Apart from the obvious need for us to get some precipitation, the weekend is shaping up to be very easy to spend outdoors. The clouds from Friday will retreat to the southeast as a low near Las Vegas makes a similar move. Temperatures will remain on the warm side of average for the next week, rising from the mid-50s Saturday into the 60s as we start February on Sunday. For the short term, there is still no sign of a significant storm coming our way.

(Courtesy: Galleryhip.com)

(Courtesy: Galleryhip.com)

Whenever we get into one of these dry spells, I will get similar questions to Randy’s: “I have noticed quite often that extreme (record) cold temperatures and high snow accumulations took place in the 1970’s. We experienced quite harsh winters in the Midwest back then. Was that also the case in the Reno-Carson City area? Or (as I have heard from long term locals), has the weather in Western Nevada has changed to warmer, less precipitous in winter?” Although I haven’t done a statistical analysis on that exact subject, there are decadal and multi-decadal oscillations that cause these longer term differences in weather patterns.

Part of the problem is trying to figure out if we are that much warmer, and if so, how much? You really can’t use temperature records from Reno for that because the urban growth has really wiped out any apples to apples comparison from previous decades. From a precipitation standpoint, since I’ve been here (late 80s) we’ve had several cycles of some very dry years and some very wet years, although they do seem to come in bunches. I think these are more related to the multi-decadal ocean oscillations than any permanent change in our regional climate. And while this particular dry spell in which we find ourselves is significant, it is by no means unprecedented. Some studies have suggested that we have had dry periods much worse than this periodically over the last couple centuries.

Finally, while these weather patterns do change, I would caution relying on people’s memories of weather events and patterns in the past (mine included.) I have found that all of our memories really aren’t that reliable when it comes to recalling the frequency and/or magnitude of past weather history, and should be used with caution.