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Warm Tahoe winter weather not welcome

Adam Jensen
Sun News Service
Jonah M. Kessel/Sun News ServiceBud Coons, left, and Martin Nex take a break to enjoy a beer under the warm sun on a pier at Stateline on Tuesday.
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LAKE TAHOE “-Lake Tahoe could reach record temperatures this week, as a high pressure system off the West Coast continues to bring spring-like conditions to the basin.

“If we don’t, we’ll be really close,” said Kyle Mozley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

Temperatures at the Lake Tahoe Airport hit 50 degrees or higher for six of the past eight days, and the weather service predicts daytime high temperatures near 50 every day through Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Tuesday’s daytime high temperature of 52 came within 2 degrees of the record temperate for Dec. 13, set in 1996, according to weather service data.

The sunny weather is undoubtedly scenic, but the warm temperatures are a concern for an already drought-ridden state, said Elissa Lynn, a senior meteorologist with the California Department of Water Resources.

“It may look pretty, but it’s not pretty,” Lynn said. “It’s not the right time of year.”

High temperatures threaten to melt an already below-average snowpack, which supplies much of the state with water throughout the summer and fall, Lynn said.

The average water content of snow around the basin is approximately 71 percent of normal for this time of year, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“There’s a concern it’s so sunny and warm that we’ll lose a lot of mid-elevation snowpack,” Lynn said.

The Sierra snowpack doesn’t typically peak until April, and water managers won’t have a complete picture of water supplies until then, Lynn said.

But with California and Nevada coming off two years that had only slightly more than half the average amount of runoff, significant storms are needed to refill the states’ reservoirs, Lynn said.

“I think Tahoe would have a really hard time coming to the rim,” Lynn said.

If the northern Sierra doesn’t receive any more precipitation this month, January 2009 could go down on record as the third driest in recorded history for the area, Lynn said.

With current weather patterns expected to remain in place for at least the near future, there is a possibility of the area not receiving any precipitation until February.

Models indicate the weather patterns will be “pretty much the same as what we’ve seen” in the next couple weeks, but a change could come near the end of the month, Mozley said.

Although predicting weather patterns beyond seven days is especially susceptible to variation, the pronounced high pressure system should break down toward the end of January, Mozley said.

“That would basically allow moisture and colder air to move down through Canada and the West Coast,” Mozley said.


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