over all concern is serious.
Sun News Service reporter Alex Close contributed to this report.