Status & Evolution of the High Sierra Spring Thaw of 2019


Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 20 April 2019

High Sierra Spring of 2019
Evolution of Conditions

Page Started
March 30, 2019


 

2019
SNOW PACK STATUS
THIS YEAR

A Heavy Snow Year

Middle of APRIL 2019
161% of Average Snowpack
Calendar

End of MARCH 2019
161% of Average Snowpack

Calendar

 

TRENDS

 

Recent High Sierra Hazard History

Last Year

THE 2018 SEASON
A Weak Snowpack Year

58% Normal Snowpack

SPRING 2018 HAZARD STATUS

2018 WINTER REVIEW
Setting the Scene for the Spring of 2018

 

THE 2017 SEASON
A Record Heavy Snowpack Year
It was Epic

Very Much Like This Year:

Spring 2017 BACKPACKER ALERT from April 1 to August 22

 

MAY 1
SNOW PACK STATUS
The Previous Four Years

MAY 1 STATUS 2018
27% of Average Snowpack

Calendar

 

MAY 1 STATUS 2017
194% of Average Snowpack

Calendar

 

MAY 1 STATUS 2016
55% of Average Snowpack

Calendar

 

MAY 1 STATUS 2015
2% of Average Snowpack

Calendar

 

 

HIGH SIERRA CONDITIONS

 

 SPRING of 2019

 

THIRD REPORT
April 14

Last Comparable Year
2017

Party Like its 2017
At this point in time our monster 2019 snowpack is tracking fairly close to that of 2017. The 2017 season featured a massive snopack persisting through the Summer, starting off with a massive Spring Thaw featuring not just a mountain range full of energy-sucking deep, wet, cold snow, but extremely dangerous runoff flows spanning from the middle of June through mid July, with heavy snow remaining at high elevations beyond that date, and along the Sierra Crest all Summer long.

Which Way the Weather?
Our situation could change rapidly. More snow could fall. Torrential tropical rains could wash much of the snow pack down, or that wandering High that's right now moving on and off the West Coast of the USA could anchor itself on the West Coast to initiate a heat wave. Anything is always possible, but more so now, now that extreme weather behaviors have become quite commonplace.

Keep your eyes on the Skies!

Compare This Year to 2017
See the High Sierra Backpacker's Calendar, April 14, 2019, which has contemporary observations with extensive links back through the comparable dates in the 2017 season. Inspect the contours of the Spring of 2017 to get some idea about exactly what you're up against this Spring.

EXPECT
Extensive
Early Season Obstacles and Dangers
The PCT is No Joke
The Spring Snowpack and Thaw this year will present significant obstacles and dangers to all those who venture in during the Thaw, and especially to any unwise enough to enter the snow covered High Sierra without adequete gear, skills, fitness, and experience tailored for difficult snow terrain, navigation without trails, and extreme fording conditions. These conditions can thrill you and/or kill you, depending on numerous climate and terrain factors that you've got to keep track of to properly suss out exactly where you fit in.

Key External & Internal Knowledge
We'd prefer to know when conditions in the Sierra make this transition from killing to thrilling for each of us, for each of our unique levels & combinations of capabilities. Keeping these environmental dangers within each of our, "thrill," catagories, to better keep ourselves out of the way of forces of Nature that can kill us fairly easily, is the goal of all our observations, after the basic enjoyment procured by simply watching the evolving beauties of each  season's unique profile.

 

 

April 5

 

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

 

 

 

2019
SECOND REPORT

April 2

 

CLIMATE, WEATHER, & CURRENT & FUTURE PROSPECTS

The Great Drought is Over

Backpacker's Calendar, First Week of April

 

 

2019
FIRST REPORT

March 30

EPIC SNOWPACK on the SIERRA CREST

Review the March Trail News

Review the March High Sierra Backpacker's Calendar

STATUS
This year's 161% of average snowpack for this date compares favorably with the historic snowpack of 2017, which weighed-in at 163% on this same date. But the 2017 snowpack was not yet done at the end of March, getting pumped-up to an amazing 194% by May 2, 2017!

NEXT STEP
So today we might not yet be quite, "out of the woods," for even greater snow accumulation yet, if the tropical flows that put the majority of this vast snowpack on the Sierra this year, continue into Spring of this year like they did during 2017.

We are not having much of an El Nino, and not much heat is boiling-off out of the Tropics, especially the SW corner of the N Pac above Indonesia, right now, but conditions across the Tropical Pacific up to the Northernmost edges of the Pacific can change in a heartbeat.

2015
Note that during 2015 we had the biggest El Nino in history boiling along like a vast hot tub, as the High Sierra experienced its least amount of snowfall since the epic megadroughts of the ancient past. That's frigging weird.

2017
We had a La Nina happening, which typically suppresses snowfall, during the mega snow year of 2017.That's frigging weird, too...

What this Means
Expect Anything. Be Surprised by Nothing.

Aside from that obvious bit of wisdom, these conditions, if they persist, will seriously delay the entry into the Sierra Nevada for a vast majority of this year's PCT hikers, as happened in 2017.

Those who do enter the Sierra in these types of conditions should have high altitude snow travel experience and fitness, be properly equipped for the intense difficulties and dangers of travel through deep, wet, steep, soft snow, and be ready to deal with an extended period of incredibly dangerous fording conditions.

Related

March 30
SPRING 2019: Yosemite Extends Glacier Point Winter Access

 

Current Conditions

Winter Travel Conditions, Gear, Skills, & Fitness Required

 

The Weather Page

Snow Status, Date, & Forecasts

 

 

Earlier

 

March 28

Heavy Snow Pack Warning

 

March 27

Dangerous Fording Ahead

NOAA: Widespread Flooding to Continue through May

 

March 17

Yosemite Announces Delayed Facility Openings
Note the Snow will Affect High Trail Access, & Damages will Affect Trails Too

 

March 9

Dangers of the Heavy Winter & Potentials of the Spring Thaw of 2019
Conditions Indicate a Late Start for Wise & Observant PCT-JMT-TWT Hikers

 

 

March 6

2019 Snow Pack Shaping-Up like the Winter of 2017

 

 

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Originally Published
2019-03-30

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