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Happy winter solstice from Mono Lake

December 21st, 2017 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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As the Northern Hemisphere starts to tilt back toward the sun, we welcome more light, longer days, and a new season. Everything is beginning to slow down—streams that were raging with record flows this year are beginning to freeze, the aspens have lost their leaves and gone dormant, the thousands of birds that used the Mono Basin to breed or stage their migration have mostly left for warmer climes, and visitation to the Information Center & Bookstore has slowed with the closing of Tioga Pass last month.

The banks of Lee Vining Creek are just beginning to freeze. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Although things have slowed, the Mono Basin never ceases to amaze. We’ve already awoken to several days of poconip ice fog, which hangs over Mono Lake like a low-lying cloud and can cover everything with a thin layer of rime ice. The cold temperatures are even beginning to freeze some of the edges of Mono, where freshwater springs flow into the lake.

Poconip ice fog begins to lift on a chilly November morning. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

In terms of snow, we’ve only had a few flurries so far this season, but we’re all hoping to see a return of the atmospheric rivers like we saw last year, which dumped foot upon foot of much-needed mountain snow. Although we don’t know what’s in store for us this winter, here’s what’s possible for the lake: A dry winter, if it happens, would lead to a lake level drop of a foot or two. An average winter would add up to a foot. And another extremely wet winter? That could add another four to six feet, and push Mono Lake to its highest level since the State Water Board decision in 1994. Cross your fingers!

Thin ice on Mono Lake’s west shore. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

One thing we do know for sure is how nice it will be to have sun after 3:00pm in Lee Vining again. Happy winter solstice!

Ice is beginning to form in Mono Lake’s tributary streams. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

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