Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

Santa points the way to snow gear at Totem Market in Three Rivers in anticipation of a white Christmas in the nearby mountains.

White Christmas forecast for local mountains

John Elliott


Although the early December rains brought some needed relief to all of California — to borrow a colloquialism with local meaning: we are not out of the woods just yet. That's because one model is showing an extended cold, dry period for the start of the new year.
Translation: weather forecasters don’t have a clue what to expect for January and the first quarter of 2019. What is certain is that the entire Pacific Ocean is warming, not just the eastern equatorial region that is usually a table-setter for a strong El Nino. 
Dominating the online discussion lately among climatologists is a split in the polar vortex. That phenomenon can translate into extended cold weather with lots of snow but only for a few select regions. It’s too early to tell where this weather might occur and how extensive the pattern might be. 
What comes as no surprise to most weather watchers is that even if there is a bona fide El Nino, it is unlikely that it will be strong enough this winter to have much effect on California. In Kaweah Country, the local weather appears once again to be stuck in the middle of the warmer temperatures to the south and cooler conditions to the north.
There is a 50 percent chance of snow and rain on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. There will be more of the new white stuff in the nearby mountains for those willing to venture above 6,000 feet and that means chains will be required — and lots of tire chain business for the half-dozen local suppliers.
That shouldn’t be a problem for Santa and his reindeer. He’s spent all this week reconnoitering Three Rivers in case rooftops are slick and chimneys are hot. 
Santa did notice that some residences have yet to install a reflective address sign (available at the local county fire station). In case you know someone who doesn’t have the distinctive blue sign, they make great gifts.   
The Winter Solstice arrives at 2:23 pm today (Friday, Dec. 21). This shortest day and longest night of the year is particularly special this year as the upcoming December full moon, named the Cold Moon, will be visible in the night sky along with the Ursid meteor shower.
And if you've been dreaming of a wet Christmas, your dream will probably come true. There will be a significant temperature drop too, meaning any moisture will fall as snow in the nearby mountains.