Snow Seers: Experts forecasting an early winter start |

Snow Seers: Experts forecasting an early winter start

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunSnow covers a road sign and trees on Brockway Summit Thursday morning. More high-elevation snow is expected.

This time of year has Art Chapman wringing his hands.

As the new ski resort owner plows money into the Homewood and Alpine Meadows ski mountains, the upcoming winter temperatures and Pacific storms that can make or break his business remain a mystery.

“One of the things we have asked everyone in our organization to do when they get on their knees at night is to ask for snow and ask for early snow,” Chapman said.

Chapman closely follows the climate predictions ” both official weather outlooks and the unofficial, long-running line from the Farmers’ Almanac.

But in the end, the uncertainty remains.

“There’s not much we can do but to hope the good Lord gives us an early and wet winter,” Chapman said.

And, he added, continue to test the snowmaking equipment.

As the snow-dependent Tahoe region holds its collective breath to see what winter brings, official winter prognosticators give little to go on.

The Climate Prediction Center relies heavily on the fact that Pacific Ocean temperatures are cooling ” making for a La Nina weather pattern.

La Ninas typically push the jet stream to the north, shuttling winter storms over the Pacific Northwest and leaving the southerwestern United States dry, said Douglas LeComte, the chief drought forecaster for the Climate Prediction Center, which released its latest winter forecast on Thursday.

But for Lake Tahoe and Truckee, caught in a geographic no man’s land between the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest, the forecasting becomes even more difficult, LeComte said in a phone interview Thursday.

“It could easily go either way,” LeComte said.

The weather models show a “strong start to the rainy season” for Tahoe, LeComte said.

January, February and March have equal chances of wet or dry weather, according to the models. And the spring could be dry, LeComte said, as the region of dryness caused by a La Nina pattern expands northward late in the season.

And although the Climate Prediction Center prides itself on higher-than-normal accuracy during El Nino or La Nina winter forecasts, the predictions are subject to the mysterious variabilities of the weather.

“We had an El Nino year last year and despite that we had a very La Nina-type winter,” said LeComte.

The dusting of snow around the Tahoe Basin Wednesday night has people’s hopes high for the coming season, Chapman said.

“It really does invigorate [people],” he said. “The employees are excited.”

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