LAKE TAHOE, Nev. —With four days left to go in the month, Lake Tahoe has already broken the record for December snowfall set 50 years ago.
On Monday, December snow totals at the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab reached 193.7 inches, blowing a 1970 record of 179 inches out of the water.
The lab, located at Donner Pass, has received roughly 39 inches of snow in the past 24 hours and could break the 200-inch mark today.
The lab was built in 1946 by the U.S. Weather Bureau and Army Corps of Engineers and maintains one of the longest-running manual snow depth records in the world, dating back to 1879.
“This has been a very beneficial storm for the Sierra region,” said Dan McEvoy, regional climatologist for the Western Regional Climate Center.
The Lake Tahoe Basin is sitting around 200 percent of average for snow water equivalent – the amount of water that will be released from the snowpack when it melts – for this time of year.
And the Basin is sitting at 60 percent of its peak average snow water equivalent, which occurs around late March or early April, McEvoy said. The median peak average is 27 inches, and today 16.1 inches of snow water equivalent was measured, he said.
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December’s storms came in “forming a right-side-up snowpack,” he said. Earlier storms were wetter with higher elevation snow, but then temperatures and snow levels dropped.
“That’s good for both water content and avalanche concerns,” McEvoy said.
It will also help keep the snowpack for area ski resorts in good shape, even if the region runs into a dry spell.
“It’s been a pretty impressive December,” McEvoy said.
But, he cautioned, it’s possible for drought conditions to resume.
“If I had to emphasize one point, it’s that the drought’s not over. We need the storms to continue through the winter.”
Reach Amy Alonzo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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