A remarkable thing happened on Mount Shasta in the year of our Lord 2022. Despite the drought conditions, it somehow managed to snow on Mount Shasta every single month of the year. The fact that snow fell in the fall, winter and spring months is not unusual. Snow falling during a summer month isn’t even that odd, though it is rare. However, new snow covering the mountain (at least its upper flanks) in each of June, July, August and September is exceptional. In the 15 years I have lived at the foot of Mount Shasta, I can’t remember seeing this happen. I would be curious if anyone remembers this happening at some point in the past.
The really strange thing, aside from the thing itself, is the rhythm with which the snow has fallen on the mountain. The truth is, this was not a good year for snow. Most of the the snowpack we had fell in December of 2021. It was deep and produced a good bed for the rest of the year. It snowed 5 days into January of 2022 and then the storm stopped and things really dried up. Oddly enough, February, normally among the wettest months of the year, we got only the lightest of dustings of snow on Mount Shasta. Still, there was fresh snow on the mountain. It almost doesn’t count but fresh snow was present. Late March saw a decent storm but short in duration and didn’t leave a deep snowpack. By the time we reached the end of March, it was discouraging how dry the three typically wet months had been. The heart of the winter was behind us and we were still waiting for winter!
While the first three months of the year were strange for the paucity of snow, the next few months were strange in their own way. April brought one brief snow at lower elevations but lots of rain. That rain, naturally, turned into snow at higher elevations. For a short window, it snowed enough to make it feel like midwinter again. May continued the trend, bringing more rain at the lower elevations and snow at the upper elevations. It rained on Memorial Day weekend, which began a remarkable run of wet weather.
In June, it rained nearly every weekend. Storm after storm rolled through the area, raining on the weekends and leaving fresh snow on Mount Shasta. Indeed, strange as it is to say, far more snow fell on the mountain in June than it received in February. This pattern continued into July, storming on 4th of July weekend and fresh snow, once again falling on the mountain’s upper elevations. At least it was cool during the 4th of July Run! During this stretch of wet weekends, it rained 5 out of 6 consecutive weekends from Memorial Day weekend to the 4th of July weekend. Only one weekend saw no precipitation. Nearly every single one of these weekend storms left a little snow on Mount Shasta’s upper flanks. Not only did the fresh snow give the mountain a more wintery appearance in June, the cooler weather help stretch the December snowpack just a little further into the hot summer.
August arrived and I assumed, justifiably, that there would be no new snow on Mount Shasta. Yet, defying expectations, a powerful thunderstorm hit at the beginning of the month and, shockingly, it left a light layer of snow on the highest 3,000 feet on the mountain. I was stunned while driving to a Boy Scout meeting during the deluge and seeing the clouds part enough to see the mountain and its new snow.
When September arrived, I had a suspicion that it would snow, as we often have some light dustings on the mountain by the end of the month. However, I had not anticipated the copious snow that would fall at the end of the month. Rather than a dusting, it was a full winter storm! This storm could not have come at a better time, as it put the kibosh on the fires that were still smoldering in Weed and the Little Scott Mountains. It was a striking thing to go from 100 degrees and watching the fires being fought in difficult conditions to snow within just a few days. This was, of course, indicative of how unpredictable the weather has been all year long.
Of course, October, normally a reliable snow month, almost slipped by without any snow. It was also quite warm through the whole month. It was a great time to be outside but I was secretly hoping we would get precipitation. I was starting to get a little concerned but, finally, at the end of the month a small storm passed through and left snow on the mountain.
What was surprising was that on Nov 1st, the snow arrived in force. It began snowing the first day of the month. However, after a few days it tapered off before another wave hit. To say we were unprepared for this amount of snow this early in the month is an understatement. Even the trees, which had not yet shed their leaves, were unprepared and there were broken limbs everywhere. It was quite a storm!
Though the storms continued through November, they came with renewed vigor in December. Near the middle of the month, another big storm hit the area and the snow was definitely “Sierra cement”. This is heavy, sloppy, high water content snow. That is perfect for a drought-stricken area. It’s also a blast to clear. December hasn’t let up either. After the snow came freezing fog, which left magnificent rime ice displays. Though we had more snow, it finally transitioned to rain and poured from the sky in great amounts, filling the dry Shasta Valley with great reflection pools. It was marvelous!
All in all, a great, albeit strange, year. The current winter weather pattern leave the year on an optimistic note.
Mount Shasta snow every month of 2022 (click to enlarge):
May the Lord bless us with more rain and snow all winter long and into the spring!