A Lot Of Sun…And Can The Snowpack Increase After April 1?

We shouldn’t have a shortage of sunshine over the next week, with temperatures that will be on the cool side on Friday, but will warm quickly as we go through the weekend. The flat ridge of high pressure will shift onshore, keeping us dry throughout. A northerly flow Friday will drop our highs back into the 50s, but the temperatures will rebound into the mid-60s Saturday and then into the 70s for the next several days thereafter.


Even though our “snow season” in the mountains officially ended on April 1, Kevin McClelland wondered: “I was wondering if there has ever been an April where the snowpack increased or stayed the same from April 1st to April 30?”

Truckee River Basin

I’m sure there has been. The April 1 date is chosen because on average that’s about when the water content is at its peak. But around here we rarely act “normal”, and we have had some years when we’ve added a pretty hefty amount to the snowpack during April. We might add some this April… at the very least we have about broken even since April 1. Not that we really need more.


Wonderful Weekend…And A Relative Question (Final)

For the first time in a while, there’s no real significant chance of any showers in the forecast for the next week. We will see temperatures drop a bit from the mid-60s on Thursday (under partly cloudy skies) to the upper 50s on Friday (with mostly sunny skies.) As we head into the weekend, the sunshine will continue, and the high temperatures will rise into the upper 60s Saturday and then into the low 70s on Sunday.

Millenium Falcon

So does light go out of headlights of a car travelling at the speed of light? It’s comforting to know that even Einstein struggled with this concept prior to coming up with his theory of Special Relativity. But he discovered that time and space are not absolutes, and therefore the answer depends on your point of reference. If you are travelling inside the car, the lights will “beam out” at the speed of light from your frame of reference. But anything they shine on (including an observer) will look very different, thanks to a huge Doppler Shift, rendering it invisible to the human eye. So theoretically, an observer outside the car couldn’t see the car, and an observer inside the car couldn’t see anyone it was driving by because the Doppler shift would change the visible light into wavelengths beyond ultraviolet.

Doppler Compression

This is why I went into meteorology, and not theoretical physics.




Windy Wednesday, Sweet Weekend…And a Relative Question (Pt. 2)

We have one weak storm to move through the region Wednesday that will possibly bring a few showers, but will most certainly kick up some gusty winds in western Nevada. Snow levels will be quite high so most of the major mountain passes will likely be wet, but not white. The front passes through and things should dry up on Thursday with continued breezy conditions Thursday and Friday, but the offshore ridge of high pressure finally moves on Saturday, bringing calmer, sunnier and warmer conditions through the weekend.

Speed of light

Yesterday, Bob wondered if you were in a car travelling at the speed of light, and you turned the headlights on, would there be a beam of light…going faster than the speed of light? Bob asks the question that has been posed many times before, and as they say, the answer is “relative.” Once you approach the speed of light, time starts to change, and that then changes the definition of “speed”. But let’s go ahead and take our light speed car. Flip on the lights. Would the light go “faster” than the car… and thus faster than the… well… the speed of light? I’ll try and tell you tomorrow.



Weak Storm…And A Question That Is Relative (Pt. 1)

While we may see some precipitation this week (specifically Wednesday), the overall pattern isn’t particularly wet or stormy. Tuesday will see the clouds break up a bit with high temperatures at seasonal level in the low to mid-60s. On Wednesday, another weak storm moves through, and most likely most of the modest precipitation will stay in the mountains, although a scattered rain shower in the valley isn’t out of the question. Another dry-ish cold front passes through Friday, dropping temperatures back into the 50s, but over the weekend, the skies should clear and the temperatures will warm into the 60s on Saturday and near 70 on Sunday.

Speed of light

Not all of my questions are strictly weather related. Bob asks: “I have a rhetorical question for you which I know is not weather related, but you seem to veer off the weather path occasionally so I’ll throw it at you. Theoretically, if a vehicle travelling at night with its headlights on were to approach the speed of light, what would happen to the light beam? If it was already travelling at the speed of light and then turned on the headlights, would there even be a beam of light or would the headlamps just glow?”

I’ll tackle that tomorrow.



One More Storm Before A Great Weekend…And When Does The “Snow Season” End?

We are getting another brief break in the action before one last storm system moves through the region. Wednesday high temperatures will pop back up to the mid-60s with a few clouds, and winds will start to pick up in the afternoon ahead of the aforementioned front. Late Wednesday night the front moves into the Lake Tahoe region, bringing snow levels from about 7,000’ down to the lake itself by early Thursday morning. Total snow accumulations likely won’t exceed a few inches, and most of that will be in the upper elevations of the mountains.

The valleys could see some rain showers, mainly prior to sunrise Thursday, although the rain shadow should be in full effect and will limit valley precipitation.  Things will dry out thereafter, and temperatures should warm up into the 70s by the weekend.

Sugar Bowl

Courtesy Sugar Bowl

So when is the “snow season” over? While there is no definitive, water managers typically will look at April first as the unofficial end to the snow season. That doesn’t mean that we can’t get any more snow showers up there… we can and in all likelihood will over the next couple of months. But on average, the snowpack tends to peak at around that date, after which it melts at a faster rate than it accumulates.


Storms Early This Week, Clearing For The Weekend…And Another Record Falls!

We have a couple of storms to get through before we see some clearing in time for the weekend. A moderate storm front will move through the region early Tuesday morning, bring rain and upper-elevation snowfall to western Nevada and the Tahoe area. Tuesday morning rain will turn to showers by the afternoon, and a break in the action comes through Wednesday with partly cloudy skies. Another, somewhat weaker storm moves in late Wednesday night which could bring another round of scattered showers early Thursday morning, after which the skies clear out by Friday leaving us with a sunny and warm weekend ahead.

Precip record N Sierra

April is a very interesting month. We can get temperatures near 90 degrees on one day, and have snow the next. And in fact, it is possible some of the upper-elevation regions could see a little addition to their snowpack this week. Not that they really need it. The numbers just came in last week from six representative mountain snow survey sites, and we have now passed that record for the wettest water year in the northern Sierra, beating the historic 82-83 winter. And just consider this…we still have more than five months left in the water year. It will be interesting to see what the final tally is in October.



Easter Afternoon Storm?…And More Tornado-Flying Records


As we head into Easter weekend, it will start out on a very nice note. Mostly sunny skies Saturday may morph into a partly cloudy afternoon, and temperatures will warm up into the mid-60s. The temperatures won’t change much on Sunday, but the first of a series of moderate spring storms comes through Sunday afternoon. If you are traveling over the mountains, you might want to clear the passes by the early afternoon, as the passes could be impacted.

A second potentially stronger storm move in late Monday night through Tuesday, bringing valley rain showers with high mountain snow.

Matt Suter

We’ve been relating the adventure of Matt Suter’s amazing quarter mile trip through the air in a tornado back in 2006. There have been previous cases of people being carried by tornados, and some have even been toted longer distances (there are reports of trips of a mile or more), but none of those poor souls lived through the ordeal… understandable when you think of the buzz-saw nature of the debris in the twister, and the inevitable drop from hundreds of feet once the tornado releases its grip.


But while Suter easily outdistanced the other living contenders for the all-time “tornado long jump” title, his story is not without precedence. Tales of goldfish swimming contentedly in their bowls being found miles away from their destroyed homes are legendary. And other humans have also survived similar experiences. Back in 1955, a 9-year old girl and her pony took a 1,000 foot flight inside a tornado (can you imagine what that pony was thinking?), landing unharmed in a field.

Horse Tornado

Of course, horses have always had a special kind of karma when it comes to surviving twisters. According to Thomas Grazulis’ “Tornado-Nature’s Ultimate Windstorm”, five horses were the only survivors of a huge tornado in Kansas in 1915 that destroyed their farm. They were carried a quarter mile away from their leveled barn… unhurt, and still attached to the same rail.

Somebody was living right.




Easter Weekend Forecast…And Did That Guy Really Fly 1,307′?

We have some clearing coming for the end of the work week and the beginning of the Easter Weekend. Very chilly temperatures will greet us Friday morning with a hard freeze in all locations, but things will warm up as we head into the weekend, reaching the mid-50s Friday and the mid-60s Saturday.

The next shot at some precipitation comes on Easter Sunday as a couple of weak weather systems come in, but the odds of any rain showers washing out sunrise services or egg hunts is small.

Matt Suter

Yesterday we told of Matt Suter’s incredible quarter mile journey through the air via a tornado. There are bound to be those who will question whether Suter was actually carried that far in the air, as opposed to just getting rolled to his new location. But doctors say his injuries, which were amazingly slight (five staples in his scalp notwithstanding), tend to support the air travel. Had he been rolled on the rough gravel he would have had body abrasions and contusions… injuries he lacked. In addition, there was a barbed wire fence between his starting and stopping points, which he managed to circumvent somehow, and over was the only reasonable path.


Stormy Thursday, Dry Friday-Saturday… And A 1,307′ Record (Pt. 2)

A moderate-strength storm will push through the region Thursday keeping the winds high and bringing another round of mountain snow and valley rain. Because of the strong SW flow, Reno will see significant shadowing from the mountains, so precipitation amounts in the valleys will be much greater on the west side than in the center and eastern portions. In the mountains, a Winter Weather Advisory is in effect through 11 am Thursday, where total snow accumulations could amount to anything from a couple of inches at the lake itself to a foot or more in the higher elevations near the crest.

The weather clears out with just a few clouds remaining for Friday and Saturday before another round of weak to moderate storms move back in Sunday through Wednesday.

superman tornado

Back in 2006, Matt Suter was carried through the air about a quarter of a mile. Since he lived to tell the tale, it is easy to forget what a horrifying experience he had. When the twister hit, he was knocked out by a heavy lamp as his trailer collapsed around him. Once he came to, clad only in his boxer shorts, he was 1,307′ away in a grassy field, battered, bruised and a little bloody, but remarkably intact.

Matt Suter

There are bound to be those who will question whether Suter was actually carried that far in the air, as opposed to just getting rolled to his new location. But doctors say his injuries, which were amazingly slight (five staples in his scalp notwithstanding), tend to support the air travel. Had he been rolled on the rough gravel he would have had body abrasions and contusions… injuries he lacked. In addition, there was a barbed wire fence between his starting and stopping points, which he managed to circumvent somehow, and over was the only reasonable path.


Spring Storm…And A Wild Record (1,307′)

Spring/winter storms are not uncommon this time of year, and we have a pretty typical one heading into the region. The strongest part of the storm will arrive late Wednesday through Thursday morning, with snow levels that will drop from around 7,500’ Wednesday afternoon to around lake level Thursday morning. A Winter Weather Advisory is posted for the mountains Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning. Snowfall amounts should range between a few inches at the lake to a foot or more on the crests.

In the valley, strong SW winds will shadow out a lot of the precipitation, but some spillover precipitation should occur late Wednesday into Thursday morning. After a break on Friday and Saturday, a slight chance of showers returns later in the day on Easter Sunday.

superman tornado.png

So what meteorological record equals 1,307 feet? All you have to do is ask Matt Suter, and I’m sure he’ll be glad to tell you. Of course at this point, he’s glad to be talking at all.

1,307 feet is the distance that the 19-year-old Suter covered in the air after he was sucked out of his mobile home by a tornado ten years ago. I’ll give you the details tomorrow.