Snowpack in the Sierra Gets a Boost in March, Still Well Below Average
It might not have been a “miracle” March but the Sierra Nevada still saw a much needed boost in seasonal snowpack over the past month.
Total snowpack increased by 10% since the end of February, from 43% to 53% of the April 1st average. The latest data from the California Department of Water Resources show the Southern Sierra is the lowest compared to average, at 45% of normal, with the Central and Northern mountains both at 56% of normal.
The season got off to a fast start before a record dry February. On January 1st, the snowpack measured in at 92% of the April 1st average, however, that number dropped to 69% by February 1st and took a massive dive thereafter.
What a difference a year makes! Approximately one year ago the Sierra snowpack averaged 161 percent of normal. As of today, the Sierra snowpack is only averaging 53 percent of normal.#cawx pic.twitter.com/VxqFx8ntTc
— NWS Hanford (@NWSHanford) March 30, 2020
This is a drastic change from the same time last year, when the statewide snowpack measured in at a whopping 161% of normal. A nearly continuous stream of atmospheric river storms in March of 2019 helped to build the massive snowpack, which broke records at some reporting stations.
The latest data come from March 30th, so the numbers may still change slightly when they are updated with information from April 1st. The date is an important one, since it’s when snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is typically at its peak, though that may not be the case this year (see below).
Runoff from the snowpack feeds the state’s reservoirs, which are hovering between 76% and 125% of normal capacity for this time of year. A lack of water in the reservoirs has lead to water restrictions in the past.
The drier than average conditions can also lead to an increased risk of wildfires later in the year. Most of the state is experiencing abnormally dry or slight drought conditions.
Snowpack in the Golden State may still see numbers increase through the first ten days of April. A slow moving storm system is expected to move into California this weekend and a cooler and wetter than average pattern is being favored by the Climate Prediction Center from April 6th through the 10th.
Additional information about California’s snowpack, reservoirs, and stream flow forecasts can be found here.