2019 snow speculation as of May 16

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CAMERONM
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2019 snow speculation as of May 16

Post by CAMERONM » Thu May 16, 2019 9:30 pm

This is speculation, not a report, hence a new thread...
Given the recent snowfall and likely predicted late heavy snowfall this weekend, how much will this likely push back off-trail high altitude exploration this year? High passes? Peaks? Mid-June? Mid-July? Later? I got killed by late-season soft-snow last year, twice, and do not want to repeat it.
I am also wondering about the Meet-up location and dates-
It does not concern me directly, but I also wonder about the potential PCT disruption.
Take your best shot-
Last edited by CAMERONM on Fri May 17, 2019 6:19 am, edited 1 time in total.








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rightstar76
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Re: 2019 snow speculation as of May 16

Post by rightstar76 » Fri May 17, 2019 2:47 am

I've been thinking about that as well.

The Climate Prediction Center forecast for the rest of May looks cold and wet for the High Sierra. I might have thought this would mean a delayed season until I took a look at climate scientist Daniel Swain's most recent blog entry:
Long-term implications are less clear, though, since wet springs have historically been linked toward more severe fires later in the season across much of the state (as the added moisture allows for increased vegetation growth, which inevitably dries out during California’s bone dry summers. The opposite tends to be true in the denser forests at cooler, higher elevation–where wet springs/snowy winters historically tended to keep the soil column from drying out even in late summer–but that rule of thumb has become a bit dubious as California’s climate has continued to warm).
As the MJO signal slowly propagates, it will eventually move into a position unfavorable for the continuation of active weather across California. Right now, the models are hinting this could happen during the last week in May–likely setting the stage for rapid drying (and perhaps also a pretty sudden warm-up to summer-like heat).
http://weatherwest.com/archives/6784

If Dr. Swain is correct, the snowmelt may be rapid and high elevation hiking may not be delayed that much. Regardless, I think we're in uncharted territory and all bets are off.

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Re: 2019 snow speculation as of May 16

Post by JayOtheMountains » Fri May 17, 2019 8:35 am

I think best bets are to just avoid the Sierras in entirety this year.

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Re: 2019 snow speculation as of May 16

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri May 17, 2019 8:57 am

Yup-cancel all your permits! :D

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Re: 2019 snow speculation as of May 16

Post by SSSdave » Fri May 17, 2019 10:24 am

I've been through several big snow years over decades. It does significantly delay access to higher snow free elevations. It's not that one cannot backpack into snowy high elevations but rather I find snowy bright expanses boring, tedious, and generally unaesthetic. As for rate of snow melt, sun exposure becomes a significant factor into mid summer versus just elevation. Thus north facing and heavy forests melt out slowly and tend to remain marshy, muddy, mosquitoey all summer below higher draining slopes. By mid July there will be significant numbers of destinations below 10k that will be open for backpacking however that will throw usual itineraries into chaos because most backpackers pay little attention to elevations when they create trips but rather focus on popular lake destinations that tend to be above that in timberline and alpine zones. So the wise planner will pay close attention to topo maps staying at lower elevations below snow lines except when traveling across well used passes with a use track.

Memorial Day 2019 may be the snowiest at backpacking elevations during my lifetime. I am expecting to get over Kaiser Pass by mid June in order to backpack 6 days into the SF San Joaquin canyon staying below 8.5k but will see when they manage to dig out now that more snow has piled up. I also expect to bring back outstanding images that are going to surprise those that just race through that area not paying attention. I also hoped to go over Shepherd Pass mid August, however that now has to delay to maybe the 20th because the Rolling Stones tour date at Levi Stadium that I have a ticket for has been rescheduled for 8/18.

In early August 1995, a big El Nino year, 3 of us barely were able to cross Bear Creek at the 9550 JMT/PCT crossing while dozens of groups were stuck on each side. We went up into the East Fork basin and found considerable areas of snow with little greenery, lakes mostly frozen including Vee Lake, thus escaped back down to lower areas. In 2017 I had to schedule my Silver Divide trip before my the mid month Oregon road trip for the solar eclipse to a similar early August period and not unexpectedly found Grinnel Lake at 10.8k on 8/7 mostly still iced up and note it faces the sunny south without any sun blocking mid day ridges:

Image

But by late August much had recently melted out on my Humphreys Basin trip. So where are some of these lower elevation areas? Dinkey Lakes and Emigrant Basin, western Yosemite, because it's lower elevations are heavily glaciated that tends to allow lakes at lower elevations versus Sierra Crest areas. Also further north, all the volcanic landscape into Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness. Oh but those places are not as scenic with spectacular craggy peaks! True but there is much beauty and wonder there too especially rich areas of wildflowers and creature life, if one bothers to really look. Well below 10k, Mokelumne Wilderness:

Image

And there are other numbers of destination lakes below 9.5k in the southern Sierra if one bothers to look at topos. Yeah but I want to make loop trips and hike lots of miles each day. Don't be so rigid, loop trips are over rated, slow down and smell the flowers.

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Re: 2019 snow speculation as of May 16

Post by frozenintime » Fri May 17, 2019 11:26 am

what do you all make of this graph (http://cdec.water.ca.gov/reportapp/java ... OT_SWC.pdf) which seems to show this high snow year melting so fast that it's approaching the *average* snow water content for this time of year? (ignoring the slight increase with the current storm.)

has it been significantly warmer at high elevation this spring? i haven't read anything to that effect.

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Re: 2019 snow speculation as of May 16

Post by markskor » Fri May 17, 2019 11:42 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:57 am
Yup-cancel all your permits! :D
Yup, If you guys all stay home, I won't have to work so hard!
Thinking less than a month to go. :rock:
Mountainman who swims with trout

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Re: 2019 snow speculation as of May 16

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri May 17, 2019 11:47 am

A leveling off of melt for a week or so during the last half of May is quite common for previous high snow years. This current and forecast storm for this weekend looks like it will bump us from almost average melt curve onto the melt curve of 2017. Still a earlier melt than 2011.

We were on a southwestern Utah-Colorado tour for two weeks so was not checking weather. I think the weather before this current storm system was warmer than normal.

The snow stations used in this graphing of averages are meant to capture the elevations that produce the water that will flow into the reservoirs, and not a lot of higher elevation data points. It also primarily represents the west side of the Sierra because the east side watersheds are relatively small compared to the west side watersheds. The value is that if the melt is similar to, say 2017, we can then look at what we did then and how much snow there was. Certainly not perfect, but gives an idea.

I am more inclined to put up with the snow and go higher and higher to out-run the mosquitoes. I also do not find snowy terrain stark or ugly, quite the contrary, although it does not photograph as well as the lush wildflowers. The actual melt zone of soft slushy snow is harder to deal with than solid hard snow. I have a lot of experience on snow. I am hoping that those scared of snow will cancel so I can get some prime permit slots. I am a lot more concerned about stream crossings. I plan carefully to avoid known difficult crossings.

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Re: 2019 snow speculation as of May 16

Post by Gazelle » Fri May 17, 2019 5:03 pm

personally I like having the snow! Just plan river crossings! most of mine are high elevation once I get there. Still planning Ionian basin mid july. At My house by Donner Summit it is melting quickly, but is not 12000 ft. I have been out backcountry skiing instead of hiking. People just need to be smart and be able to adjust their plans. Have been watching the PCT stuff and am quite scared by the lack of knowledge!
Kristine
The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before. Albert Einstein

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Re: 2019 snow speculation as of May 16

Post by rightstar76 » Sat May 18, 2019 4:21 am

SSSdave wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 10:24 am
I am expecting to get over Kaiser Pass by mid June in order to backpack 6 days into the SF San Joaquin canyon staying below 8.5k but will see when they manage to dig out now that more snow has piled up.
Dave, I am looking forward to seeing pictures of your June trip. Nice wildflower photo of Mokelumne Wilderness!

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