Q: Why Don't We Receive Snow in the Inland Valleys of the Central Coast?
Salinas Snowfall (February 2011)
A: Our KION Question came from Melissa in Salinas, asking "Why don't we get snow in the inland valleys on the Central Coast?"
Central Coast News Chief Meteorologist Norm Hoffmann has the answer:
The quick answer is because of our proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Because of the atmospheric circulations, the ocean keeps us cool in the Summer, but relatively warmer in the winter. Most of our colder storm systems come from the Gulf of Alaska, not Canada where the air is much colder. When we do get an arctic outbreak (of cold air) down the west coast, generally the air at some point passes over the Pacific Ocean the ocean warms up the air, this is also where it picks up moisture (from the ocean).
In the Mid West and East generally the moisture comes from the south, the Gulf of Mexico or the Southeast, the Atlantic and the cold air comes from Canada and gets warmed very little by the cold ground. When they mix it up just right they can get quite a snow storm and this usually happens a lot in the east. That as apposed to us here on the Central Coast where cold air can come from the north, but there is large moisture source and generally the air only briefly passes over the Pacific Ocean and the moisture is very limited.
On the right side of this article, you'll see two photos. One taken just out of Hollister back in 1964 when they received 3 inches of snow (a rare occurrence) and the other is from Salinas (one of our viewers sent in) last February when we also received a little snowfall.
So, we do receive snow on a rare occasion, but the conditions have to be just right. Of course we do not receive snow like they see in the mountains or the Eastern U.S. because the climatic conditions are different because we are so close to the Pacific Ocean and that is where most of our storms come from.