Continuing snow drought as west stumbles into mid-January

The Truckee River watersheds in the northern Sierra around Lake Tahoe and Carson Range are essentially snowless below 7,500 feet. Even at higher elevations snow is seriously lacking.

Temperatures in the west are much above the long-term average and storms have been weak. Some rain has fallen in the mountains, but overall precipitation is down along with a snowpack of 25% or less. The weather service calls for the first significant snow storm on Thursday, but some earlier forecasts of heavy precipitation events missed the mark for the Tahoe and Truckee River areas.

The NRCS graphic shows no snow in all lower elevation areas around Lake Tahoe (7,500 and below) and very little snow-water equivalent at higher elevations for this time of the year. (For example, only 13″ of snow water equivalent at both Squaw Valley and Mt Rose.)

Jan 15 2018 snow water equivalent

Jan 15 2018 snow water equivalent (click for full size)

Basin snow water equivalent percent of average

Basin snow water equivalent percent of average (Click for full size)

Far western and southwestern water basin snowpacks are very low according to the NRCS snow surveys and automated snow recording equipment. While typical winter season continues until April 1, previous droughts since 2000 seem to show that dry early winter conditions are less likely to reverse and produce more rain and snow as winter winds down.

Snow is lacking and overall precipitation is only slightly better over the long-term average. Reservoir storage is still high because of the exceptional precipitation from last year. Despite the dismal winter snow so far, it is still possible for winter to return us to average conditions. With each day, however, that possibility shrinks in likelihood.

Precipitation as of January 15, 2018

Precipitation as of January 15, 2018

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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.