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California's Sierra Nevada Snowpack Reaches 173 Percent of Average

California's Sierra Nevada Snowpack Reaches 173 Percent of Average

SACRAMENTO, CA – Following weeks of rainy weather gracing the state of California, new measurements from the state’s Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) most recent survey shows all that extra wet stuff brought a significant increase in the state’s snowpack levels. As of the February 2 report, the snowpack statewide now holds 173 percent of the average for the type of year, now at 31 inches of the 18.1 inch water equivalent average.

Of course, this is good news to those involved with California ag who have been concerned with drought levels over the past through years.

Frank Gehrke, Chief, California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program. Photo via Lake Tahoe News and Kathryn Reed

Frank Gehrke, Chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program and conductor of the survey at Phillips, reported that “we’ve got a very good snowpack, a very robust snowpack on the ground right now.” According to a press release, on average, the snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer.

Scientists conductiong the snowpack survey

Some other highlights from DWR’s February 2 press release include:

  • Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada range has a snow water equivalence of 28.1 inches, up from its January 3 levels of 6 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
  • The northern Sierra snowpack is 26 inches, 144 percent of the multi-decade average for the date
  • The central and southern Sierra readings are 32 inches (173 percent of average) and 32 inches (200 percent of average) respectively
  • The San Joaquin Basin rainfall total today is 204 percent of average for the date
  • Tulare Basin rainfall is 207 percent of average for the date
  • Shasta Lake holds 114 percent of its historical average on today’s date
  • Lake Oroville holds 121 percent of its historical average today compared to just 68 percent one year ago

It should be made clear, however, that this spell of wet weather has not ended the drought. The DWR reinforced that California’s weather often fluctuates, and to not rely on just one season’s rain to pull us out of our persistent dryness.

Mike Anderson, State Climatologist, Department of Water Resources, California

“In the last 10 water years, eight have been dry, one wet, one average,” added State Climatologist Mike Anderson. “Hopefully this year will end up being wet, but we cannot say whether it will be one wet year in another string of dry ones.”

With many more snowpack level measurements scheduled to take place before the season is done, ANUK will continue to share the latest developments.

California's Department of Water Resources