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Snow and Water levels 2011

Discussion related to Sierra Nevada current and forecast conditions, as well as general precautions and safety information. Trail conditions, fire/smoke reports, mosquito reports, weather and snow conditions, stream crossing information, and more.
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby kpeter » Mon Jun 06, 2011 7:45 pm

Snow water content at Kibbie Ridge just dipped below 5" today (June 6). Kibbie Ridge dipped below 5" on the following dates in our comparison years:

2010 30 May (putting us 7 days behind last year)
2006 11 May (putting us 26 days behind 2006)
1998 10 June (putting us 4 days ahead of 1998)
1995 1 June (putting us 5 days behind 1995)

2006 and 1998 had almost as much snow as we had this year, but 2006 had a warm spring and 1998 had a cool spring. As you can see, we are much closer to the 1998 pattern than the 2006 pattern.

For the central Sierra (Yosemite etc.) 1998 seems a good comparison year. Anyone remembering trips in 1998 should chime in since this will be very similar.



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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Jun 07, 2011 8:11 am

You use Kibbie Ridge as one of your key points. The environment of Kibbie Ridge may be different now than in the past, due to the Kibbie Ridge fire. I think the sensor is out in the open, however, I wonder if the general snowfall and melt there has been in any way altered. Any individual sensor is characteristic of a particular elevation and slope orientation and microclimate. I hesitate to make conclusions based on any single sensor. I would instead look at the % average melt graphs of the northern, middle and southern Sierra. Then look at sensors in the actual area you are planning your trip. Then, you need to look up the location of the sensor(they give lat and lng), plot it on a map and see what alpine environment it represents. I have run across several sensors and it is interesting to see their exact location. I actually camped next to the Farewell Gap sensor. Anyone who goes over Bishop Pass sees the sensor.

None of the sensors is going to say much about above-10,000-foot snowpack, an area we backpackers are concerned about. The lower elevation sensors are however, an indication of ease of access to the high country. The only real way to determine conditions is to go out and see! So everyone- keep posting on the "conditions" reports.
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby dharmali » Tue Jun 07, 2011 8:47 am

Thanks, JD, for a very interesting post.

My friends and I have an early August, mostly high route trip planned from Mammoth to Yosemite and have adopted a 'wait and see' attitude. With the numbers you posted, I'm looking at a fallback hike near the Palisades. Any info on that area from you or other backcountry aficionados will be more that appreciated.
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby John Dittli » Tue Jun 07, 2011 9:41 am

dharmali wrote:T Any info on that area from you or other backcountry aficionados will be more that appreciated.


Upper Big Pine Cr drainage is currently ~100% of April 1. Bishop Pass (Dusy Basin) ~135% of April 1.

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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby John Dittli » Tue Jun 07, 2011 9:52 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:None of the sensors is going to say much about above-10,000-foot snowpack, an area we backpackers are concerned about. The lower elevation sensors are however, an indication of ease of access to the high country. The only real way to determine conditions is to go out and see! So everyone- keep posting on the "conditions" reports.


This is a very good point. Even in the wettest of years the snow pillows melt out by early July when the high country can still hold a LOT of snow, esp. north aspects. Pillows are also notorious for inaccurate data, one of the reasons we snow surveyors still have jobs! So don't take pillow data for any one site as gospel. Snow depth sensors are usually quite a bit more accurate though.

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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby texan » Tue Jun 07, 2011 10:43 am

I don't think Kibbie Lake is a good source about how much snow there is because elevation is so low. For that area you need to go up the mountain and check NEW GRACE MEADOW SENSOR for that drainage in Northern Yosemite. In Emigrant or Hoover areas check Leavitt Lake sensor. Leavitt Lake sits right on the crest and receives a lot of snow every year. In fact, right now the water content is 90 inches and the normal for April first is 50 inches. What does that mean? 180 percent above normal for April 1st and its June 7th. Theres a lot of snow back there and its one of the biggest in the last 40 years. It reminds me of 82-83 and 94-95 winters. I am going in mid-August on a trip but I wished I would have waited until the endo of August. There is just too much snow in the backcountry this year(especially in the central and northern Sierras).

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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby tim » Tue Jun 07, 2011 10:56 am

By the end of this week the snowpack in the central Sierra might be deeper than on the corresponding date in June 1983:
http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/prod ... OT_SWC.pdf
Fortunately it is finally supposed to get warm by the end of next week, for the first time in about a month
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby texan » Tue Jun 07, 2011 11:05 am

tim wrote:By the end of this week the snowpack in the central Sierra might be deeper than on the corresponding date in June 1983:
http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/prod ... OT_SWC.pdf
Fortunately it is finally supposed to get warm by the end of next week, for the first time in about a month


Thanks Tim for sending the data. Theres a lot of snow still in the backcountry.

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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby kpeter » Tue Jun 07, 2011 1:12 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:You use Kibbie Ridge as one of your key points. The environment of Kibbie Ridge may be different now than in the past, due to the Kibbie Ridge fire. I think the sensor is out in the open, however, I wonder if the general snowfall and melt there has been in any way altered. Any individual sensor is characteristic of a particular elevation and slope orientation and microclimate. I hesitate to make conclusions based on any single sensor. I would instead look at the % average melt graphs of the northern, middle and southern Sierra. Then look at sensors in the actual area you are planning your trip.

Agreed on all points, and that is actually what I am doing. I should have clarified that I was particularly interested in Kibbie since NW Yosemite is likely to be my first trip in about two weeks. And I certainly do appreciate your own trip report for the excellent "eyes on the ground" insight! (Or should I say "eyes on the snow"?!) Good point on the fire--it would of course not change how much it snowed, but it might impact the accuracy of the station in some way. The stations I've come across, though, are always in the open.

I am, however, tracking about a dozen stations in areas I am thinking of going later in the summer, and I am watching the regional CDEC summaries too. The regional plotlines all took a terrible turn for the worse (as far as us early season backpackers are concerned) over the last week. Anyone who has not looked at it in a week or so should:

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/prod ... OT_SWC.pdf

The unseasonably cool temperatures and added snow have pushed the lines much closer to the 1982-83 maximum year. In fact, in the North the snowpack is at 103% of what it is on average on the standard April 1 measuring date, and in the Central it is at 97%. The South is much better at 67%. In the North/Central, it is equivalent to us having an average year of snowfall and not a drop melting by the end of the first week of June!

Here are a few sensors I've been tracking for trips later in the summer I hope to do. Read 'em and weep. I have to hope for a hot spell and a roaring melt very soon.

Bishop Pass 11,200
2011 7 June 42" water content
2010 never reached as high as 42." Still higher than at any time last year.
2006 reached 42" on May 15, putting us 23 days behind
1998 reached 42" on June 5, putting us 2 days behind
1995 reached 42" on May 24, putting us 9 days behind

Dana Meadows 9,800
2011 7 June 27" water content
2010 reached 27" on June 3 putting us 4 days behind
2006 reached 27" on May 9 putting us 29 days behind
1998 reached 27" on June 5 putting us 2 days behind
1995 no data

Black Cap Basin 10,300
2011 7 June 40 " of water content
2010 reached 40" on May 5 putting us 25 days behind
2006 reached 40" on May 21 putting us 12 days behind
1998 reached 40" on June 21 putting us 14 days ahead
1995 no data

Slide Canyon 9,200
2011 7 June 50" of water content
2010 never reached as high as 50". Still higher than at any time last year.
2006 reached 50" on May 30 putting us 7 days behind
1998 reached 50" on June 13 putting us 6 days ahead
1995 reached 50" on July 3 putting us 26 days ahead

Naturally, some of this data may be corrupt, conditions around the stations may have changed, etc. But in general the pattern seems to put us between the 2006 model and the 1998 model, and increasingly close to 1998.
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby rlown » Tue Jun 07, 2011 1:20 pm

nice analysis. now what? It melts when it melts. Lakes are more important to me at this point, and they are ice cubes still. My sept trip is safe, but my late July trip is gonna push into August at best.

You can stare at the data all day, everyday, but..

I feel a full on all-season skeeter attack coming on..
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby kpeter » Tue Jun 07, 2011 3:56 pm

rlown wrote:nice analysis. now what? It melts when it melts. Lakes are more important to me at this point, and they are ice cubes still. My sept trip is safe, but my late July trip is gonna push into August at best.

You can stare at the data all day, everyday, but..

I feel a full on all-season skeeter attack coming on..

For those people who have flexibility in their schedule none of this really matters other than to delay everything for a few weeks. But for those of us who have a mid August cut-off due to the school year, or who need to make reservations to coordinate with family and friends, then this information could be useful.

So the answer to the question "Now what" is, in my view, is that in comparison with our normal backpacking experiences, we should either
1) go further South in the Sierra,
2) go to lower elevations,
3) go later in the season, or
4) go prepared for lots of snow.

I can't be gone after mid August so this necessitates some changes. In my own case I am delaying my early season trips by two weeks each and bunching everything closer together. I'll evaluate the long alpine trip in early August when we get closer. I may cancel a trip with the kids altogether since they can't handle mosquitoes well--we will see.

Yes, I agree we should be prepared for an armada of mosquitoes led by a Curtis LeMay type mosquito general, probably chomping on a tiny cigar and yelling "Bomb them to the stone age!"
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby Flux » Tue Jun 07, 2011 4:41 pm

So will there be snow in Humphrey's and Bear Lakes for my 9 day trip in Mid July??





I'm kidding of course. Just keeping my fingers crossed that the warm turns on and does not quit. Looks like I better get a pair of gaiters and an axe.
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