Tahoe = 2nd Lowest Snow Year on Record | 54% of Average Snowfall in 2012/13

Miles Clark | | WeatherWeather
UC Berkeley's
UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab

I just got off the phone with the Randall Osterhuber at the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Laboratory.  We talked about snow, rain, and sun.  He gave me the numbers for the 2012/13 season and he never once had any inflection in his voice.  Just basic, monotone, telling it like it is.

THE BOTTOM LINE for 2012/13:

– Our 2nd lowest snow year on record (records go back to 1946)

– We got only 214” of snow at the lab which adds up to 54% of average for this date

notes:  The UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Laboratory is located at 6,900 feet above sea level on Donner Summit, California.  A water year starts on Oct. 1st and ends on Sept. 31st.

A big year on Donner Pass Road.  Not this year...not this year....
A big year on Donner Pass Road. Not this year…not this year….




Snowfall to Date = 214″

Average Snowfall for Today’s Date = 394″

We’re at 54% of average snowfall for today’s date


Snow Depth to Date = 0

Average Snow Depth for Today’s Date = 69″


Precipitation to Date = 38″

Average Precipitation for Today’s Date = 47″

We’re at 81% of average precipitation for today’s date

Squaw Base right now
Squaw Base right now

After he gave me the numbers, I asked Randall if anything else this winter stuck out in his mind:

UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab's
UC Berkeley Snow Lab’s lead scientist, Randall Osterhuber

“Well, it was our second lowest snow year on record.  Our lowest snow year on record was the 1976/77 winter.” 

“Our average date for no snow on the ground is May 23rd.  This year we had zero snow on April 22nd, that’s one month early.”

“Most of our snow fell pre-Christmas”

“Our precipitation for the year is much closer to average than our snowfall because of those big early season storms that snowed high and rained low.  Up higher there’s still more snow.” – Randall Osterhuber

“January & March are our highest snowfall months and this year both those months were well below average.” – Randall Osterhuber (older quote from early April)



It certainly wasn’t our best year and it wasn’t quiiite our worst year.  It was a fun year.  Plenty of sunshine and good times.  We’ve done two of these dry winters in a row now.  Next year, let it snow.

Donner Summit Snowfall and Snow Height historical totals
Donner Summit Snowfall and Snow Height historical totals

SnowBrains would like to thanks Randall, UC Berkeley, and the entire Central Sierra Snow Lab crew for all their hard work and years of excellent snow data that we’re all so addicted to.  And for putting up with our calls to get all this great information.  Thanks.

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9 thoughts on “Tahoe = 2nd Lowest Snow Year on Record | 54% of Average Snowfall in 2012/13

  1. Nicely done post Miles. I knew it was bad and I am old enough to remember how bad 76-77 was as well. It was the year we discovered skiing at Shasta and Bachelor. Hoping for a better year next season.

  2. Statement that records go back to 1946 and the chart goes back to 1879?

    Great day skiing today. I had a lot of fun for a low snow year and still am. Glass 1/2 full.

    1. Yeah, that is confusing. My bad. The railroad has records back to 1879 that are considered “imperfect” by snow scientists today. The Central Sierra Snow Labs records go back to 1946. thanks

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