Wildfires and El Niño Could Result in an Epic Snow Year for California, Weather Experts Claim

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Up to 852" of snow fell in the winter of 2010/11 in Lake Tahoe, El Niño
 Dare to dream? Credit: SnowBrains

Total acres burned in wildfires in California exceeded 1 million for the year this weekend according to the National Interagency Fire Center, and the NOAA have been predicting a 70-percent chance of El Niño this winter. What could those 2 statistics possibly both have in common?

According to Michael Pechner, the Bay Area’s weather wizard, those two factors might just add up to a high chance of a big winter for precipitation, more than enough to fill the state’s reservoirs, and depending on snow levels, create epic conditions for riders in the high Sierra.

Tom Stienstra, of the SF Chronicle, added:

“I know it’s only mid-August, but my inclination is to expect a wet winter starting in December. I’m getting this from the smoke and sediment from the fires, and the higher ocean temperatures forming in the Pacific off Southern California and the Gulf of Alaska.

This was a scenario that Pechner agreed with:

“Absolutely, on both counts,” Pechner confirmed, and then added, “and I think there is a real good chance of an El Niño this winter.”

El Niño
Deep snow on a car in the Squaw Parking lot on January 11th, 2017. Credit: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Weather determines the health of the landscape, and with it, recreation chances writes Stienstra. Dust and/or ash can result in precipitation, here’s how: When dust particles and water vapor are present at the same time, the moist vapor can adhere and condense on the dust. If there is enough dust and moist vapor, it can create a cloud, and in turn, produce rain/snow. This principle can occur in the Western US from wildfires, with already 1 million acres burned and with four weeks of peak season ahead, combined with moist air from El Niño.

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