Powderchaser Luke here  filling in once again  for Steve while he's out of town. It's been a long time coming but the big Sierra snowstorm is finally in our sights. The Northern Sierra has seen nearly no snowfall or precipitation of  any kind this month. Even since the water year began on October first there hasn't been much, evidenced by the water year data for the station at Squaw Valley at 8k feet, which shows no precipitation or snow water equivalent (water contained within the snowpack). Dismal. 


(Image courtesy of NRCS)

As mentioned, that's about to change in a BIG way! The highlights of this storm will be big snows, cold temperatures, and low snow levels, affecting the Sierra including Tahoe from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Keys to the Chase

Tahoe and much of the Sierra are finally going to get a classic big cold Winter Storm! Overall, upper elevations of most resorts will see 2-3 feet, with up to 4 feet along the crest! The snow should begin falling in Tahoe Tuesday afternoon, and temperatures will be cold enough for plenty of snow down at at Lake level, with snow levels falling to ~2000 feet. The snow will be heavy Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday, and by Thursday, Squaw Valley, Kirkwood, Sugarbowl, Dodge Ridge, Sierra at Tahoe, and the other resorts North of 80  should have 2-3 feet. The other mountains around the lake including Heavenly, Homewood, Northstar, etc should do well too, with 1.5-2 feet by the time the storm winds down. Mammoth Mountain will also see 1.5-3 feet. There are some signs of additional storms during the first week of December as well, so let's hope that comes to pass. Truckee and Lake Tahoe should see 16-24\" out of this storm also. As we've been saying for a few days now on our forecasts, things are going to look a lot different one week from now.

Details for the Weathernerds

Much of what is going on in the upper atmosphere for this event was explained in our post about Utah yesterday. Please follow this link to learn about how this storm is unfolding.

We won't leave you completely empty handed though regarding some features for this storm. One aspect we did not touch on was the strong surface low associated with this system that will slam the Northern California coast with high winds before delivering the dump to the Sierra. Those are some very powerful gusts as the surface low comes ashore, as seen in the EURO below. Gusts will probably not be as high as this model predicts (~80s), but 60mph gusts are certainly possible. 


(Image courtesy of Weatherbell)

You can see where the surface low pressure is in the image below, as well as the rain/snow that will be coming onshore during this time. Far Northern California will get hammered  as well, with considerable low elevation snowfall.


(Image courtesy of Tropical Tidbits)

Certainly a powerful storm. The other features we mentioned in the previous post, the broad longwave trough over the Western US,  a cut off low developing that pulls in gulf moisture, strong lift and a low moving storm, all apply to the Sierra as well. You can see strong synoptic lift and favorable SW winds in the vorticity map below. This would equate to very heavy snowfall during this time.


(Image courtesy of Tropical Tidbits)

Ok, we're going to leave it at that for this one. This one will be fun to watch, and it'll be great for the Sierra to get on the board. Stay tuned for more updates this week!


Powderchaser Luke

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