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Sierra Nevada Snowpack Levels at 500-Year Low

winnemucca lake sierra nevada - wikipedia

A recent study concludes that the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains is the lowest it has been in 500 years.

The study released this week by Nature Climate Change said that the mountains were estimated to have their lowest snow levels in centuries. On April 1st, the Sierra Nevada mountains averaged about five percent of their typical snowfall average, and many ski resorts, particularly those in and around Lake Tahoe, were forced to shutter early due to the extreme lack of snowfall. Not only was this winter far below average in terms of snowfall, but the last four years have been far below average rainfall-wise in the Golden State, with rainfall in both Los Angeles and San Francisco running half or lower than average over the lengthy time frame.

The study primarily blamed global warming for the severity of the snowfall shortage.

“With anthropogenic warming, those high temperatures are going to be rising,” senior study author Valerie Trouet said. “We can assume that the return interval is going to get shorter.”

Snow melt from the Sierra Nevada mountains accounts for about a third of California’s drinking water, and the lack of snowfall this winter is causing massive shortages, forcing mandatory, state-wide water restrictions. In April, California Governor Jerry Brown made a dramatic announcement ordering mandatory water restrictions while standing on a patch of mountain land that would normally be covered in feet of snow.

There is, however, potential relief in store for the drought-stricken region in the form of likely continued El Nino conditions, which make a wetter-than-average season more likely for California. However, El Nino strengthens the subtropical jet stream, which means warmer-than-average conditions are also more likely for the region, which could have a net zero impact on overall snowfall across the mountain chain while potentially increasing rainfall totals for southern California.

For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Chris Bianchi – Photo: Wikipedia

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