Tahoe Daily Snow
By Bryan Allegretto, Forecaster Posted 1 month ago February 1, 2024
Snow Thursday, with snow showers into Friday night. A quick break on Saturday. A stronger storm moves in Sunday with snow into Tuesday. An unsettled pattern through the 9th. A drier pattern is possible from around the 10th through mid-month.
Short Term Forecast
The warm part of the storm moved through overnight with rain to start for lake level and now snow as of 7 AM Thursday. Only a wet coating of snow near lake level so far. The ski areas are reporting 1-11 inches on the upper mountains overnight around the Tahoe basin, with some of the higher totals to the south as expected.
Thursday - Friday Snow:
The snow levels are now below lake level and the snow showers will continue through Friday and into Friday night for some areas.
Highs will be in the low 30s for the lower elevations near lake level and 20s for the upper mountains. The winds are coming down on Thursday. They could increase a bit Friday as another wave of steadier precipitation moves through, with ridgetop gusts from the West up to 50-60+ mph, borderline for affecting upper mountain lifts.
The steadiest snow showers are expected Thursday morning and again on Friday, with more scattered showers later Thursday and Friday night. The best chance for the steadiest showers will be west of the lake up along the Sierra crest. The latest model runs show 0.5 - 1.0 inches of additional precipitation falling near the crest and up to 0.5 inches on the east side of the basin.
The GFS model is the outlier and has a heavier surge of precipitation with the wave on Friday. The latest 06z run shows up to 1.8 inches of additional precipitation falling near the crest from Thursday through Friday night. That is skewing the model average up a bit to around 0.95 inches.
The snow levels will be around 5300 - 5800 ft. Thursday, 4000-4500 ft. Thursday night, back up as high as 5000 ft. Friday, and ending below 4000 ft. Friday night. That means all snow to lake level for the rest of the storm. Snow ratios could average around 10-16:1 between lake level and 9000 ft. over the 2-day period, which means some drier lighter density snow for the upper mountains.
With the latest model runs showing some steadier snow on Friday, it could be a decent powder day. Here is my updated snowfall forecast for the remainder of the storm through Friday night.
I've received a few comments telling me the storm looks weaker than advertised. We didn't advertise a big storm. That would be on other media for the rain in other parts of CA. The high-end of my forecast for the storm has been around 18 inches all week. With the steadier snow showers possible on Friday, a few mountains may actually get the over in the end.
Some models show some scattered snow showers for Saturday. But we should see some sun with partly sunny skies expected. Highs in the 20s for the upper mountains and 30s for the lower elevations near lake level. This would be your travel window Saturday into Saturday night ahead of a bigger snowstorm that moves in Sunday morning.
Sunday - Monday Storm:
There are a few changes to the forecast with the next storm. This is a complicated setup so the details could change a few times as the storm gets closer. We have the original low-pressure center from the Thursday storm dropping south off the West Coast, and another system moving across the Pacific toward Southern CA, where earlier this week we thought most of the precipitation would track.
Over the last few days, the models have been showing a setup that is similar to a Fujiwara effect where two low-pressure systems rotate counterclockwise around each other. The low moving toward SoCal is forecast to be drawn north as it spins around the east side of the low dropping south, and that swings the low into northern CA Sunday through Monday.
One of the changes this morning is that yesterday the models had the low spinning north and staying near the northern CA coast, and this morning they have it tracking through CA. That could do a few things including: speed up the departure of the steadier snow on Tuesday, bring some heavier snow near the center of the low as it moves through, bring some stronger winds near the center of the low on Monday, and try to draw up some milder air.
The storm is tapping a decent fetch of subtropical moisture, and the good news is that the jet stream and most of the moisture feed stays to our south, which should keep the warmest air and strongest winds to our south. It could be a good setup for big snow down to lake level.
I'm cutting Tuesday out of the forecast as the latest model runs move out the steadier precipitation with just leftover scattered snow showers for Tuesday. With the heavier precipitation amounts for Monday, the model average for totals hasn't dropped much taking out Tuesday. The average is around 3 inches near the crest with not much less to the east side of the basin with this track.
Highs in the 20s up on the mountains for both days and near freezing for the lower elevations near lake level. Warmer air will try to surge north on Sunday night, but the latest model runs max snow levels out around 6000-6500 ft. briefly early Monday morning before falling, so we could stay all snow at lake level due to the heavy precipitation rates helping to drag the snow levels down.
The latest mode runs suggest that ridgetop winds are not that strong on Sunday, but could increase from the south-southwest on Monday with gusts up to 60-70+ mph now, which could close some exposed upper mountain lifts. Then dropping off on Tuesday for what should be a great powder day.
Snow levels start low around 4000-4500 ft. Sunday as snow moves in around 5-9 AM from south to north. Then they rise and peak early Monday morning as discussed above, and then drop back below 5000 ft. Monday night. Snow ratios could average around 10-17:1 for the 2-day storm, which will start us out with powdery snow and back to powdery snow later Monday.
Here is my updated snowfall forecast still showing 2-3+ feet of snow falling on the mountains by Tuesday morning.
We'll continue to fine-tune the details over the next few days.
The trough will hang around over CA through around the 9th.
That will keep temperatures on the colder side through the period, and it will keep the door open to additional storms dropping into the trough through CA.
We could see snow showers Tuesday from the lingering low-pressure system. Then the models are mixed on how many weaker systems could move through Wed-Fri, but we could see additional waves with some snow showers.
By the weekend of the 10th-11th high pressure is still forecast to start building in over the West Coast starting a drier pattern.
That pattern could last through mid-month. So if you want some powder days, get up on the mountains over the next week.
We are watching the long-range closely to see when the next active pattern could arrive later in the month.
January was a mild month with the average temperature running around 1.5 degrees above average, as recorded in Truckee.
Precipitation and snowfall ended up near average as recorded by the Central Sierra Snow Lab which sits at 6,894' near Donner Summit. We ended up with 9.8" of total precipitation vs the 53-year average of 10.1 inches.
The average January comes after 3 below-average months, so the season-to-date totals are only around 71% of average.
We started the month with some colder storms and higher than average snow ratios, and lower than average snow levels. The rest of the month we saw milder storms with lower-than-average snow ratios and higher-than-average snow levels. That combo brought snowfall 1 inch above the 53-year average of 72 inches.
We started the month with a big snowfall deficit with the drier than average and milder than average weather and storms from October through December. The average snowfall in January didn't help us fill that deficit, it just stopped the bleeding. Season to date as of the end of January the snowfall is sitting around 55% of average.
Looking at the 10 lowest snowfall seasons for Oct-Jan, we are close to the #10 spot.
Looking at the lowest snowfall seasons for total snowfall through May, we are right in the middle of the pack.
None of those seasons reached average from either category, so our chances are slim unless we see well above average snowfall Feb-May. The good news is that we are starting off February on a snowy note, and we may hit the snowfall average for the month during the first week. So we have a good shot at at least getting slightly above average snowfall.