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Winter Forecast 2016-17

We may not always be right, but we’re never wrong
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Welcome to your acronym-light, wholly subjective, and largely unscientific guide to how the winter of 2016-17 will (maybe) play out in Tahoe. Two things that you already know: Winter is hard to predict, but people do it anyway. We figured we can’t beat ’em, so we joined ’em, and gathered eight sources who made either specific forecasts for Lake Tahoe, or national predictions. We plotted their forecasts on a spectrum of the lowest to highest recorded snowfall levels, as measured on Donner Summit, and included a reliability quotient on the vertical axis for good measure. We also plugged in our own prediction, but readers should be aware we have a tough time remembering if La Niña is the one with the cold water or the warm water.

1) The Old Farmer’s Almanac

“With rainfall below normal in most of California, the drought there will continue,” says its 2017 forecast. Dang. These old farmers have been at the prediction game since 1792 and claim an 80 percent accuracy rate, but before hope is lost, perhaps the haziness of “most of California” will play out in our favor, especially due to the stone-cold fact that some of Tahoe is not even in California.

2) Farmer’s Almanac*

Balmy and wet are the two words used for the entire region of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. In a slightly more specific statement it claims that “another active storm track from the Pacific will deliver a dose of above-normal precipitation across the Western states.” However, these apparently younger farmers have only been at the forecasting game since 1818, notching their experience factor down a few points.

*Yes, it’s a different thing than the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

3) Bryan Allegretto/Open Snow

Our own BA. The people’s champ. Allegretto makes daily micro-forecasts down to the inch for the various Tahoe resorts, and we appreciate that. His thoughts? “I think that 85 to 92 percent of average snowfall is a good starting point,” he wrote in a post that discussed possible winter outcomes, one with a downright academic amount of graphs, radar images, and acronyms at that. The fact that he went with 92 percent on the upper end instead of 90 makes us think he is deadly serious.

4) Chris Tomer

Tomer is a meteorologist with some serious chops, but it appears he is based in Denver, which is a tad dubious. Nevertheless, he told the Tahoe Daily Tribune: “I’m forecasting for Lake Tahoe roughly 350-400 inches,” adding that areas closer to the lake should do well, and mentioned Sierra-at-Tahoe, Heavenly, Northstar, and Squaw as examples. Hmmm, Sierra-at-Tahoe? That resort’s a good deal farther from Big Blue than Homewood or Diamond Peak. Just sayin, Chris.

5) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The heavy-hitter of the weather game, NOAA, has coined our favorite phrase of the season: “Equal chance.” As in, “The rest of the country [Lake Tahoe included in this] falls into the equal chance category, meaning that there is not a strong enough climate signal in these areas to shift the odds, so they have an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation,” according to NOAA’s website. We can only shrug our shoulders at that one.

6) Tahoe Weather Blog

The TWB, administered by a “biotech computer programmer and avid snowboarder,” says this: “I look for slightly above average snowfall this year.” Thank you, sir or ma’am, we hope you know more than NOAA.

7) Powderchasers

The folks at Powderchasers spend a lot of time actually chasing storms and snow, making us think they are straight shooters. In a country-wide forecast post, they mention our region by saying: “Tahoe is my wildcard.” Another headscratcher there.

8) Mark McLaughlin

McLaughlin is an award-winning, nationally published author, with seven books and more than 750 articles in print. When he speaks, Tahoe listens. In an article for the Tahoe Weekly, he wrote: “2017 looks to be an average winter, which in the Tahoe Sierra is pretty darn good.” Truer words have never been spoken.

9) Moonshine Ink

Are you still reading this? We are optimists here at Moonshine, and after crunching the data, we love that some are calling for above-average snowfall, and choose to align with that crowd. So here it is: “Lake Tahoe will end up a few clicks above average snowfall levels, with equal chances we will see our first 1,000-inch winter.”

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February 14, 2019