The snowpack in the Sierras is measured over 250% above the annual average (which is cause for celebration and concern).
A long stretch of clear skies and dry sidewalks are on the horizon. Today, the last spell of SF Bay Area storms is expected to pass over the region, sprinkling less than an inch of rain in most municipalities.
About 199 miles away from downtown San Francisco, the mountain range rimming Lake Tahoe, the Sierras, this additional precipitation is helping add to the largest annual snowpack seen in decades. (Over the next few days, surveys of the snow coverage might push totals to pass California’s current record snowpack that was set between 1982-1983.)
The only places in the world that can rival epic snow dumps like this are places such as the Cascades, Japan and the Chugach Mountains, but currently they do not have nearly as much snow on the ground as the Sierra.
There is also a big difference between glaciers and snow.
— Colin McCarthy (@US_Stormwatch) January 18, 2023
According to the California/Nevada SNOTEL Snowpack Update Report, the vast majority of Sierra’s indexed peak snowpacks are over 120% of the median annual average; those that aren’t are at least 64% above their yearly averages; Walker River is currently at a staggering 328% above the 12-month average — Lake Tahoe isn’t too far behind, with 257%.
This is all crazy… and dangerous. Avalanche warnings have been issued in areas like Lake Tahoe. It’s also unclear yet what flooding might be caused as these snowpacks inevitably melt as temperatures warm later in the year.
While it’s hard to quantify the sheer volumetric mass of the current Sierra, the California mountain range might be holding the largest snowpack… in the entire world.
Writing in a timelapse showing California’s Sierra Nevada range over an 80-day span, MyRadar Weather contributor Collin McCarthy noted that “these mountains likely currently hold the biggest snowpack on the planet.”
Per Collin, every station except one in the Sierra Nevada is recording its deepest snowpack on record to date.
As for how (and why) the present California snowpack might be the biggest in the world, Collin writes that the” only places in the world that can rival epic snow dumps like this are places such as the Cascades, Japan, and the Chugach Mountains.” And, at this moment, each of these geological regions doesn’t have “nearly as much snow on the ground as the Sierra.”
Also, is also a big difference between glaciers and snow; the Sierras have far fewer glacial bodies than all the other ranges and mountains listed above.
With a glorious stretch of clear skies and sunshine expected this weekend in Lake Tahoe, now may be the best time in years to get out there and ski/snowboard/snowshoe to your heart’s content. Even though roads are expected to be good, make sure you’ve got snow chains on you just in case.