Winter to remain dry?

If you’ve been up in the mountains around Reno skiing or driving “over the hill”, you’ve noticed that there isn’t much snow.  Despite the “big” storm in December that brought rain to Reno and some flooding to southern California, there is a poor snowpack that hasn’t seen any real snow or rain added in January – one of the months when you expect frequent storms in California and western Nevada.

Jeff Delong’s front page story in today’s RGJ, “Instead of Sierra snow, January stays ‘bone dry'”, focusses our attention on the super dry conditions that appear to be repeating similar weather from last year and the year before.  Nevertheless, the article fails to mention the elephant in the room – climate change.  Is the evidence beginning to point to a drying and warming due to factors other than natural variation in precipitation? Should we be alarmed?  Or more to the point, why aren’t we alarmed?

Lake Tahoe at Zephyr Cove Pier. Tahoe's water elevation on January 20 stands 7" below its rim so no water can flow into the Truckee River from the Lake.

Lake Tahoe at Zephyr Cove Pier. Tahoe’s water elevation on January 20 stands 7″ below its rim so no water can flow into the Truckee River from the Lake.

The article quotes National Weather Service meteorologist, Scott McGuire saying, “January was bone dry.”  Of course, it is only January 20th, things could turn around.  The article concludes with another quote by McGuire saying, “Things can change pretty quickly and it only takes a handful of big storms. … All we can do is keep our fingers crossed for an active February and March.”

And so goes the planning for climate change induced drying out of the west.

I’m not picking on Scott McGuire either.  He’s simply saying what all of us are thinking, “It better rain and snow soon or we are all in trouble.”  He’s also implying what we all hope – that it has always rained and snowed in the past when we needed it to, right?  So, mother nature, please get on with it.

And, sometimes in the past we have had large storms in February which did change conditions in the mountains dramatically.  I remember in 1969 a very rainy and snowy February which saw huge piles of snow on Slide Mountain which buried the ski lift following a pretty dry winter up to that point.  And, again, in 1986 we saw a late February flood in Reno from rains that went on day after day for more than a week after another less than stellar snow year.  Will there be a big series of storms in February or March that will fill Lake Tahoe and send all thoughts of drought out of our minds?

We can only hope.

Looking toward the west shore of Lake Tahoe from Nevada Beach shows a dismal snow pack in the Sierra on January 20, 2015. January should be a good month for storms, but none have materialized.

Looking toward the west shore of Lake Tahoe from Nevada Beach shows a dismal snow pack in the Sierra on January 20, 2015. January should be a good month for storms, but none have materialized.

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About Dennis Ghiglieri

My concern for the Truckee River grew over the years. It started with picking up trash and supporting better water quality. I helped create the "living river"plan with other citizens on the Community Flood Coalition; a plan to reduce flood impacts to infrastructure through river restoration and protection of the floodplain. I understand how critical the Truckee River is to the environment – and economy – of our entire region. I'm hoping that through these pages we can all understand our connection to the Truckee River and why we need to protect it.

2 thoughts on “Winter to remain dry?

    1. Dennis Ghiglieri Post author

      “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.” – President Barack Obama, January 21, 2015

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