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April 8 Backpacker Alert | High Sierra Backpacker

April 8 Backpacker Alert

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 08 April 2016


April 8 2016

Weather Status

Current Situation

El Nino's concentration of super-hot waters have significantly moderated:
Sea Surface Temperatures

Don't count this El Nino out quite yet. Though the heat has diminished, there is still a huge amount of tropical moisture down there. This moisture is still lining up to be transported to North America.

Of Note

The persistent Low Pressure Zone that's been living in the Central-North Pacific has been matched with the persistent High Pressure Zone "hanging out" over the Southwestern Coast of the United States to transport the vast majority of El Nino Moisture around us to the North this whole Winter and into Spring.

This has had two effects this Winter:

  1> The Northwest of the US got pounded. We see that the Central and South Sierra got an average or slightly above-average snowfall, while Western Washington and Oregon got pounded.

 The vast majority of El Nino Moisture was, and its remnants continue to be transported around us by the persistent High Pressure Ridging off the California Coast.

see: Total 180 Day Precip

  2> This storm track around the Sierra Nevada has laid down a pattern of warm water in the NW Pacific from Hawaii to Seattle. This reminds us of "The Blob," and the other aberrant ocean patterns we have experienced along the West Coast of the US during the past few years. We can see those trends powerfully continuing.

The Sea Surface Temps metric shows this ocean track clearly:
Sea Surface Temperatures

Blob: See Feb 18 entry.

So far this El Nino season we have seen the vast majority of El Nino activity transported around the Sierra Nevada by persistent High Pressure Ridging.

  Overall, we are seeing an average, maybe slightly above average snowpack. We have also seen continued indications of the drought pattern in persisting high temps, high humidity, and things like the whole month of Feb going without any rain at all.

This has worked out within the parameters of my early-season observations to a T.

 Now we are seeing the next act opening, of the Spring to Summer Transitions.

Conditions indicate this will be an abrupt transition.

What Comes Next?

My early observations in November and December anticipated the chance of rain scouring the Sierra Crest of snow during early Spring. This scenario is now upon us.

Strange high temps combined with the still ample stock of tropical moisture in the Equatorial Pacific threatens the Sierra with early rains scouring the snowpack right off the range.

Today we are facing the first of a series of very warm Spring storms out of the tropics. These storms and their associated high temps threaten to remove the snowpack quite quickly and very early during Spring.

What This Means

An early and dangerous Spring Thaw. Early opening of trails. Early drying out of the mountains, early death of the mosquitoes, and an early and fierce fire season.

Unless things moderate, and we begin to see a series of cold Spring snowstorms lining up on us out of the Northwest. That's not happening.

Keep your eyes on the Skies!

Happy Trails,


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