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Yosemite National Park in December. Photo by Edward Smith.

published on January 2, 2020 - 2:01 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) reported a strong start for the Sierra snowpack on it first manual snow survey of the year at Phillips Station.

The survey recorded 33.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent (SWE) of 11 inches, a 97% average for this location.

“While the series of cold weather storms in November and December has provided a good start to the 2020 snowpack, precipitation in Northern California is still below average for this time of year,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “We must remember how variable California’s climate is and what a profound impact climate change has on our snowpack.”

Electronic readings from 130 DWR stations across the state are showing measures of snowpack’s SWE as 9.3 inches statewide, 90% of the Jan. 2 average.

California usually receives about 75% of is annual precipitation during December, January and February, with the bulk of it coming from atmospheric rivers. Though California did experience a dry start to this water year, December storms brought the state up to 74% of average annual precipitation for this time of year.

Climate change is expected to lead to continued warming and fewer but more intense storms that will impact the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada.

On average, the snowpack supplies about 30% of the state’s water needs as it melts in spring and early summer.

“It’s still too early to predict what the remainder of the year will bring in terms of snowpack,” said Sean DeGuzman, chief of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section. “Climate change is altering the balance of rain and snow in California. That is why it is important to maintain our measurements of the snowpack to document the change in addition to having critical information to forecast spring runoff.”


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