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Substantial Increase in California Snow Pack

10 Feb 2017, 3:52 pm

The California Department of Water Resources last week released its manual snow survey for this winter in the Sierra Nevada range. They found a significant jump from January with an increase of nearly 6″ of water equivalent at the Phillips station.

The Phillips snow course, which is near the intersection of Highway 50 and Sierra-at-Tahoe Road, is one of hundreds that will be surveyed manually throughout the winter. Manual measurements augment the electronic readings from more than 100 sensors in the state’s mountains that provide a current snapshot of the water content in the snowpack.

The release says, “More telling than a survey at a single location, however, are DWR’s electronic readings today from 101 stations scattered throughout the Sierra Nevada. Statewide, the snowpack holds 31 inches of water equivalent, or 173 percent of the February 2 average (18.1 inches). On January 1 before a series of January storms, the snow water equivalent (SWE) of the statewide snowpack was 6.5 inches, just 64 percent of the New Year’s Day average.”

Snow water equivalence is the depth of water that theoretically would result if the entire snowpack melted instantaneously. That measurement is more important than depth in evaluating the status of the snowpack. On average, the snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer.

The first four months of Water Year 2017 (October 1 to today) were wet due to atmospheric river storms and rainfall from lesser storms that drenched the state. All three regions monitored continuously for their rainfall had recorded more by January 23 than their annual averages for the entire water year, which runs from October 1 through September 30.

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, conducted today’s survey at Phillips and reported that “we’ve got a very good snowpack, a very robust snowpack on the ground right now.”

For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Mace Michaels

One response to “Substantial Increase in California Snow Pack

  1. Friends and I were in Yosemite last Friday. Between the rain and fog there were only a few places we could see the landscape all the way to the sky. An amazing amount of water was coming out of the “clouds” and down the mountains. Not your typical expectations of Yosemite at all. Disappointed. Not at all. It was a ?mystical? ?magical? something wonderful experience. And it is great that CA is getting the water.

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