During December 2002 a series of storms dropped large amounts of snow
on the northern Sierra Nevada and rain in Northern California’s lower
elevations. This image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
(MODIS) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite shows both the snow
around Lake Tahoe (right) and the rain-swollen Sacramento River (left). Up to 15 feet of
snow fell in some areas of the northern Sierras, with about 11 feet above
Lake Tahoe. Overall, precipitation (snowfall converted to an equivalent amount of rain)
in the area was more than 200 mm (8 inches) above normal in December.
The heavy snow may be the result of the current El Niño, which has moved
into a “mature phase” according to the the United State’s
Climate Prediction Center. Most of the southern United States are expected to remain
wetter than normal throughout the winter, while the northern US will be drier.