The above-titled lecture was delivered by Chris Smallcomb, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, at the White Mountain Research Station in Bishop on Tuesday, October 24.
The lecture drew a crowd of 60 or so weather nerds.
Smallcomb, who is based out of the NWS Reno office, is a boyish looking 40, and likes to pepper his lectures with corny jokes. Tuesday’s crowd laughed at all of them.
So what’s in store for 2017-2018? The short answer is that Smallcomb, nor any other weather expert, has the slightest clue.
At one point, the “Godzilla El Niño” talk of two years ago was referenced as a recent and glaring example of what happens when people get caught up in predictions. For all the hype, snowpack totals that year ended up slightly below average.
Of course, the Atlanta Falcons were reported to have had more than a 99% chance of winning when they led 28-3 in last year’s Super Bowl. That didn’t turn out, either.
Last year’s precipitation forecast for the Sierra was “EC” or Equal Chance of above/below average precipitation.
As Smallcomb says, EC could just as easily stand for “Equally Clueless.”
He says that in reality, meteorologists can start predicting some weather events with a fair degree of accuracy at a maximum of three weeks in advance. “Atmospheric river” events? Maybe 5-10 days ahead.
If someone tells you where they believe the snow line will be for a particular storm, Smallcomb said the rule of thumb is to allow 500 feet in either direction.
This year is expected to be a weak La Niña year. Based on results plotted from previous weak La Niña years, Smallcomb says he leans toward an average to above-average year in terms of precipitation while acknowledging that he’s working with a limited data set.
Some other observations:
-A dry October has absolutely no predictive value in regard to what will happen this winter.
-The preponderance of yellow jackets this year has no predictive value either.
-Because most NWS staffers are taking vacations Thanksgiving week as well as the week before Christmas, expect significant weather events during those short-staffed weeks.
-There is a 100% chance of snow, rain, ice and wind this winter, and a 100% chance poor driving decisions will be made.
-There is an elevated chance of a fire event at the moment (until the first storm).
A sampling of last year’s highlights
-Bishop experienced a record number of days of 1” or more of precipitation. However, not a lot of it fell as snow, relatively speaking. In general, said Smallcomb, areas below 8,000 feet saw relatively little snowfall last year compared to other years with significant precipitation.
-Last year, we experienced 25-30 “atmospheric river” events. In a typical year, we may experience 5-10.
-Reno saw a record 15.95” of precipitation, besting its previous record by 3”. In an average year, Reno sees about 7” of precipitation.
-The water level at Lake Tahoe rose six feet as a result of last winter’s snowfall.
-This past summer was one of the hottest on record.
So a little background on the just-completed gas pumps project at Mammoth Chevron.
As Tom Cage explained at the October 18 Mammoth Lakes Lions luncheon, the project began about a year ago as a simple and isolated one: Get the pumps “chip-ready” for the new generation of credit cards.
The deadline for this upgrade, required by the major credit card-issuing companies, was set for October, 2017 but has since been extended until October, 2020.
According to an October, 2015 ABC News report, since 2005, when the U.K. switched to the EMV (aka new credit card chip technology) standard, counterfeit fraud has decreased 63 percent.
But in a classic case of, “Well, as long as you’re doing x, you might as well do y and z, too,” the project became more involved.
Chevron also ended up adding new in-system diagnostic monitors to measure possible fuels leaks if/when they arise, added new fuel dispensers and piping, installed new, larger underground storage tanks, and added significant diesel capacity.