By Bryan Allegretto, Forecaster Posted 1 year ago March 2, 2023

Northern Sierra Snowfall Stats as of February 28th, 2023

Records & Statistics Source:

For this article, I am using the stats reported by Berkeley's Central Sierra Snow Lab, which is located northwest of Lake Tahoe near Donner Summit, CA at an elevation of 6,894 feet. Other areas of the northern/central Sierra and at varying elevations may have seen slightly different numbers, especially higher in elevation where more snow tends to fall.

The data records available for daily and monthly precipitation and snowfall amounts start in the fall of 1970 when Berkeley took over monitoring the weather at the Snow Lab in Soda Springs, CA. That is the base period I will be using for the stats and graphs below. I will reference the 52-year average which is the 70/71 season through the 21/22 season.

We have annual snowfall records back to the 1800s when the railroad was in charge of keeping records. The new station manager at the Snow Lab is working to gather and digitalize the records prior to 1970, and we hope to be able to use those in our reports in the future.

October - January:

I wrote an article at the end of January on the snowfall statistics for the season so far. You can find that here.

Northern Sierra Snow Stats as of January 20, 2023 | OpenSnow

February Snowfall:

February started out slow with only 6 days of reported snowfall through the first 3 weeks of the month, and most of those were smaller amounts.

Then starting on the 22nd through the end of February, we saw a cold storm train dump big amounts of snow on the northern Sierra. Several mountains saw over 100 inches of snowfall during the last week of the month!

In total, the Snow Lab recorded 136 inches of snow during the month, which is 181% of the 52-year average of 75 inches for the month of February.

feb snowfall

That brings the season total through the end of February to 496 inches so far, which is 189% of the 52-year average of 263 inches for Oct-Feb. That also makes this the highest Oct-Feb snowfall recorded since 1970, and likely the highest since the record 1951-52 season!


Here is a look at the snowfall by month compared to the 10, 20, 30, 40, and 52-year averages for each month. We have now seen 4 months in a row of above-average snowfall, which is the first time we've seen that since the 1982-83 season. That season actually saw above-average snowfall for 7 months in a row, or basically the whole season through May.

snow by month

My total season snowfall graph goes back to 1950 as we have the annual numbers back to the 1800s. You can see that 1951-52 is by far the snowiest season on record with 800 inches recorded at the Snow Lab location. We are currently at the 6th snowiest season since 1970 and 10th since 1950, with a few more months to go still.

season snowfall

Through 2/28, we are pacing ahead of every season except for 1951-52, ahead of all of the top 10 seasons since 1970. But we need to keep the big snowfall numbers going through the rest of the season to stay ahead of the top 5 seasons.



Snowpack measures how much water content is sitting in the snow on the ground if you were to melt it down. On average our highest snowpack is seen around April 1st. As of 3/2, we are already at 174% of the April 1st average, and 197% of the average for the date!


That's a lot of water being stored in the mountains that will fill the lakes and reservoirs as it melts through the summer months.

February Precipitation:

All of the precipitation in February fell as snow at the Snow Lab as we had another month with very cold storms. Amazingly, even with the snowfall being well above average, we ended up just below average for total precipitation totals in February. We were around 1-tenth shy of the 52-year average.

feb precip

If you are wondering how that is possible, it's because the storms were so cold that the snow: liquid ratios (the amount of snow that's produced by an amount of liquid at given temperatures) were running much higher than average and we didn't see any rain.

136 inches of snow from 9.88 inches of rain means that snow ratios were running on average close to 14:1 during February when they usually run closer to 10-12:1 at the Snow Lab on average, and we tend to get warmer storms at times with some rain. That is how you get 181% of average snowfall for February from only 99% of average total precipitation.

In previous months this season, we saw both above-average precipitation and snowfall. Therefore, when you add in the 9.88 inches of precipitation that fell during February, we are above the 52-year average of 41.8 inches for Oct-Feb precipitation.

oct feb precip

So while it's the snowiest October-February period since at least 1970, it's only the 9th wettest Oct-Feb period. Here is a look at the total precipitation amounts by month compared to the 10, 20, 30, 40, and 52-year averages for each month.

precip by month

Both November and February had above-average snowfall from below-average precipitation. We have seen colder-than-average storms most of the season since November, which is causing a large discrepancy in total precipitation vs total snowfall compared to their averages. I've been tracking this discrepancy for each season since 1970.


This season so far is the largest discrepancy on record, with a large positive variance between snowfall and precipitation of 37% (189% of average snowfall vs 152% of average precip). That happens during colder seasons like this when we have lower snow levels, higher snow ratios, and less rainfall than average throughout the winter season.

Cold Temperatures:

During the last week of February, the National Weather Service office in Reno reported that Tahoe City, CA was having its coldest season on record, starting on 11/1/22 through February, since the 1951-52 season. February ended up being 4.8 degrees below average for the month, which is very cold!


It's interesting that we are on pace for the snowiest winter since 1951-52 while also having the coldest winter since the same season.

The Drought:

The precipitation amounts so far this season have been so impressive that they have put a huge dent in California's multi-year drought. The latest drought monitor released on 3/2 shows that the western slope of the Sierra is completely out of a drought, and the Tahoe basin is now only in the Abnormally Dry category!


We still have a few months left of the wet season. It will be interesting to watch what happens and to see if this incredible season continues. We already started off the month of March with 35 inches of snow on the 1st day of the month, and we could see another 3+ feet of snow by the end of the 1st week of March. We are easily on track for another above-average snowfall month!


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About The Author

Bryan Allegretto


Bryan Allegretto has been writing insightful posts about snow storms for over the last 15 years and is known as Tahoe's go-to snow forecaster. BA grew up in south Jersey, surfing, snowboarding, and chasing down the storms creating the epic conditions for both.

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