frank gerhke

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published on February 1, 2018 - 2:09 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

Despite some moderate rain in January, California’s snowpack continues to measure significantly below average in terms of water content.

The state Department of Water Resources today released its second snow survey of the season, revealing a snow-water equivalent of 2.6 inches, or 14 percent of the early February average at Phillips Station near Lake Tahoe. Measurements have been taken there since 1964.

Snow-water equivalent (SWE) is the depth of water that would result if the entire snowpack melted instantaneously.

“California experiences the most variable weather in the nation,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “It’s vital that water conservation efforts remain consistent regardless of the year’s precipitation.”

The state also takes electronic readings from 103 stations scattered through the Sierra. In the northern Sierra, the SWE is 4.6 inches, 27 percent of average. The central Sierra reading is 5.8 inches, or 30 percent of average, while the southern Sierra was at 3.8 inches, or 25 percent of average.

Collectively, the statewide SWE is 4.9 inches, or 27 percent of average for Feb. 1.

“The snow survey today shows water content far below average for this time of year,” said Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program who conducted today’s survey at Phillips. “Today’s measurements indicate an anemic snowpack to date, but there is still the possibility of a wet February and March.”

Related story: Season’s first snow surveys show paltry Sierra levels

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