Tamarack CA snow depth record of 454 inches

100 years ago Tamarack CA (6913 ft) reported a US record snow depth of 454 inches on 10 March 1911.  They also reported a seasonal snowfall total of 767 inches that year.

Fast forward 100 years and 9 days to 19 March 2011 at Squaw Valley CA, about 40 miles N of Tamarack.  At 8200 ft they report a snow depth of 190 inches with 552 inches of snowfall to date.  Squaw Valley’s snow report obeys a rough rule of thumb which says the peak snow depth is usually about 3 times the seasonal snowfall, in this case 552 / 190 = 2.9  This relationship holds fairly well at Paradise Mt Rainier where 692 inches of mean annual snowfall produces a  mean snow depth of 181 inches on 1 April: 692 / 181 = 3.8.  If you used the peak snow depth, typically around 10 April, this number (3.8) would be a little lower.

The record snow depth in the state of Washington is 367 inches on 10 March 1956 at Paradise Mt Rainier.  The snowfall that winter was 1000 inches.  Using the rule of thumb we come up with an estimated peak snow depth of 333 inches…not too bad.

Now let’s apply this to Tamarack CA in 1911: 767 / 3 = 256 inches of estimated snow depth.  The difference between the estimated peak snow depth of about 256 inches vs the reported snow depth of 454 inches is a whopping 198 inches!  Does anyone have any idea how reliable the report from Tamarack CA might be?  At least for now I remain somewhat skeptical of the reported depth of 454 inches.

The second greatest snow depth in CA that I’m aware of is the 331 inches measured at Lake Helen (8200 ft) near Lassen Peak on 31 March 1983 during a routine snow survey.

Just last month on 26 March 2011 Alpine Meadows CA (west of Lake Tahoe) on the “upper mountain” reported a snow depth of 315 inches .  Today on 13 April 2011 they are still reporting 267 inches.

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5 Responses to Tamarack CA snow depth record of 454 inches

  1. md says:

    Very interesting observation: using the seasonal snowfall to estimate the maximum seasonal depth. I know that the record has been accepted by the National Climate Extremes Committee. Have you looked at the daily records? I know NCDC used to have them online for free but now you have to pay for them.

  2. md says:

    also I think the record is 451 inches.

  3. Ben Jones says:

    I’ve always wondered about that record. Just recently I’ve found a site where you can access most weather station’s data for free (http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/) and looked up Tamarack’s data for that season. The monthly reports for January that year indicate 394 inches fell, but it looks like they just estimated either snowfall amounts or SWE amounts since they correspond all too well. Plus, February only had 13 inches and March only had 73 with no reported depth according to this account. I’m guessing it’s not accurate, but here’s the link if anyone wants to see it:

    Click to access 18062.pdf

  4. Edward N. Ajlouny says:

    Tamarack is a great topic guys. I’ve always wondered how a 451″ depth is even possible, but I think it is (38 feet!). At least pretty close, plus or minus a few feet. I just learned today the actual location of the Tamarack Station as of 1911. It’s not where you think it was…

    Thanks to the NCDC opening up all their COOP station data sheets, we now know, sort of. In the October 1903 data sheet, on the first page of the Observer’s records, a Mr. W. Bennett says his station is “upon the summit about 22 miles (or 2.2?) from Woodfords.” You be the judge if its 22 or 2.2 miles, is hard to tell. I have been to Woodfords and areas west of there, 2.2 miles is too close to the Eastern boundary of the Sierras to get incredible totals we’ve read about.

    I at first doubted the accuracy of the North American record snow depth, but I figure when snow is over 20 feet deep (or over 10 for that matter), does as few feet really matter? Not really. And imagine how difficult a time the observer, even if conscientious, would have in stepping out in 30 plus feet of snow, in the middle of an Alpine Icebox, and get an accurate reading. I commend him just for trying. . . Interestingly, a station called Summit, also in the high Sierras, had around a 320″ snow depth the same Winter when Tamarack’s record was set. Some corroboration.
    Ed A.

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