The first snow of the season brushed Mammoth Thursday, dumping a few inches on the high country and leaving the ground in town white for the first time since June.
It was a welcome sight to snow-starved Mammothites—and they were the “lucky ones” in this storm, receiving the brunt of the moisture compared to other parts of the state—but it’s not likely to last, according to the National Weather Service.
“It’s likely to continue snowing and raining off and on for some of Friday, then a high pressure ridge will build up beginning Friday and persist into the weekend and into the next week,” said Jessica Kielhorn, a meteorologist with the Reno-based National Weather Service.
She predicted one to three inches in the high country above 8,000 feet.
The next real chance of moisture is a week and a half out, somewhere around Oct. 20, she said.
“You might get some cooling and clouds around that time, but it won’t be a big system,” she said.
After that, another high-pressure ridge is expected to build up and beyond that, it’s too soon to tell, she said.
As for this coming winter, that’s where things get a bit difficult, said meteorologist Mark Deutschendorf, of the Reno-based weather service.
That’s because it’s still early in the year, and, as of this time, an expected moderate El Niño is looking more like it will be a weak El Niño.
“It’s not the greatest chance for a great, wet, winter,” he said. “The confidence for you having a wet winter is not as high as it would be if it was a strong El Niño.”
That’s not exactly the news Eastern Sierrans want to hear after being burned by one of the driest winters on record last year.
But take heart, Deutschendorf said. First, El Niño could still strengthen later in the year and increase the chances of a wetter winter.
Second, all this said, probability numbers still favor a decent winter in the Sierra.
“You have a very good chance of having a 80 percent to 110 percent of normal winter,” he said.
El Niño is a phenomenon of warming ocean currents in the Pacific. The warmer currents feed thunderstorms above the ocean and tend to create warmer, wetter winters in parts of North America, including central and southern California.