In my previous posts, I sounded excited about getting a lot of snow…. well I thought we had a lot of snow at that time. It’s nothing compared to what we recieved this weekend. Friday’s snowstorm landed the biggest single-day’s worth of snow that any of us have ever seen. In the evening, when the weather began to taper, Greg Roberts and Scott Noblitt, with the help of the owner of the very cool lodge they are staying at up here in the backcountry, were able to access the site via snowmobile to ensure that none of our equipment was damaged by the unreliable electric service during the storm. When Jack, Jessie, and I arrived in the morning, we were greeted with more than 3.5 feet of new snow (on top of the 1 foot we had remaining from the previous storm). If you have trouble grasping how much this really is… trust me, I’m still trying and I’m in the middle of it… here’s a picture of Jessie (about 5′ 5″ tall) clearing snow off to top of NOAA’s box trailer. Remember, all of that fell in ONE DAY.
Jessie Creamean posing for a photo while clearing snow from the top of the NOAA trailer at Sugar Pine Dam after the storm on 2/25/11.
According to meteorological data, this past storm may have been associated with Atmospheric River conditions, a notion that jives well with the heavy precipitation we received here in the Sierra in a short amount of time. These kinds of conditions, where water vapor is transported directly from the tropics to the western margin of North America, have been responsible for some of the heaviest rain and snowfall on record for this region. The band of water vapor that hit the coast here on Friday moved southward to the San Diego area on Saturday, giving our friends back home a good soaking.
In terms of aerosol science, it was great to have this second storm a week after the first one: we collected some great snow samples and were able to look for reproducible conditions surrounding the two storms. We’re collecting lots of nice data up here, and we’re all confident that we’ll learn a lot from our observations thus far. We’re just about 10 days or so from the end of the intensive sampling campaign. We’re looking to finish strong… I got word today that there are plans to do lots of flights over Sugar Pine Dam in the G1. I still haven’t had the opportunity to spot them by eye over the site (every time I’ve been available to look, it’s been cloudy).
We saw this message on a motorist alert sign on I-80 today heading in the direction of Donner Pass… it seemed appropriate for the situation. This weekend we had 3+ feet of snow dumped on the field site at Sugar Pine Dam. Things got more interesting with electric service becoming as unpredictable as the weather. Once we finally felt settled and stabilized our research payload, the Sugar Pine crew got a little snow-related activity in this weekend.
A view from the Humbug Loop in the China Wall area of Tahoe National Forest
It’s a very good thing we decided to rent those snowshoes… we simply would not have made it down the access road without them. Knee-to-hip high snow was the norm for the ensuing 2 days… and wouldn’t you know it, we needed to transport some urgently needed (and very heavy) equipment to the site. We decided a ski-patrol/mountain rescue procedure was in order — though we used a slightly lower-tech approach…
Jack and Doug utilize a mountain rescue technique to bring important supplies to the Prather Group's Portable Aerosol Observatory while it's under 3+ feet of snow.
Science-wise, we’ve all been very interested in the preliminary results at Sugar Pine. It looks like we’ll be able to present some very interesting findings once we all get our data processed and compared. It’s great to have multiple views of the conditions at our site, with Greg Roberts and Scott Noblitt joining us this year on a day-to-day basis.
Well… actually, it’s a lot colder than it was, but who’s counting. We now have some snow at Sugar Pine Dam — about 2-3 inches. We had to come up early today to get our communications back on line, as snow and satellite uplinks don’t mix well. It’s a good thing we have a substantial 4×4 vehicle. There was a stuck pickup truck on the access road to Sugar Pine Dam… at least it was less serious than when we came upon an overturned Jeep during one of last year’s storms. I never thought we’d actually have to use the chains and the come-along winch we brought along…. this year we’ve managed to not need it (yet!!).
Sugar Pine Dam recieved about 2-3 inches of snow overnight 2/15-2/16.
Once we trudged our way into the site, by 4×4 and then by foot at the end, we were able get communications back up and running, check our instruments, bring in the collected slush from overnight for offline analysis, and relay some certainty of the conditions before the G1 aircraft flew over the site (and the rest of the central Sierra), about which I’m sure Kim will have much more to say. We heard them fly over us twice today… they were squarely in the thick cloud deck, but the G1’s twin turbo-prop was clearly audible. As I write to you now, the G1 is flying over the Donner Summit and Norden (home of the Central Sierra Snow Lab… and some really great skiing).
We’ve been very excited about our preliminary looks at data, and communicating lots with those back at the aircraft HQ at McClellan Airport. All of our measurements are up and running well at SPD… let’s hope it stays that way! Stay tuned….
Well, day 1 of Calwater has officially arrived. The airplane (the PNNL/DOE G1) came down from its home base in Richland, Washington and landed about 10:50 am this morning. There is a saying that if you ever want to clean up the air pollution, just schedule a field study. It is amazing how clear the air has become during some of our larger field campaigns. Well, I have another one–if you ever want to stop the rain and have beautiful clear skies, plan an aerosol-cloud-precipitation study. It is almost unbelievable. No bad weather in sight for maybe 2 weeks….good old La Nina that we were promised has finally kicked in. So, tomorrow we will do our first test flight–we’ll probably fly down through the pollution in the Central Valley. I’ll stay on the ground tomorrow and watch the flight data from the control room with the other scientists….I think I will give it few more days before going up myself. We had our first meeting, toured the G1 which is very nicely equipped, and then went out for a wonderful (very authentic) Thai dinner at a total hole in the wall place that we almost didn’t go into because it looked so rough from the outside (those are often the best spots!). Tomorrow morning we’ll have our safety briefing at 8 am and then start Day 2…Before I go to sleep, I’m going to pray to the rain Gods!!