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Late Winter Storms Boost Western Snowpack

California is still playing catch up, but several recent winter storms have added a cherry on top of the solid snowpack in the Western United States. Snowpack plays a number of important roles after the winter months, including provided water for drinking, agriculture, fire suppression, and recreation.

A multi-day rain and snow event pummeled California’s Sierra Nevada, with several feet of accumulation piling up over the first weekend in April. The wet storm then remained nearly stationary over the southern half of the state, where it continued to deliver heavy rain and high elevation snow through the following Friday.

The biggest changes to the snowpack were recorded over the Southern Sierra where liquid snow equivalent snowpack increased by 32%! The heavy accumulation even created some massive snow rollers. Percent of normal snowpack in the Southern Sierra jumped from 44% of normal on April 4th to 60% of normal on April 11th.

The recent accumulation has melted slightly in the days following the storm, but overall in the Sierra snowpack increased about 10%, compared to normal snowpack, from just the one storm system to 63%. For comparison, last year the Sierra snowpack measured in at 160% of normal, but in 2014, during California’s multi-year drought, snowpack on April 14th was 25% of normal.

The recent storm has left the Central Valley and surrounding areas greener and whiter, depending on elevation.

Colorado and the Rockies have also recently added to the already impressive snowpack out west, and even more is expected to pileup through Friday. Colorado’s snow water equivalent (SWE) is 90% of normal or above in 7 out of the 8 basins that are monitored. The lone basin below 90%, the Upper Rio Grande Valley, has 83% of its typical SWE.

Overall, snowpack across the West, especially in the Rockies, is near or above average for mid-April. The Sierra and Southern Cascades of Oregon are the exceptions, bewteen 60-75 % of normal to date. The mountains of Arizona and New Mexico however, remain well below average.

About the author

Rob grew up in South Florida, where daily afternoon storms and hurricanes piqued his interest in meteorology early on. That interest was fostered by his teachers and his father, who one time brought him onto the roof of their home to watch a funnel cloud move through the Everglades several miles away. ... Load MoreYears of filmmaking and tv production in high school gradually pushed him toward broadcast meteorology at Florida State University, where he joined and eventually led the student run daily weather show. After graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Meteorology, he began his career at KESQ in Palm Springs, California before heading to KFSN in Fresno and WLOS in Asheville, North Carolina. He has covered a diverse array of extreme weather events, including haboobs and flash flooding in the desert, extreme snow in the Sierra, hurricanes, and Appalachian ice storms. He also enjoys telling stories and reporting about weather issues. Connect with Rob on Twitter