Tahoe Daily Snow
By Bryan Allegretto, Forecaster Posted 3 months ago November 28, 2023
Partly - mostly sunny and chilly through Wednesday. A more active pattern starting Thursday with weak systems possible through Sunday with a little snow for the mountains. Then we could go back into a drier pattern next week.
Short Term Forecast
The good news is that we recorded the first episode of season 4 of The Flakes Podcast last night, and that will be out later this morning (Tuesday) once I wrap up forecasting! The bad news is that we still don't have any significant snowfall on the horizon through the long range. We continue to deal with a battle between high and low pressure over CA.
I've been calling it a battle because when I look at the forecast models each day, I can see the high pressure trying to build in over CA consistently and the storms moving toward the West Coast trying hard to push south into CA as well. From run to run of the models the storms will push a bit farther south and then the high-pressure ridge will push them a bit farther north, similar to Sumo wrestling.
It's a wet pattern just to our north in far northern CA and the Pacific NW, and when the storms trend a bit farther south our forecast for precipitation and snowfall goes up, and then when the storms trend back north slightly our forecast trends go down like we are seeing today (the darker the line the more recent the model run).
If you were to back out to a view of the globe this slight variation in the storm tracks would barely be noticeable, but zoomed in on a small area in the northern Sierra it makes all the difference between an inch and a foot of snow.
The way that I calculate my snowfall forecasts it does a fairly good job of avoiding big swings and getting you too excited. I only forecast out 5 days max. My first forecast for this week came out Monday morning, and the high-end to start was only 6 inches of snow. So weren't overly excited to start which is a good place to start mentally in a pattern like this.
Tuesday - Wednesday Weather:
We will continue the cool and dry pattern through Wednesday with partly-mostly sunny skies each day. Highs into the 40s for the lower elevations near lake level and 30s for the upper mountains.
The latest trends continue to be for 3 systems to try and dig south into the northern Sierra Thursday through Sunday. But they are starting to agree on a drier day for Friday, so I'm going to break up the snowfall forecast into just Thursday-Thursday night, and then jump to the weekend.
The first system is pretty weak and falling apart as it moves through northern CA on Thursday. We could see some light and scattered showers during the day into Monday night along with some colder air and highs in the 30s. Snow levels should be hovering near lake level around 6000-6500 ft. Thursday and falling below 5000 ft. Thursday night.
The latest GFS and NAM models have now trended completely dry for the Sierra through Thursday night as the system barely reaches us and falls apart.
On the wetter end of the forecasts, the Canadian and WPC's blended model show a high end of up to 3-tenths of an inch of total precipitation for some spots up along the Sierra Crest.
Whether you take the high end or the model average of 0.15 inches for most mountains, it's still not much snow. The low snow levels are nice and snow ratios could average up to 12:1 around 8000 ft., but based on the latest model runs Tuesday morning I'm only forecasting up to 1-3 inches of snow at best for the ski areas.
Most of this long forecast today is just a long way of telling you how we are likely not getting any significant snowfall...
The Weekend Systems:
Friday we could see some clouds and a stray shower, but overall the trend is fairly dry between systems on Friday. It stays cool with highs mainly in the 30s.
The next system is forecast to brush the northern Sierra Friday night into Saturday with more light precipitation with snow levels expected to stay below lake level (<6000'). The outlier this time is the GFS model which goes from dry Thursday to almost an inch of liquid by Saturday night near the crest, but other models like the Canadian are nearly dry.
Right on the heels of that system, a warmer system is forecast to brush us again Sunday - Sunday night. This time warmer air could rush in and jump snow levels up to 8000+ ft. by Sunday afternoon with just rain, so it could be a good thing precipitaiton amounts look light again.
Here is a look at the GFS model showing up to 1.2 inches of liquid for the weekend with the farther south track with both systems, especially the Saturday system.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Canadian model only shows up to a tenth of an inch of liquid reaching the Tahoe basin over the weekend as the high-pressure Sumo wrestler wins out this time. The total model average for precipitation over the weekend is around 0.5 inches on the high end near the crest with decent spillover to the east side of the basin.
Amounts fade to the south of Dodge Ridge into the central and southern Sierra. They could be even less south of Kirkwood if the more northern storm tracks prevail.
For snowfall, we have to account for rain Sunday as warmer air moves in on top of the already low precipitation totals from most forecast models other than the GFS this morning. That has me coming up with this for the total additional snowfall forecast Saturday-Sunday, most of which would fall through Saturday night with the lower snow levels.
I can keep telling you how much of a pain it is to forecast when you have wet storms just to the north and we are on the edge, but you just want me to give you as accurate of a forecast as I can, so here's what I have for now. Sorry that it's not better news with snow in feet, but at least it's snowing (hopefully).
If you thought that was ugly, don't continue reading. By Monday we still expect high pressure to win out and to build in over the West with a drier and milder pattern for at least the first half of next week.
Highs warm into the 40s and could reach 50 degrees for the lower elevations around lake level by Tuesday.
The battle continues between the storms in the northeast Pacific and the high-pressure ridge over the West. Some of the long-range models try to flatten the ridge at times with storms into the Pacific NW that try to brush the northern Sierra. One could try later next week.
But overall the ensemble mean models show high pressure dominating more than not over the West through the 2nd week of December.
Storms that reach us, if any, look to be weakened and only brush us with light precipitation. It's also a mild pattern so any precipitation could just be rain. Temperatures over the period are forecast to be above to well above average for much of the U.S. and North America.
The Pacific storm track into the Pacific NW is just ushering in mild Pacific air, with the wettest areas forecast to remain in the Pacific NW, and below to well below average precipitation for most of CA.
We'll continue to watch the trends and hope for a pattern shift or for the storms to have better luck in pushing farther south as we go through December. With the El Nino pattern, we would typically expect some strengthening of the jet stream farther east into the West Coast and southwestern U.S.
But this isn't a typical El Nino with so much warm water in the northern Pacific and so far the forecast out through the 2nd week of December continues to show a weaker and disorganized jet stream near the West Coast.
Hopefully, that will change as we go through the month of December. Historically during stronger El Nino seasons the storms pick up in December, peak in January, and continue later into the season. It's still early as we are still in November, and long-range forecasts change. The dam could unleash at some point in December. Let's hope...
Stay tuned, and pray for snow...BA
P.S. The Flakes Podcast is back for the 2023-24 season! Each season we give you a light-hearted (we try to be funny but we're weather nerds) look at what is happening with snowfall around the U.S. ski areas each week. Come chase snow with a few flakes! Follow us on your favorite podcast player.
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