Seasons dramatically changing at Tahoe


By Julia Prodis Sulek, San Jose Mercury News

TAHOE CITY — There’s something disconcerting about life at Lake Tahoe these days.

It’s still winter, but visitors are renting bikes instead of snowshoes and kayaks instead of skis. Come summer — without last-ditch torrential rains — the lake level is expected to be at such a historic low that some marinas will have to dredge for boats to launch. Jumping off the end of a pier could result in a rock-hard landing.

California’s epic drought, entering its perilous fourth year, has combined with a pattern of warming temperatures to cast a “Twilight Zone” quality on one of the state’s most popular winter destinations and iconic landmarks.

“It’s bizarre what people are doing now. It’s so out of season,” said Geoffrey Schladow, director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center and a UC Davis professor. “Years like this are going to become more common.”

In many ways, Lake Tahoe is California’s canary in the coal mine — at 6,200 feet. While our weather can quickly swing from one extreme to the other, the twin realities of the current relentless drought and steady warming over the past century are converging to create a remarkably different experience at the venerable — and vulnerable — lake. Everyone, from environmental agencies to businesses to tourists, is scrambling to adapt.

Long-term predictions by Lake Tahoe scientists warn that by the end of the century, summers could be two months longer and temperatures 8 degrees hotter than when Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. The dire effects of climate change present daunting challenges to local government officials, who have been patting themselves on the back for their efforts to Keep Tahoe Blue and reverse some of the damage caused by rampant lakeside development in the 1960s and ’70s.

But there’s nothing they can do to guarantee winter.

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Comments (25)
  1. business owner says - Posted: March 16, 2015

    Didn’t Boston have record snow? And what happened to all the hurricanes. I know, I know, we will just give someone smarter than us a bunch of money…that’ll learn em.

  2. About time says - Posted: March 16, 2015

    Didn’t we have 800 inches of snow four years ago, and 1997 93 82 71 59. But listen to the news and sell your snow blower

  3. Dogula says - Posted: March 16, 2015

    The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

  4. Tomas R Ca. says - Posted: March 16, 2015

    Too bad the previous pepole who commented don’t have a clue. For instance record snow in the East and drought in the west is climate change. More hurricanes or less equal climate change.

  5. Tahoereader says - Posted: March 16, 2015

    Two month shorter winter is catastrophic economically for skiing in Tahoe and devastating for life in California that depends on that snow. There are blips but the trends are clear. No exclamation points needed. The data is scary enough.

  6. Toxic Warrior says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    “The dire effects of climate change present daunting challenges to local government officials, who have been patting themselves on the back for their efforts to Keep Tahoe Blue”

    Oh Gosh, does that mean they’ll need to again enhance their environmental government agencies in size to combat this horrible revelation ?

  7. legal beagle says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    Julia Suckup should be ashamed of itself. So should Jeff Shallow, chief political scientist for the region.
    Until they explain the large trees at the bottom of Fallen Leaf Lake they are human caused global warming scaremongers. I know AGW wasn’t mentioned in the Mercury News as this last winter was so cold and wet back east but then again natural climate variation wasn’t brought up. If they would clearly state climate variation has been with the earth since inception without man’s intervention their credibility as soothsayers would rise. Trends tend to last for decades and centuries and millenniums, such as the little ice age in Europe around 400 years ago.
    Most of us like consistency and resent change but nature is overwhelmingly in control so we have to except it whether we like it or not and adapt.

  8. About time says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    I remember in 1987 heavenly giving a free cocoa for patrons that trekked over to nevada side on a dirt path, in the middle of winter. Weather and climate is a big swirly. Or a game of duck duck goose. Your it Boston! The lake looked as low as it does does now, they said twenty years of normal snow to get back to the rim. Guess what next year it was full.

  9. Atomic says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    Its all about the RATE of change guys. Yes, the climate fluctuates, but according to the best available data, the RATE of change is unprecedented.

    If your doctor tells you to take your medicine or die, you likely will take your medicine.

    Are you scientifically literate enough to understand the water quality report given by your local municipality? Not likely, but you drink the water as it it deemed safe based on the best scientific data available.

    In essence, you trust the scientists of the world to provide you all the comforts and conveniences . Yet you cherry pick from your armchair as to what FEELS right to you, based on some rambling, grumbling notion that since it has happened before it MUST be for the same reasons. Pluck the low fruit at your peril.

    Science isn’t a game. It’s not a TV show, or a half baked report on some fake news show whose sole purpose is to sell ad time. All the kooks on this forum act like the only thing that the ENTIRE worlds climate scientists care about is funding their next bamboozling scheme to blame humans for climate change. That’s the best you’ve got? A big conspiracy? Got it. Next!

  10. ljames says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    It’s still apparent that most people can’t differentiate between weather and climate. (BTW, since someone brought up the good old days, if not for a last minute snowstorm, the 1960 Olympics, held in mid Feb- would have been toast)

    What a global warming scenario would predict for Tahoe is less snow (from warmer average temperatures and then higher snow levels, not necessarily less precipitation. Less precipitation, as in outright drought, even if it lasted 10-20 years, would still be weather and withing the range of average. Even for the 150 years we have records, total snowfall at Donner for example as been as low as 16-18 feet for periods of 5 out of 8 years (in the 1920s for example), and as high as 65 feet!! So snow fall is pretty variable, but the long term trend is that more and more precip is coming as rain. That doesnt mean drought cycles are not still out there, and clearly what we have had for much of the last few years is very little precip – rain or snow. Variations in weather will always mask climate change and allow people to argue till they turn blue. And yes, trees below the waterline are evidence of longer weather patterns, such as prolonged lack of precip, that is approachs and aspect of climate.

    But what does it matter for the most part that the climate has changed in the past not the result of humans. That doesnt speak one bit to whether it could be changing due to human activity the last hundred years, nor does it speak to the disruptive effects of it changing no matter what the cause and how totally catastrophic and destabilize that would be to multiple countries. But when people start spewing all their conspiracy and hoax hysteria and show an understanding of the environment that is barely above the ancient Greek and Romans, I start to think that we are a species not much worth worrying about!

  11. Cranky Gerald says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    Well summarized ljames

    I think there are some people above in earlier comments who just like to argue, which gets us nowhere.

    Too many people think the weather outside their front window is significant of something. Small minds cannot sometimes make the leap to the larger reality despite evidence in front of their faces.

  12. duke of prunes says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    ‘The sky is falling! The sky is falling!’

    How old is the earth?

  13. About time says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    6000 thousand years life as we know it 4300 what’s the oldest living thing on earth, go to white pine mountains east of bishop all the cards fall right in place based on facts, prove something else!!! By a fact not theory or coal or radio carbon dating which is not a fact.

  14. Sam says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    Only in Tahoe folks.

  15. Justice says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    Those submerged trees are a lesson in the reality of long term drought now combined with massive over population using water that was deposited eons ago that is disappearing and not coming back any time soon. These trees should be listened to instead of agenda driven leftists posing as scientists and their politicians who keep looking for another reason to tax and take and regulate under the guise of the environment. Maybe Moonbeam can appoint Al Gore soon and have him think up a new scheme and a new company to start promising water by towing ice burgs in from Iceland.

  16. duke of prunes says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    ‘These trees should be listened to instead of ‘
    You aren’t trying to move the goal posts, are you? Or cherry pick…

    about time: What about petrified trees and fossils?

  17. nature bats last says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    Justanass bla bla bla rant lie bla bla bla

  18. Justice says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    After years of study, Al Gore is either petrified or a rare living fossil, there is no scientific doubt about it, and he is busy creating massive amounts of globally warmed air and thankfully the planet warmed enough a few thousand years ago to grow crops after the little ice age that followed the big one.

  19. duke of prunes says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    Read justasses comments in a south park parody terrorist voice, replace some nouns with ‘infidels’ and they are much better.

  20. Rick says - Posted: March 17, 2015

    Duke, please, I just wasted some really good beer (Lost Abbey Inferno Ale) by snorting it through my nose reading your post. Priceless. Rick

  21. nature bats last says - Posted: March 18, 2015

    Duke, your too funny….

  22. Blue Jeans says - Posted: March 18, 2015

    Yes, the climate at Tahoe has changed dramatically and will, unfortunately, continue to do so. Heavenly seems to be responding to this by turning the mountain into a year-round zoo of infrastructure and activity. As usual, the outcome of our overuse of our environment is “remedied” by more overuse of our environment.

  23. Gaspen Aspen says - Posted: March 18, 2015

    Big gut Gore is known to be one of the biggest consumer’s of our resources. He’s a hypocrite to say the least. Not sure, but I don’t think Tahoe saw a dime of the 2 million he and his clown promised.

  24. rock4tahoe says - Posted: March 21, 2015

    In 1616, Galileo, the Father of modern Science, went before the Inquisition in Rome to defend the Copernican theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Of course Galileo was found guilty by the Inquisition of heresy and was forced to curse his “opinions” and was placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

    And the attack on Science continues today.

  25. rock4tahoe says - Posted: March 22, 2015

    Beagle. The trees in Fallen Leaf Lake grew during the period known as the Medieval Warming Period, from 950 to 1250 A.D. During the Medieval Warming Period, global temperatures rose by about 1 degree Celsius and even more in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Scientific studies of the period show an increase in Solar activity, less land based Volcanic ash produced and a change in the North Atlantic Oscillation caused warmer air in Europe and in the Northern Hemisphere in general.

    It should be noted that many of the Native Americans that had settled in Western North America were forced to move during the same period due to very long term drought conditions.