“The snow icon?” “In Berkeley?” asks Berkeleysider Emily Cohen as she checks the weather forecast on her cell phone (above).

Think it’s really going to happen? If so, will it be limited to the hills, or might we see some white stuff on the flats? If there’s anyone who remembers significant snowfall in Berkeley, let us know — better still send in photos.

Update, 10:22: OK. The data is already coming in. Thanks to Dave Gilson, who points us to a rather wonderful 1905 pamphlet titled “Berkeley — California: A City of Homes“, we know now that at that time there had only been four “slight falls of snow in 28 years, each one barely covering the ground and remaining only a few hours”. (We also learn that homes could be bought for $1,500-$10,000 and that “the moral cleanliness of the city is one of its most characteristic features”.

Update, 02.26.11: As we write this on Saturday afternoon, a day for which snow was forecast, it looks like it may be a case of the snow that never was. So let’s reminisce. Berkeleysider Richard Corten sent in the captioned photos below of the “snows of yesteryear”:

Early February, 1976, in North Berkeley at slightly above 500 feet from sea level: John Corten, age right around 2, watched the first snow of his life fall on his deck — and mostly melt. Higher up, the hills were blanketed. (Photo by Peg Skorpinski, his mom)
December, 2008: Mocha Chip Corten tracked frozen scents along the paved road up Vollmer Peak (elevation 1,761 feet at the top) in Tilden Park (above the Golden Gate Live Steamers, alias the Little Train) during her second full-scale exposure to snow. The first time, years earlier (not shown), she chewed through a leash in a trice and took off for an utterly madcap gambol in the bizarre stuff. (Photos by Dick Corten, John’s dad and Mocha’s slave)

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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  1. For reference, $10,000 in 1913 (the oldest date in the BLS’s CPI Inflation Calculator) has the same buying power as $222,447.47 in 2011, so housing prices in Berkeley have far outpaced inflation across the Consumer Price Index.

    USATODAY.com has two tables showing standard atmosphere calculations of temperature, pressure and density at various altitudes. I’m guessing that these assume there is no influence on temperature from nearby land masses, i.e., you can’t use them to determine the temperature at 10,000 ft. in the Sierras because what you feel there is significantly affected by the earth’s heat.

  2. Meteorology 101 (simplified): Snow forms *in* clouds. As moisture in the clouds starts to freeze, we get the crystal structures we call snowflakes. If it’s not freezing in the clouds, moisture starts to collect into droplets that eventually become large enough that upcurrents in the clouds can no longer keep them aloft, and raidrops are the results. If the raindrops meet freezing temperatures on their way down, they can freeze and turn into hail.

    Generally, the temperature increases as altitude increases (Google “atmosphere temperature” for many graphs), so snow can form in clouds even when it is above freezing at ground level. This is why many of the forecasts for this weekend say it is unlikely to have much snow accumulation. But, up on Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Diablo, or even the Berkeley hills, the temperature may be low enough for snow to accumulate (here’s some photos I took on Mt. Diablo last Sunday: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leetramp/sets/72157626135375552/)

  3. It does not snow at 46º or 36º, That is called freezing rain. It snows at 32º and sticks when the ground is colder than that. As much as I would like snow, it’s just not cold enough for it to leave much of a mark.

  4. I’d worked the graveyard shift at my Chevron Research Nylon-4 Pilot Plant, then went to the dentist in San Francisco. Driving back on the Bay Bridge I saw snow on the hills and realized I’d worked so many hours I was seeing things.

    Then realized I really was seeing snow!

  5. I vividly remember the “snowstorm” of 1976. My daughter was 2 and my son was 5. They both ran outside to our patio, threw themselves face-down on the snow and began eating “the white stuff!” When I tried to drive up Marin, I was told to return home by a police officer who suggested that it was too dangerous to drive. He was “sanding the road,” holding a child’s bucket in one hand while using his other hand to fling handfuls of sand onto the street! As someone who had lived in New York, Michigan and Wisconsin, I laughed at his advice and safely (and carefully) drove up the hill in the middle of the 2 inches of snow!!!

  6. Many thanks for posting the pamphlet from 1905. A few of the buildings are still with us, and how much fun it was to read about our city “back then”.