California's Huge Snow Season Continues, as Satellite Images Show Its Progression

It's raining, it's pouring and snowpack levels are soaring. Let us demonstrate ...

The heavy atmospheric river storms dumping on Northern California since January have increased the Sierra Nevada snowpack to 153 percent of its historical average for this date.

That’s according to sensors from the Department of Water Resources spread across the Sierra that give daily preliminary readings.

The measurement is good news for water districts and for snow aficionados alike, since Sierra snow makes up 30 to 50 percent of California’s water supply. Winter storms bolstered the Sierra snowpack by 114 percent in the last 3 months.

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DWR manually measures snowpack in the field using a steel tube that takes a core of the snow. Experts measure the snowpack from surface to soil, and how much water is in the snow, by weighing the snow core.

Today at Philips Station, DWR measured snow at 113 inches deep and a snow water equivalent of 43 percent.

"That’s a great sign," Chris Orrick with DWR said of the snow water equivalent measurement, "It’s at levels we haven’t seen before."

The winter wonderland conditions are in stark contrast to what they were a year ago, when the outlook for California’s reservoirs looked bleak. Sierra snowpack was at 19 percent of historical levels and many parts of the state were experiencing drought conditions.

"Right now we're not concerned about drought at all," Pete Fickenscher, a senior hydrologist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Service, said. 

But, if the snow dumping continues into April, it could be too much of a good thing.

Fickenscher explained managing spring snowmelt can be challenging in California.

"One hundred-fifty percent at this time in the year is a little concerning," he said "because if we continue to build snowpack in the next month or two, springtime flooding could be a greater concern."

 

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