Chasing snow chances: Weather experts say this winter is a toss-up
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — After a dry, hot, smoky summer, many Lake Tahoe locals and visitors are ready for a snowy winter. But conditions this summer, historical data and Tahoe’s position within the various weather streams are making it hard to predict what this winter will bring.
The Lake Tahoe Basin sits right in the center of the inflection point of where the northern and southern “Los Ninos” meet.
“The El Nino Southern Oscillation cycle somewhat reliably predicts weather to our north and to our south, but whether our area is affected by ENSO is almost entirely a tossup,” said Paul Fremeau, an atmospheric scientist with WeatherExtreme.
Bryan Allegretto, a forecaster for Open Snow, shares the same sentiment as Fremeau.
Open Snow has tracked historical weather patterns over the past 50 years. Within the past 50 years, when summer atmospheric and oceanic conditions have been similar to this year’s, more times than not it has been a dry winter, such as the 2017-18 season.
However, the conditions in 1974 were very similar to this year and that winter saw above average snow levels. Allegretto said snow for this winter can’t be ruled out.
“Overall, I think this winter storm pattern could be similar to last year, but the probability is that it is not as dry, even though it’s still below average again,” Allegretto said.
Fremeau also foresees a similar winter to last year.
“Given global trends, this winter will likely be a little warmer than last winter for the Tahoe area. The average rain/snow line will creep a little higher, and we’ll be more likely to experience climate extremes — extreme snow or extreme drought,” Fremeau said. “I have my fingers crossed that this will be one of the extremely snowy years.”
While Allegretto didn’t go as far as to say this winter will be cold, he did say it statistically could be on the cooler side. If the area gets early snow or sporadic storms like last year, the snow could last on the ground all winter.
“We look to possibly have a better chance for a few more atmospheric river events, in which only a few of those can add a lot of snow and precipitation,” Allegretto said.
The Old Farmers’ Almanac, which boasts an 80% accuracy rate, has predicted a mild, dry winter for California and a cold, dry winter for Nevada.
“Most western areas will remain relatively dry, with all but the Pacific Coast itself and portions of the Southwest experiencing the frigid cold predicted for much of the rest of the country,” a press release states.
The Farmers’ Almanac has dubbed this winter, “The Frosty Flip-Flop Winter,” stating, “according to the Farmers’ Almanac’s time-tested weather formula, there will be snow, but probably not as much as a snow-sport enthusiast might dream of. On average, we’ll see near-normal amounts of the white stuff from coast to coast. However, there will be notable month-to-month variations.”
They see stormy weather for this region starting on the last week of October. November will see chilly temperatures with rain and possible snow starting a bit before mid-month. The first two weeks of December could bring some big storms.
The Farmers’ Almanac also sees cold temperatures lasting through March.
“March will see close to normal precipitation nationwide. But in a sense, March will be a microcosm of the entire winter,” the Almanac said. “From start to finish, the month will be full of stretches of uneventful weather, but when it turns stormy, the precipitation will come in big doses.”
Laney Griffo is a staff writer with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of The Union
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