Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

Mono Basin Winter Update: January Thaw

WEATHER
Our weather has been warm and dry for the last week. This weather is expected to continue with highs reaching the mid-50s, lows in the 20s, and no precipitation in sight. The storms passing us by to the north are occasionally bringing us high winds, culminating in yesterday’s 48-mph gust in town. Poconip fog could return by the end of next week, with a very strong high pressure ridge and strong inversions keeping the lakeshore cold and foggy while the higher elevations bask in the sun.

Current weather in Lee Vining.

CLIMATE
Since October 1st, Lee Vining has had about 50% of average precipitation and is rapidly falling behind even that low figure as a dry January lingers on. December mean temperature was 29°F with a max of 62° and a low of 9°.  So far, the January mean temp has been 31°F with a max of 54° and a low of 13°.

ROADS
Winter closures are in effect: Hwy 4 (Ebbett’s Pass), 89 (Monitor Pass), 108 (Sonora Pass), 270 (to Bodie), 158 (the north end of the June Lake Loop), and 120 over Tioga Pass and to Benton remain closed for the winter. Most dirt roads on the floor of the Mono Basin had several inches of snow on them, however during warm days the snow is melting rapidly so more are becoming drivable each day.

See our road information page for a general summary of winter closures and links to Caltrans for current information.

MONO LAKE
Tours, brine shrimp, and most birds are gone for the season, but you can still visit the lake at Mono Lake County Park and Old Marina and South Tufa. See the live WebCam shot.

The Scenic Area Visitor Center is closed until April 1st, but the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore in Lee Vining is open 9-5 daily. Stop in to see our new exhibit screen showing photos of different lake levels!

Mono Lake is still dropping, with very low inflow and precipitation unable to keep up with low winter evaporation rates. The current water level is unknown until DWP installs a new lake level gauge, since it has dropped lower than zero on the gauge, but it is within a tenth of a foot of  6382.1 feet above sea level.

Peaks above Rush Creek and the June Lake Loop just after New Year's. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.
Peaks above Rush Creek and the June Lake Loop just after New Year's.

BIRDS
The usual winter birds are in their usual winter places. Check our bird sightings page for more. Posting sightings is temporarily disabled due to technical difficulties.

HIGH COUNTRY
The Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers report that there are still obstacles to avoid when skiing. Yesterday’s winds moved some snow–check the avalanche report before leaving ski area boundaries. June Mountain Ski Area is open. Check the ice climbing report for the latest ice conditions.

ASTRONOMICAL EVENTS
Last Sunday Earth reached perihelion, the closest it gets to the sun all year. Tomorrow (Saturday) at 7:27 pm the moon will be full–the largest, brightest full moon of 2009! See Spaceweather.com for news of these and other happenings in the Solar System.