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Weather in the High Sierra | High Sierra Backpacker

You are hereWeather in the High Sierra

Weather in the High Sierra

Post up about weather conditions, changes, and dealing with it.

Alex Wierbinski's picture

No Evidence that Atlantic and Pacific Oscillations Exist


Atlantic and Pacific Oscillations Lost in the Noise,
Penn State, January 3, 2020.


PDO Does Not Exist
"The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) do not appear to exist..."

"Using both observational data and climate model simulations, the researchers showed that there was no consistent evidence for decadal or longer-term internal oscillatory signals that could be differentiated from climatic noise -- random year to year variation."

No PDO Evidence
"Given the current sophistication of climate models as seen in their ability to capture the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, we would expect to see consistent evidence for oscillations across a suite of climate models... We found no such evidence."

"...we found no other signals, no Pacific or Atlantic climate variability on decadal or longer timescales that could be characterized as a true oscillation. Such variability was essentially indistinguishable from random noise."

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Tracking Fall into Winter, 2019-2020, Early Season Snow


 December 26, 2019

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Climate Warming Directly Responsible for 400% Increase in California Fires



Recent Extreme Warming
The years 2014-2018, averaged on this map, were the warmest years in the modern record, NASA.
The years 2014-2018, averaged on this map, were the warmest years in the modern record compared to GISTEMP's 1951-1980 baseline. The areas in red experienced warmer than normal temperatures, while the areas in blue were cooler than normal during this period. NASA, Big.


Climate Warming Directly Responsible for 400% Increase in California Fires

Rising Global Temperatures Influence California’s Fire Season,
NASA Earth Observatory, September 3, 2019.

Read the Research


Increasing Fire
"...the annual burned area across California has increased fivefold over the past five decades, and the main driver is higher temperatures."

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Status & Evolution of the High Sierra Spring Thaw of 2019

High Sierra Spring of 2019
Evolution of Conditions

Page Started
March 30, 2019

July 7, 2019



A Heavy Snow Year

July 5 2019
A Month of Warm-"Temperate" Temps with Rapid & Slow periods of Thawing.
Heavy Spring Snowpack Persisting into Summer: Extra Caution, Information, Skills, Fitnesss and Proper Gear still REQUIRED.
71% of Average Snowpack

June 17 2019
Two Weeks of Warm Temps & Rapid Thawing
120% of Average Snowpack

Alex Wierbinski's picture

May 2019 High Sierra Storm Activity to Recharge High Sierra Snow Pack



A, "Spring Recharge," is Underway...

Highly Unusual Sequence of Winter-Like Storms Headed for California (In late May!),
Weather West, May 14, 2019.


End of Dry-Warm Strecth
"A very warm April and relatively warm start to May–coupled with rather dry conditions throughout the state during that period–will come crashing to an end tomorrow."

"...perhaps even downright stormy, conditions are expected across most of California over the next 10 days or so."

PCT & Widespread Effects
"...highly unusual nature of widespread significant rainfall (and mountain snowfall) this late in the season will likely catch a lot of folks by surprise, and will have some substantial impacts for the agricultural sector and those traveling (not to mention those poor souls just starting out on the Pacific Crest Trail)."

Get Ready to Rumble
"Widespread soaking rains will arrive across the northern half of California tomorrow, and will continue on and off for the next 10-12 days. Significant rainfall is also possible across much of southern California, although that will more likely come from subsequent systems."

Alex Wierbinski's picture

SEKI WARNS: Lots of Snow on the South Sierra Crest & Flanks



Seasonal News of Note

Sherman Tree Parking Area and Comfort Station
Sherman Tree Parking Area and Comfort Station, Image by SEKI, NPS.
Image by SEKI, NPS.


Lots of Snow on the Sierra Crest & Flanks

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Expect Some Late Facility Openings Due to Heavy Snowpack and Hazard Trees,
Sequoia National Park, April 5, 2019.


"...have become accustomed to the light winters that the drought has produced."

"...Sequoia and Kings Canyon is 153% of normal."

"Azalea Campground closed on Tuesday, April 2, due to the large number of hazard trees in the campground."

"In an abundance of caution for park visitors, crews are working to address these tree hazards before facilities open for the season."

"...there are currently no open campgrounds in Kings Canyon."

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Yosemite Announces Delayed Facility Openings, & Beware Snow-Covered Trails through July


Seasonal News of Note
Yosemite Announces Delayed Facility Openings

Note the Snow will Affect High Trail Access, & Damages will Affect Trails Too

Yosemite National Park Announces Late Seasonal Openings for Several Park Facilities,
Yosemite National Park, March 13, 2019.


Damaged Facilities
“...that there will be late seasonal openings to facilities throughout the park...due to the exceptionally heavy snowpack in Yosemite National Park and the subsequent extensive damage to many park facilities.”

Stormy Winter
“...significant storm systems in January and February produced high levels of snow, which resulted in temporary road closures, rock and debris slides, and falling trees. Additionally, these storms resulted in extensive damage to facilities throughout the park. Damage to facilities includes trees falling on and damaging campground restrooms, utilities systems compromised, tent cabins damaged or destroyed, and falling trees impacting campsites, parking areas, hiking trails, and roads.”

Alex Wierbinski's picture

March 2019 NOAA Disasters, Climate, & Weather Trends: Cool, Wet, and Saturated



Major Midwest Flooding in March


Offutt Air Force Base Flooded, Nebraska
Offutt Air Force Base Flooded, Nebraska, March 17, 2019, U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake.
March 17, 2019, U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake.


2019 Climate & Weather Trends: Cool & Wet

U.S. hit with Two Billion-Dollar Disasters so far in 2019,
NOAA, April 9, 2019.


Two events so far this Year.

Bomb Cyclone
"...heavy snow, blizzard conditions and major flooding to the Midwest..."

Major NE, SE, & Ohio Storm of February

Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Overview
“In 2019 (as of April 9), there have been 2 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included 1 flooding event and 1 severe storm event.”


Alex Wierbinski's picture

April 2019: A Disjointed, Mis-located El Nino




Disjointed, Mis-located El Nino

NASA sees El Niño conditions prevail in the Central Pacific Ocean,
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, April 11, 2019.


Not a Normal El Nino
“A Different Thing”
“This is what is known as El Niño “Modoki” (Japanese for “a similar but different thing”) or a Central Pacific El Niño, wherein enhanced SSTs and rainfall occur near the dateline and not near the coast of Peru.”


Bottom Line

That’s one weird, weak El Nino… but, along with the rest of our weather, we’re experiencing, “A Different Thing.” We are experiencing a Global, “Modoki.” Enjoy the ride...

On October 16, of 2018 I put the odds of an El Nino at half those called by NOAA, and I have been half-vindicated by this half-ass Modoki El Nino.


February 2019 NOAA: Weak El Nino Here? To Persist?


Alex Wierbinski's picture

2019: Second Super Bloom Season in Three Years, Second This Year



2019 Antelope Valley Superbloom of wildflowers and poppies, NASA/Jim Ross.
View from a NASA aircraft, T-34, over the Superbloom of wildflowers and poppies from the Antelope Valley in Southern California, Poppy Reserve and solar panels are in the background. NASA Photo / Jim Ross. Big, full res version.


Second Super Bloom in Two Years

A Super View of a Super Bloom,
NASA Earth Observer, April 10, 2019.


Last View of 2019
NASA: Super Bloom Fires Up Anza-Borrego Desert State Park


Earlier this year


NPR: Wildflower Superboom of 2016



Alex Wierbinski's picture

Alaska Skips Mid-Winter to Experience Late Spring Conditions in March


Extreme Land Surface Temp Anomalies, March, 2019
Widespread Extreme Heat
Extreme Land Surface Temp Anomalies, March, 2019, NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin.
Darker red colors depict areas that were hotter than March's average temps between 2000-2012; blues were colder than average. Note the widspread deep darkness.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin. Big.


Alaska Skips Mid-Winter to Experience Late Spring Conditions in March

Alaska Hit With a Hot March,
NASA Earth Observatory, April 9, 2019.


Weird Weather Across Alaska

Records Across Alaska
“The average temperature for March 2019 set records at 10 of 19 ground-based weather stations in Alaska."

Alex Wierbinski's picture

WEATHER WEST: Winter of 2018-2019. What Happened? What’s Next?




Winter of 2018-2019

What Happened? What’s Next?

Just how wet and cold was winter 2018-2019?
Weather West, March 24, 2019.


"...punctuated by California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire in history during the uncharacteristic month of November."

Seasonal Precip
“Overall cumulative precipitation anomalies have not been particularly exceptional...”

Seasonal Temps
“...temperatures for the full period really haven’t been that cold–shaking out pretty close to average for most of the state. (Of course, that somewhat masks the very cold conditions that occurred during February).”

The Question
“So how, exactly, can California have received 156% of average snow water equivalent when precipitation over the same interval was only ~120% of average and temperatures were “near average?”

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Extreme Antarctic Events Common Source of Annual Averages



Percent of Annual Precip Deposited by Extreme Events
circular map, showing percentage of annual precip brought by EPEs, by British Antarctic Survey.
The contours and colours show the percentage of the annual snowfall that comes from the extremes, here taken as the top 10% of daily snowfall amounts, credit to BAS.


Extreme Events Common Source of Annual Averages

Antarctic snowfall dominated by a few extreme snowstorms,
British Antarctic Survey, March 25, 2019.


Extreme Precipitation Events (EPEs)

This “...study reveals the importance of a small number of intense storms around Antarctica in controlling the amount of snow falling across the continent.”

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Watching the Changing Character of the High Sierra & California’s Climate


Tropical Storm into Eastern Sierra, Fall of 2013
Fall Tropical Storm sucking up dust crossing Deserts to the Eastern Sierra
Fall Tropical Storm sucking up dust crossing Deserts before hitting the Eastern Sierra




Living Under The Changing Character of the High Sierra & California’s Climate,
High Sierra Backpacker, February 28, 2019


It’s Going Tropical
The Tropical Winter Weather of 2019

“Traditional” Weather
Heavy Cold Precip from North: Feb 4 Calendar


First TTM Tropical Downpours Feb 15, ‘19


Second TTM Feb Tropical Downpours Feb 26, ‘19


Next TTM?

March 1 or 2?



Tracking Tropical Moisture

Alex Wierbinski's picture

New Measure of Strength and Impacts of Atmospheric River Storms


 "Atmospheric River" Smacking California
Atmospheric river hits California, more precisely, a Tropical Transport Mechanism. Credit to Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory/ VIIRS satellite
Fantastic Shot by Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory/ VIIRS satellite.


Tropical Transport Mechanism Quantification

CW3E Research Notice

CW3E Releases New Scale to Characterize Strength and Impacts of Atmospheric Rivers,
CW3E, February 5, 2019.


New scale to characterize strength and impacts of atmospheric river storms,
University of California - San Diego, February 5, 2019.



Alex Wierbinski's picture

Tahoe Snowpack Best in US; Resorts Shatter February Snowfall Records


Tahoe Ski Resorts, Western US, get a Record Snowpack Break

Route from Meyers out of Tahoe Basin to Carson Pass
Snow route out of Meyers, Christmas Valley to Carson Pass.
Winter Backpacking the Tahoe Basin is a gas, gas, gas!!! Guide Page

Lake Tahoe snowpack best in western US; resorts shatter February snowfall records,
Tahoe Daily Tribune, February 22, 2019.


Lake Tahoe Snow
"...holds the best snowpack in the western United States and the crowds are flocking to the world-class slopes."

"... has been insane, infuriating and downright miserable at times — all while the snow continues to fly."


Record Feb Snowfalls at:

Diamond Peak


Squaw Valley and Homewood

Alex Wierbinski's picture

February 2019 NOAA: Weak El Nino Here? To Persist?

October 1, 2019 Update


EL Nino Conditions Rise
Sea Surface Temps of Dec 2018 compared to 1981-2010 period
Dec 2018 SST compared to 1981-2010 period, NOAA, Climate.gov, NNVL
Geo-Polar SST of El Nino Zone, NOAA, Climate.gov, NNVL


Weak El Nino Here? To Persist?

NOAA announces the arrival of El Nino,
El Nino likely to be weak with little influence on weather through early spring.
NOAA, Feburary 14, 2019.


NOAA Monthl Report, PDF

Latest NWS CPC Analysis


Backpacker's Weather Page
El Nino Information

Alex Wierbinski's picture

NOAA REPORTS: Atmospheric River Soaks California


Tropical Transport Mechanism
Feb 14 Tropical Transport Mechanism being pushed South by descending Low, NOAA.
Feb 14 Tropical Transport Mechanism being pushed South by descending Low, Credit: NOAA

Atmospheric River Soaks California,
NOAA, February 15, 2019.


Freak Extreme Weather Continues…
"...set records in parts of southern California. The National Weather Service reported 10.1 inches of rain fell Thursday at Palomar Observatory northeast of San Diego, the wettest day there since observations began in 1901."

Ca Washed by Fire Hose
"...flood warnings are still in effect from Sacramento to Redding, where more downpours are possible through Friday evening."

NOAA Wrong, or Misstating
"...these long, narrow regions of the atmosphere carry enormous amounts of moisture over thousands of miles, from as far away as Hawaii."

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Winter 2019 Status: Tropical Transport & Storms of February 13

STATUS of the WINTER of 2019


NASA MODIS reveals the Instantly Intense Winter of 2019
NASA MODIS reveals the Instantly Intense Winter of 2019, Credit NASA, MODIS team.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) acquired these natural-color images of the difference a year makes; the Sierra Nevada on February 15, 2018, and February 15 of 2019. Credit NASA, MODIS team.

Also check-out MODIS, Feb 13, 2015

Scroll the Year on MODIS above to review Today's Sierra,
especially the 11th.


Tropical Transport & Storms of February 13

A Strong Start to Sierra Snowpack,
NASA Earth Observatory, February 13, 2019.


Alex Wierbinski's picture

The Character and Evolution of the High Sierra Winter into the Spring of 2019



Almost Dead-Average Snowpack

February 2, 2019
The salient point today, the second of February, is we’ve got a seasonal normal, “average,” snow pack (calendar), while looking at a set of moderately powerful storms coming through, all playing out in the wake of the disruptions created by the great movement of the Polar Vortex, off the top of the planet to center its spin over the North end of Hudson’s Bay, over the past couple of weeks.

Today we can see the Polar Vortex has split into thee, "vortexes," with the one over Hudson's Bay, the one that brought so much frigid Arctic cold air to the South, has weakened in favor of the Vortex to its North:


High Altitude View of the Polar Vortex(es)

10 hPa, roughly 84,998.2 feet of elevation.

A rough table of pressures and altitudes.


Where does, “it,” our Seasonal Transition into Spring, go from, “here?”

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