High Sierra Winter of 2018


Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 07 March 2018

 

High Sierra Winter of 2018

Page Started
January 1, 2018

 FALL 2017
below, bottom of page:
FALL REVIEW
Setting the Scene for the Winter of 2018

Full Fall Reference Page
Through Fall 2017 to Winter of 2018

 

Last Day
of
Winter of 2018

March 20

Prime Equinox

Vernal Equinox
First Day of Spring

09:15 AM PDT in SF.
09:15 AM PDT in LA.
This is the first day of Nature's Year, if no longer of man's.

KILLER VIDEO

 

NAVIGATION SECTION:

PDT-PST
TIME OFFSETS

ALL
TIME RESOURCES

 

 

2018
Snowpack:

Percent of Average for
March 20
+/- change since
March 14

N Sierra: 40%
(+8%)

Cen. Sierra: 55%
(+12%)

S Sierra: 43%
(+5%)

Ca State: 48%
(+10%)

Last
March 14, 2018
March 5, 2018
March 1, 2018
Feb 24, 2018

Statewide Summary of Snow Water Content PDF

 

 

 

 

March 12

A Thousand-Mile Long Frontline Sits off the North American Coast

See
March 12 Calendar Entry

Weather
All Surface Maps

Satellite Views

 

 

 

March 6

The Genesis of a Warming Trend

Yesterday a Low moved into the exact position that the High directing Lows and Storms from out of the Northwest from the Aleutians over the past week, was sitting in. That "Flips the Script," so to speak.

A High sitting off the coast of California directs COLD Storms and Fronts from the NW to the Sierra, depending on how far North or South it is centered.

A Low sitting off the Coast of California directs WARM Storms and Fronts from the SW to the Sierra, also depending on exactly how far North or South it lays...

The Low now sitting off the Coast of Ca since yesterday is now dragging warm tropical moisture along weak Front Lines from the Southwest towards the Sierra around its Southeastern perimeter, which should warm things up considerably.
That's quite a difference from the High that was conducting cold Lows and Fronts from the Northwest around its Northern perimeter.

Read the Surface Map

 

 

 March 5

AVALANCHE & COLD WARNINGS

Now the storming has cleared, leaving the Sierra Mountain Range full of cold powder.

We've seen a series of Avalanches at operating ski resorts, while the resorts are practicing full avalanche prevention and safety measures. Just think of conditions in the backcountry! The whole Sierra Crest has just had 30+ inches of crystal-light below-freezing powder laid atop the old, hard two-foot base.

That's a recipie of lots of avalanches now, and later.

Mammoth Mountain Avalanche

Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center

 

Snowboard Powder Suffocation
Deep Powder Danger, Snowboarder Dies on China Peak

 

Review
FIRST WEEK OF MARCH IN THE HIGH SIERRA

 

 

March 2

EPIC COLD STORM

The slow-moving Low that started its journey South from where it formed-up, up by the top of Inland Alaska on February 27th, is what brought Yesterday's Front across the Sierra. This Low has worked its way down to the Oregon-Washington border at this point in time, on the 2nd, and is currently working with two weaker Lows that are situated over the center-West and Central Nevada, respectively, to suck-up and direct a tremendous amount of cold moisture across the Sierra.

We had accumulations up to a foot yesterday and two today.

This snow is coming down at low temps, looks light and fluffy, is presenting significant avalanche danger, and will not compress down for a few days at these temperatures.

The real deal is how slow the Low has moved down the Western Contenental Coastline, sucking cold moisture across the NW US, and especially the Sierra Nevada. We can watch the sequence of its slow march South if we stop the animation and parse each day's map:

Contemporary Map Animation - (always the latest set of maps: best observed on the 3rd!)

All Surface Maps

The two Lows in Nevada are sucking a band of tropical moisture across the Sierra around the bottom of the much colder air of the Northern Low, driven around to the South by the colder, more Northern moisture being draw by the Northern Low situated just off the coast between Oregon and Washington. A heck of a lot of moisture is being drawn across the Sierra by this configuration of a slow moving offshore and these two stationary onshore Lows.

Mind you, the front-line hooked up with the Northern Low passed yesterday. while the band of moisture drawn East by the two Nevada Lows is not strong enough to be classified as a "Front," or the NWS missed it? That means all today's and most of yesterday's precip came as a product of the general unstable atmospheric conditions, rather than the product of a frontline.

WHAT'S HAPPENING
I'm thinking the cold streak triggered by the disruptions of the split vortex just ran into a fairly "normal" storm-gate position of the NE Pac High. The more-normal configuration/location of the NE Pac High is transporting plumes of tropical moisture from East of Hawaii around its Western edge, Northward up into the much colder air spun South by the split vortex, intensified and directed towards the Sierra by the Northern slow-moving Low sitting off the Coast of Inland Alaska. The juxtiposition of this tropical air into the Arctic cold works to draw all the moisture out of, not just the main plume of the tropical moisture Front, but out of the vast mass of tropical air moving along with the Front. That "normally" does not happen here, the creation of a vast area of offshore very cold air. We normally get much warmer, wetter, "Sierra Cement," while the air that crosses us to hit the colder temps of Rockies is ready to have its remaining moisture drawn out as ultra-light crystal powder.

That happened here, this time!

The tropical air we are seeing being being drawn into these ultra-cold "split vortex" triggered conditions, behind the Front-line that passed yesterday, have created ideal conditions cold enough to draw out all the atmospheric moisture as heavy constant snowfall of light-powder type snow, here, now.

Wow!

It takes a heck of a lot of cold to draw crystal powder out of our much warmer and wetter moisture straight off the Northeast Pacific. We got that cold...

 

This Week along the Sierra Crest: High Sierra Calendar

 

 

 

February 28, 2018

 BETWEEN FRONTS
Cold Clouds to CLEAR

STRONGER
Cold Northern Front
Approaches

COLD
WARNING

STORM WARNINGS

NATIONAL HAZARD MAP

ALL HIGH SIERRA FORECASTS

 

STORM
It looks like the strongest Front we've seen this Winter, composed of a significant flow of tropical moisture from East of Hawaii, that's been drawn North and sucked around the Northern perimeter of the High sitting to the Northwest off the Coast of NW US, a "classic" "storm gate" offshore position, of our now offshore former blocking High.

The current "classic" configuration of the NE Pac High is what drew this moisture North from Hawaii along its Western flank, turned it East and cooled it off under the Aleutians, and is now directing it Southeast, down its East flank, along with the associated Low this Front is attatched to, towards the High Sierra.

A Classic Winter storm gate configuration has formed amidst a series of freak contributing factors, being the recently split Polar Vortex. the powerful La Nina, and a series of West and Central Pacific Fronts stretching from the tropics to the Arctic Circle. 

 You live in Interesting Times.

 

 

February 24, 2018

BACKPACKER ALERT

SERIOUS COLD SNAP

 

 

February 23

SERIOUS COLD WARNING
see calendar

Sub-Zero Temps Along the Sierra Crest

A classic storm gate has been forming-up since the blocking High moved Northwest on the 11th, into a more traditional position to direct Arctic storms our way, rather than direct them around us. This has partially removed one of the patterns blocking precip on the West Coast of the USA.

Now we are feeling the effects of La Nina's cold South Pacific waters acting as a storm suppressor off the NE coast of Indonesia, which is seriously reducing the amount of tropical moisture that can possibly be conducted our way by a favorable High configuration.

 

 

February 22

COLD WARNING

Got very cold last night.
Check Calendar Reporting Stations

HAZARD MAP

CHECK THE TEMPS

Yesterday and the day before a Tropical Transport Mechanism (AKA, "Pineapple Express," & "Atmospheric River.") was pushing a vast flow of tropical moisture almost directly North from just East of Hawaii to the Aleutian Islands. There, unlike the last few bursts of tropical moisture which continued into the upper Arctic, this one bent a 70 degree turn South, and started following the North American Coastline South.

This is the now weakened and now cold Low and associated Cold Front we experienced last night and today. It is bone-dry, the cold up North having wrung-out the majority of its tropical moisture before it turned South again. But it did turn South again!

These types of storms, where tropical moisture is brought up to the Arctic, chilled, then deflected Southwest to the NW US, are typical of "traditional" Winter storms, though this  "route" the current Lows and their associated Front are taking is unusual, being very "steep" on the way up and down.

The Northern leg of this moisture went almost straight North, while the Southern leg went almost straight South. These are very interesting times.

The "Blocking" Ridge
As we observed on the 11th, and the 17th, that the persistent "blocking High" that sat over the West Coast (creating the heat wave between the 26th of Jan and Feb 11) had moved to the Northwest.
Since then it has remained centered to the Northwest of its "typical" blocking position, allowing, really forcing what were persistent Lows in Gulf Alaska down to the Southeast around its Northeastern perimeter.

That's the mechanism that's brought us our last Lows and their associted Cold Fronts since the 11th. It all boils down to one conclusion.

 THIS IS ONE
COLD & DRY WINTER

 

 

February 20

COLD WARNING

Got very cold last night.
Check Calendar Reporting Stations

HAZARD MAP

CHECK THE TEMPS

 

 February 19

STORM FAILURE
The low and front that came through last night was again, a "dud," depositing between 3 and 9 inches along the Sierra Crest. And it was a dud delivering low temps, which should happen this evening, the night of the 19th.

Last night's storm was preceeded and followed by a serious fire in Owens Valley just North of Bishop along Highway 395. This is a serious sign about this year's Winter.

 

Midwinter Bishop Fire of 2018

A Backcountry & PCT-JMT Hiker Omen

 

Seasonal Observation
This season there have been a series of Tropical Transport Mechanisms conducting tropical heat & moisture from the low Longitude of Hawaii and running it straight North, typically across the Aleutians, to dissapate directly over the North Pole. That's unprecedented.

Tropical heat generally spins around the planet a few times before deflecting off the spinning vortex of the mid-Winter Arctic. Those days are long gone...

My take on this, "TTM running straight North from the tropics to the North Pole," is that it means we are going to see a rapid acceleration in the dramatic changes in all Norhern Hemisphere seasons. I mean much more dramatic than the radical changes we've already seen. That's why, well a by-product of the reasons, that we are seeing another 2015 all-time historic High Sierra dry season, again in 2018. Three years after the last historic dry year. The next year after the wettest year we've ever seen.

Nothing strange here, move along, and keep growing and consuming.

 

 

 February 17

What we're seeing now is the blocking High off the Western Coast of California has moved into a position Northwest, and offshore from the West Coast of the US, which is allowing chilled Arctic Lows & their associated fronts to slide around the High's Northeastern end, and down their Eastern edge to the Sierra, just like the last weak Low & its associated Front did on the 11th, described below.

MAP

It looks like another weak Low and Front coming through on Sunday and Monday. Although I don't expect it to be carrying much precip, it will be bringing cold air and temperatures South.

Cold Warning

 

Just In
Cold Accentuated by Split Polar Vortex

 

 

 

February 14

High moving Southeast into blocking position off West Coast of USA

Current
North Pac Weather Map

 All Maps

 

 

 

February 11

High Pressure Heatwave Broken
HIGH PRESSURE ZONE MOVES NORTHWEST:
OFFSHORE HIGH PRESSURE
A weak Low dragging a weak Cold Front tracked Southeast around its Northern end, and down its Norheast flank, across NorCal & North Sierra, finally bringing cloud cover with the Low, and cold air coming in behind its attendant Cold Front.

Temps down about ten degrees.

The passage of this weak Low and its attached Cold Front terminates this very brief "opening" of the Northern Storm Gate, as the High is expected to slide Southeast and back into a "blocking" position covering the whole West Coast of the USA & Canada over the next four days.
(This was the first Front & Low, allbeit weak, that's hit the Sierra since Jan. 25.)

RUN THE MAPS

 No Sierra precip predicted for six days, until Sun, Feb 18.

ALL PRECIP FORECASTS

 

Drought?
Weather Resources
FORECASTS and REALITY
vs
AVERAGES

 

 My Perspective
Drought Never Ended
 

 

 

 

February 4

DROUGHT CONDITIONS EMERGE IN MID-WINTER

United States Drought Monitor: West

 

See the
High Sierra Calendar
for more information

 

High Sierra Weather Page
Drought & Flood

 

 


February 3

We are today in the middle of a major heat wave during the middle of Winter. This High began building in on the 26th of January.(calendar) Accelerated snow melt is happening across the already well-below normal snowpack.

National Snow Analyses, Sierra Nevada
Note the snowpack temps and melt rate.

Latest Snowpack Data
(Calendar)

The real import of this heat wave is how it has established a much higer baseline for this Winter's temp profile, which indicates a much higher likelyhood of a short Winter and early Spring Thaw.

Heck, a freak thaw is beginning right now!

 

 

 

January 31

Check the Fall Review, this whole season has been weird.

The beginning of Feburary is Maintaining Weirdness

Our ultra-dry December was characterized by a big blocking High, which transitioned into a lower and more Easterly positioning during all of January. This position allowed a series of weak storm fronts across the weakened, more Southerly and Eastern position of the blocking ridge.

A vast, persistent Low has been spinning in Gulf Alaska for almost a month now...

THE RIDGE RETURNS
A vast ridge, a huge persistent High has again built-in off the whole West Coast of the USA since the last weak front came through on January 25th. This High has moved West and North from its position during all of January into a classic blocking position over the Eastern North Pacific. Tropical moisture is traveling almost directly North from the Tropics to the Arctic...

The High Sierra snowpack is pathetic, coming in at 30% of average for the last day of January, but at least we have one. We did not even have a snowpack during the "Winter" of 2015.

 

High Sierra Backpacker Calendar
Snow Readings, Last Week of January 2018

 

Reporting Stations by Watershed

 

 

PCT-JOHN MUIR TRAIL
Trail Opening Date Prognostication

We are looking at an early opening of the High Sierra for the Spring of 2018, if current trends continue. Conditions can change rapidly in the High Sierra.
That's why we're watching carefully.

Animated North Pacific Surface Map

 

IMPENDING
 Continued "dry" conditions along with increased temperatures bring the potential for an early Spring into focus. Tree mortality, the extended dry conditions up to the doorstep of this Winter, followed by a short, weak Winter and early Spring Thaw could usher in a historically catastrophic fire season.

 

 

 

January 20, 2018

Current Conditions

Lows bobbing around Gulf Alaska, occasionally shooting one, a Low Pressure Zone, off to the East.

Check the North Pacific Weather Maps

High Pressure over East Pacific off West Coast of Oregon & California for December has broken into High over NW Corner of US "leaking" SW off the Coast of California from roughly at the lattitude of SF & extending Southwest off the coast.

Tropical Moisture is currently being sucked Northeast between the Low to the North in Gulf Alaska and the High off the Coast of Central and Southern California. Exactly where this moisture gets deposited on the North American Continent depends on the specific orientation of the Lows & Highs. Some of it will likely cross the Sierra over the next few days.

All mositure is deflected around California if the High moves North.

Tropical moisture is directed at the Sierra when the Lows in Gulf Alaska and the High off the West Coast both shift South into the proper position to suck it up and transport it Northeast.

Currently, and for the next five days it looks like the movements of the Highs and Lows looks likely to direct the majority of the thick tropical moisture and powerful frontal activity it sucked up to our North, mostly North of the Sierra, with the moisture getting through the High Pressure along the Coast of California being weakened by the now "semi-persistent" High Pressure over California and the Sierra Nevada.

We're going to get some precip in the Sierra over the next few days, but it looks like it'll be, "scraps," while the majority of Lows and their associated Frontal Activity passes North.
 

 

 

 

January 16, 2018

SEASONAL STATUS
Cloudy-Series of Weak Fronts
NO SUBSTANTIAL PRECIP

High building back in, but not into the NE Pacific, not off the shore of North California & Oregon, but hugging along the coast and inland over the NW corner of the US. This/these Highs extend Southwest over the Pacific off the coast of Central and Southern California.

This type of "along the coast" configuration of the High has weakened all the fronts we've experienced crossing the coastline, or running North up the coast with their associated Lows, since the 2nd day of this month, when I first noted this front-weakening effect of an "inland, semi-persistent High."

Our near record-level dry December is being followed-up by a significantly drier than normal January, so far. Drier than normal conditions have persisted, even with the Persistent High being displaced in early January, and subsequently re-forming in a more Southerly and Eastern positioning, as described in the first paragraph.

That positioning of the High has let a number of fronts through, but weakened them as they cross the High, essentially starving us of rain under cloudy skies.

 

 

January 14, 2018

Mid-Winter Transition Report of 2018

 

 

 

January 9

12:00 UTC

LOW PRESSURE CENTER MAKES LANDFALL

LA-LA LAND & SOCAL

Current NORTHEAST PACIFIC Visible Satellite

This is the first Low Pressure Storm Center I've seen hit LA & SoCal in a very long time. Fronts are dragged across SoCal more often, but not often lately. This Low is the first actual storm-center I've seen hit LA for a very-very long time...

It's making a mess of the fire zones...

 

 

 

January 8

Semi-Classic Stormy Weather

Record Southern California dry streak ending abruptly

 

 

High Sierra Weather Situation & Observation

Moderate Front
Stronger than Last Fronts that passed on the 3rd and 5th

Widespread weak to moderate precip across all California, including SoCal, which has been negelected this Winter and Fall.

The Situation
A Cold Front from the North is sitting off the Coast of SF to the Northwest of a low-lattitude High, sitting just off the SoCal Coast.

Significant Tropical Moisture could be drawn NE between them, before both the Cold Front moves East over the US, and another High moves East across the Central Pacific.

The Prospects
The persistant High has finally been penetrated. This leaves us with the dry run behind a vast blocking ridge from early December through early January decisively characterizing the end of Fall and beginning of Winter as Extremely Dry.

Early January can either continue midly wet, cut loose, or revert back to the West Coast blocking ridge. A vast High is building in over the center of California in a couple of days. We'll see if it sticks around or alternates its position with a series of Lows.

 

High Sierra Weather

Storm & Flood
WARNINGS

 

Radar

Visible Satellites

Water Vapor Satellites

 

Sierra Forecasts

Western US Forecasts

 

All Sierra Snow Info

Sierra Sensor Networks

 

High Sierra Highways

 

From the
High Sierra Backpacker's Calendar:
Last Snow Reading
The 6th

  

 

 

January 4

Yesterday's storm of the 3rd was a freeking dud. The weather observations of Jan 2 explain why.

Mid-Winter Turning Point

The water and atmosphere are still getting colder. The Arctic "Vortex" is not really happening, but it's colder up there. The great High Pressure Zones coming East across the Southern North Pacific are retreating South, a bit closer to the Equator.

These are the things that should have happened two months ago, during Fall. The real questions are, "will this lower (or disrupt) the positioning of the blocking ridge," and then, "will the cooler, more powerful Arctic influence, combined with a (hopefully) lower position of the blocking ridge open up the storm gate?"

The takeaway from all this is that our annual "chilling" is still progressing through lowering ocean and sky temperatures. We have reached another seasonal "change point," though it is "out of phase" with traditional patterns, is either going to break the pattern of persistant ridging off the US Coast, or establish it through the coldest mid-Winter months.

The next week or two will determine which way the middle-part of 2018's Winter season goes.

 

 

 

January 3

Three days of Mildly Stormy Weather begins today-this afternoon

Nonetheless, a wall of High Pressure sits over the whole Western Edge of North America from Vancover to the LA Basin.

Neither the Low currently off the West Coast of California, nor its associated Front, will make landfall: They are both moving North up the coast, off the Western edge of the wall of High Pressure covering Western North America.

California is being "grazed" by this Low and Front as the High deflects them North. This semi-tropical moisture looks full of lightening:

 

Lightening Probabilities and Safety

 

North Pac Weather Map Animation & Maps

 

RADAR

SAT VIEW

 

ALL HIGH SIERRA
REPORTING STATIONS

 

Snow Model

Rain Model

 

All Snow and Rain Precipitation Forecasts,
&
Snow Depth and/or
Inches of Water

 

 

 

January 2

Eyes on the Skies

High Sierra Weather Situation Observation

 

 

Freak Weather
Lots of Small Fires

Direct to Articles

Mammoth Pool Road

Pine Nut Range

Wildfires Prompt Cal Fire To Keep Dozens Of Stations Open In Winter

 

 

 

January 1

Happy New Year!

Cloudy & Dry
Lows dragging Storm Fronts behind them are and have been "marching" Northward up along the West flank of the Persistant High off the West Coast of N America & West US for the past month, as the persistant High has pushed these storms around us. These storms have been shedding high-level clouds Eastward as their lows & fronts are transported North around us by the High. We've been seeing those clouds for the past ten days.

This "cloud-shedding" behavior has been going-on since December 23rd's cold plunge ended.

The Lows & Fronts to the West of the persistant High have been have been shedding high clouds Eastward over us since then, and up over the Sierra, yet without any precip, while the clouds themselves have warmed things up a bit, while bringing no substantial snow.

 

NEW
2018 High Sierra Calendar

 

OLD
2017
A Remarkable Year in the High Sierra

Compare Present Conditions with the First Week of 2017
Snow Depth,
24 hour high & low temps

 

 

December 28, 2017

2017
Current Snowpack:
Percent of Average for
December 28.

N Sierra:        24%

Cen. Sierra:  33%

S Sierra:        23%

Ca State:       27%

 

State Average Jan. 20, 2017: 168%

 

 

December 23, 2017

COLD
Nights
Cool
Days

We saw our first cloud cover in a long time when the weak storm blew through on the 18-19th, followed by three days of cold clarity.

These were the first deep cold mid-Winter temps. this season.

Now some clouds from a Low & Front sitting beyond, West of the vast blocking High on the West Coast of the N American Continent, have been pushed over the NW US last night & today: A change.

Still cold, the blocking ridge is still sitting there, but this is a change.

A depth of coldness has been achieved. This season has made a cold, "statement."

The blocking ridge High along the West Coast of the US still controls our weather, and still looks strong into the foreseable future.

It's still real cold, but these clouds & cloud cover being shed off the Front & Low being deflected North off the West Coast have warmed us up a tad. About ten degrees...

This persistant High weakens (or disperses) any fronts that the Lows it is deflecting around its Northern & Western perimeters, drag across California.

December 21-22

Last Night's
Overnight Lows

Carson Pass                 11

Ebbetts Pass                   9

Leavitt Lake                     4

Deadman Creek           13

Tuolumne Meadows      8

Mammoth Pass               5

South Lake Cabin           2   

Big Pine Sawmill            -4

Upper Tyndall Creek       3

This Week in High Sierra History: Dec 17-23, 2017

 

 

Reference
Through Fall 2017 to Winter of 2018

 

FALL 2017
FALL REVIEW
Setting the Scene for the Winter of 2018

October
Vast Quadrant of North California Burns
This Week in High Sierra History: October 8-14, 2017

Wet early Fall
After late Summer turned into a heatwave and Northern California burned, conditions turned wet from November 3rd until early December. November saw a series of ten mostly-weak storm fronts deposit a heavy early-season base on the Sierra.

Early December reports cited the heaviest early-season snowpack since the 1980s. Though the South Sierra Crest was covered with snow through November, little precip had fallen over SoCal outside the South Sierra. After the last front passed through on December third, a vast ridge of High Pressure built-in over the whole coast of California, frequently stretching itself over the whole coast of North America through the month of December.

 Dry Late Fall
This vast, persistant High is still with us today, on January 1st, 2018. This High first built-in after the last weak storm front cleared the Sierra on the December the 3rd, and the vast, enduring SoCal fires started on the 6th, riding the winds off this massive ridge. These must have been the latest Santa Ana Wind-driven fires on record.

December 2017
SOCAL BURNS
This Week in High Sierra History: Dec 3-9, 2017

The Northwest of California has been pretty much, "High & Dry," since the Persistant High built-in on the 3rd of December. Our weather transitioned from one of the wettest Novembers to one of the driest Decembers in history.

"HIgh," in that we are still sitting under a vast ridge on January 1st, 2018, and "Dry," in that this ridge is knocking all potential tropical and arctic storms aimed at us around us to our North.
This Week in High Sierra History, January 1-6, 2018

 

Reference
Through Fall 2017 to Winter of 2018

 

 

TOP

 

 

All High Sierra Weather Resources

 

 

 

 

January 2018 Trail News

 

All 2018 Trails & Topics Forums

 

2018 Oceans, Fish, Water, & Ice News

 

 

 

 

January 2018 News of Man & Nature

 

 

 

More
News From Nature

Climate Destruction News

 

Trees

Bee News

Bear News

Spider Forum

Bird News

Small Mammals

Frogs and Reptiles

Butterfly News

 

Health and Fitness

Mountain Safety

Mosquito News

Female Trail

High Sierra History

 

Astro-Phys, Space, & Science News

High Sierra Geology News

Fish, Oceans, & Water News

Anthropocene

 

All High Sierra News

 

 

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