It’s not a game show, but maybe it should be. As I mentioned in the previous blog, early March is a snowpack gamble. Will our 65% of normal snowpack measured by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on March 1st at Mt Rose be the best measurement all year? Or will it be a Miracle March?
Miracle March was coined in March 1991. It was a drought – the worst since the Dust Bowl. Lake Tahoe was at its lowest recorded levels and the area experiencing its lowest snow year on record. But on March 1st, it started snowing and it didn’t stop until about 20-feet of snow was recorded near the end of the month. The area’s snowpack went from 15% to 73% of normal. Unfortunately, my google search for photos of this event was not fruitful, but here are a few headlines from the Tahoe Daily Tribune:
- “Mother Nature Throws Resorts a Life Preserver,” March 8, 1991
- “Snow Keeps Falling, Resorts Celebrate,” March 13, 1991
- “It Just Keeps Dumping,” March 22, 1991
If early March is a snowpack gamble… do we place bets on Miracle March happening now? The graph below shows snowfall during the month of March each year between 1970 and 2018. The red circles are Miracle Marches, where snowfall was very much above normal (the red line). Based on the graph, it looks like Miracle March happens every 5-10 years and the last one was in 2011. So it should happen any year now, right?
In fact, it might have happened last year, according to the Weather Channel Winter Safety and Preparedness statement from March 18, 2020 (shown below). But, I have looked at many reports and no can seem to agree. After all, there are no “hard and fast” criteria to delineate a Miracle March from an Ordinary March. Once thing for certain – as each day goes by, the probability goes down. Summer is coming. Our 65% of normal snowpack might just be the highest number we measure all year. As mentioned in the previous blog, however, there is plenty of water despite below low snowpack.
We’ll revisit Miracle March a few more times before the end of this month. In the meantime, think about how we go from snowpack to tap.