Partly-mostly sunny and milder weather through Thursday. A weak system with some light snow may or may not reach us Friday. Then a wetter storm with heavier snow for Saturday night into Sunday. A drier pattern is possible again starting Monday the 6th that could turn slightly more active around the 11th.
Short Term Forecast
Wednesday will be one of the nicest days of the week with mostly sunny skies, lighter winds, and milder temperatures. Highs into the 30s on the upper mountains and 40s at lake level.
Thursday will be fairly nice as well, but we'll see increasing high clouds later in the day along with increasing ridgetop winds. Similar high temps. Ridgetop winds from the southwest could be gusting up to 30-40+ mph by the afternoon.
Winds increase Thursday night into Friday morning. When the ski areas open Friday morning we could've ridgetop gusts up to 70+ mph, which could cause delays in some upper mountain lift openings. Then the winds come down slowly through the day. Highs drop into the 30s.
The trend continues to be drier with the Friday system as it falls apart and loses most of its moisture by the time it reaches the northern Sierra. It looks somewhat impressive moving onshore Thursday night but you can see it fizzles as it reaches us.
Several of the forecast models show no precipitation reaching the Tahoe basin, and a few show very light and scattered showers moving in early Friday morning through the afternoon. The Canadian model is the wettest this morning, and it only shows up to a tenth of an inch on the high-end west of the lake up along the Sierra crest.
With the front weakening as it approaches, there isn't much cold air moving in. Freezing levels may only drop to around 7000 ft. With the very light showers that are possible, the snow levels could be near the freezing levels up to 500 ft. below. That means that we could see some light rain or drizzle below 7000 ft. on Friday.
No snowfall forecast is needed as the wettest model run would only bring a high-end of 1 inch of snow on the peaks along the crest. Nothing up to a coating is more likely, with nothing up to a dusting on the east side of the lake and south of Kirkwood.
Saturday Night - Sunday Storm:
Saturday we could see partly sunny skies in the morning with increasing clouds and winds ahead of the next storm. Some warmer air works in ahead of the storm with the south-southwest flow. Highs into the 30s on the upper mountains and 40s at lake level. Ridgetop winds gusting up to 50-60+ mph by afternoon, which could affect some upper mountain lifts.
The latest model runs have sped up the arrival of the storm but a few hours. We could see rain & snow reach the mountains on the west side of the basing between 6-9 PM, and then quickly spread east across the Sierra.
The heaviest snow could fall early Sunday morning into the afternoon with lighter snow into Sunday evening before clearing by Monday morning. Highs drop into the 20s for the upper mountains and low 30s at lake level. Ridgetop winds could be gusting up to 50-60+ mph from the west Sunday morning, which could cause some upper mountain lift opening delays. Then coming down slowly through the afternoon.
Most of the models have trended towards the wetter GFS scenario over the past 24 hours, with the European, GFS, & ICON models all now showing up to 2 inches of precip near the crest.
The drier models show over an inch, with the lower resolution ensemble mean models showing over 1.3 inches. So good agreement on a wetter scenario now. The snow levels drop pretty fast at the start and should start out near lake level Saturday evening. Then leveling off in the 4500-5000 ft. range for Sunday, and dropping below 3000 ft. by the end early Monday morning.
Snow ratios start lower Saturday night and then increase into Sunday. They could be sitting around 10-15:1 much of the storm Sunday from lake level up to 9000 ft. Not wet but not super dry either. Then becoming more powdery Sunday night as the storm winds down and scattered snow showers fall into early Monday morning before clearing.
Here is my updated snowfall forecast which has doubled from yesterday now that the rest of the models have jumped on board with the GFS.
Of note is that the wetter models show up to 30 inches along the crest while the drier models show up to 18. My forecast skews towards the average and lower end. We'll have to see if the models trend any wetter as we get closer.
Starting Monday we transition back into a drier pattern as high pressure builds in over CA, which could last through Friday the 10th.
We start out somewhat cold Monday behind the storm with partly-mostly sunny skies highs in the 30s, and the winds becoming lighter. The mostly sunny skies should continue through the end of the week. Highs should warm into the 40s at lake level with the latest model runs showing the ridge building more over CA instead of off the coast.
The long-range models continue to show the pattern shifting around the 11th, with the ridge building in the eastern pacific to our west, and a trough over the West. The question seems to be how far west does the trough set up? The European ensemble mean model has the mean ridge position closer to the coast through the 16th...
...while the GFS ensemble mean model has the trough farther west through the 17th.
Storms track into the west side of troughs and spin up into the base before moving east into the east side. If the western edge of the trough sets up over CA as the Euro shows, then storms track south over land and are moisture-starved, and they could drop down to our east and miss us altogether. If the GFS pattern is right, the storm could spin up off the coast and tap into Pacific moisture before moving into CA.
The long-range deterministic/operational model runs are struggling with whether or not we see storms during the period of the 11th-17th and how wet they could be. The ensemble mean models show near to above-average precipitation for the northern Sierra during this period, so we are leaning towards a chance we see storms. We'll continue to watch the trends...
Some Snowfall Stats:
I've recently posted some of our snowfall stats for January and the season so far on Twitter, so I'll share those here for simplicity.
I'll have more stats to share over the next week. It will be great to get February started off on the right track if we can add 1-2 feet of snow to the season totals on Sunday!
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This week we talk about Where the Snow Is Headed as we reach the Mid-Point of Winter, catch up with Powder Chaser Stever to see Where He is Chasing Snow, check in with Zach Butler to see What the Heck is Going On with the Northeast's Winter, report the 5-Day Snowfall Totals around the U.S., look at the Snowfall Forecast for The Upcoming Week, and discuss The Long-Range Snowfall Patterns!