Tahoe Nugget #164:
Tahoe Winter Update – Drought?
Feb. 5, 2009
The ugly "D" word has reared its head again. High pressure dominated the region during much of January 2009, so it's no surprise that precipitation totals for the month came in well below average.
San Francisco received only 19 percent of its January average while Sacramento reported just 37 percent of normal.
Down south San Diego had virtually no rain all month, but more importantly the northern portion of the state was extremely warm and dry. Shasta Reservoir, located in the northern Sacramento Valley near
the headwaters of the Sacramento River, is the state's largest and most important for providing water to arid, heavily populated Southern California. At this time water storage in Shasta Reservoir is the lowest in
more than 30 years.
Redding, California, is located about eight miles from Shasta Reservoir. January is usually the wettest month of the year, but Redding reported less an inch of rain (14 percent of normal). Average
maximum temperatures were freaky high at nearly 8 degrees above normal for the whole month. The entire Sacramento River Basin is now classified as in extreme drought.
Hydrologists are warning that California may be facing the worst drought in its history. Fifty-three of California's 58 counties are under disaster declarations as the dry conditions have devastated
agricultural activities. Severe drought conditions prevailed in the early 1990s, but since then the Golden State has added another 10 million people to its population. The strong population growth adds greater
demand to a water supply that is both limited and erratic.
Water content in the vital Sierra snowpack is currently running about 65 percent of average, but surprisingly skiing at Tahoe resorts has been very good thanks to snowmaking and grooming equipment. The
short days and low, mid-winter sun angle has spared all but the south facing slopes. Fortunately, the persistent dome of high pressure has moved east and opened the door to Pacific storm systems that should boost
the snowpack and everyone's attitude.
Today is National Weatherman's Day so don't forget to hug your favorite forecaster! http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lsx/?n=wxmanday
Photo #1: Infrared satellite image clearly shows storm-blocking dome of high pressure.
Photo #2: High pressure system has moved east to allow Pacific low pressure systems to reach California.
Photo #3: No snow at Donner Pass on February 5, 2009.
Photo #4: Lack of snow has kept skiers and snowboarders from hitting the steep slopes above the Union Pacific snow sheds near Donner Pass.
February 5, 2009. Little snow in Carnelian Bay.
Photo #6: February 5, 2008. Lots of snow in Carnelian Bay.
Photo #7: Hungry coyote checking for stray cats