California’s “frozen reservoir” is melting fast.
Unusually high temperatures this spring have acted like a blow-drier on accumulated winter snows, despite a healthy boost during the stormy month of March.
One thing is undeniable: the Sierra snowpack is a lot more robust than the previous winter’s, which was off-the-charts ugly. Around the first of May, water content (which is what really matters) of the snowpack stood at 60 percent of the long-term average. That’s not great news unless you compare it to May 1 of last year, when it was 1 percent. That’s not a typo.
On April 1, when hydrologists generally reckon the snowpack to be at its peak for the season, it stood at 85 percent of the average for that date.
This spring the most intense period of melting is running about two to three weeks earlier than normal, according to Nina Oakley, assistant research climatologist at the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno.