ORLANDO, Fl – It’s a snow lover’s dream. The Sierra Nevada mountains will continue to get pummeled with powder through the end of the week. A series of storms will ride down the West Coast of the U.S. bringing lower elevation rain and heavy mountain snow to California.
An atmospheric river is a narrow flowing column of moisture responsible for producing significant rain and/or snow. These are most common along the West Coast of the U.S. with developing Pacific storms. The ribbon of moisture can extend back thousands of miles.
An upper-level low sliding down the California coast will induce the atmospheric river allowing for continuous heavy rain and snow for days.
A skiers paradise
A second component of the atmospheric rivers out west are the mountains. As the Pacific moisture is brought in by the upper low, it is then slammed up against the Sierra Nevada mountains in this case. The moisture is then forced up the mountains where it cools and condenses. This is known as orographic lift. This process enhances precipitation on the western facing slopes. If cold enough, significant snow will fall.
Through the end of the week, more than 8 feet of snow could fall along part of the Sierra Nevada range. That is up to 100″ of snow in about 6 days going back to Sunday night.
For perspective, Mammoth Lakes, California receives 206″ of snow on average for the season! For the month of January, the average snowfall is 43.1″
A high impact winter storm will be moving in later today and will continue into Friday. The heaviest snow will be tonight and tomorrow. Low elevations snow is expected tonight into tomorrow morning. Plan ahead. #CAwx pic.twitter.com/1GDJbNApPg— NWS Sacramento (@NWSSacramento) January 26, 2021
A Catch 22
Much of the West and Desert Southwest have been dealing with an extreme to exceptional drought for quite some time.
Too much rain at once, however, is never a good thing. The rounds of heavy rain will no doubt help to ease some of the drought, but it could also produce significant flash flooding and mudslides.
Mudslides and flash flooding will be most likely in areas that were just devastated by wildfires in 2020. In these areas, vegetation that would have otherwise helped “hold back” the land from sliding was burned in the fires.