California’s Dec. Snowfall Not Enough to Combat Drought

ameliatraynor | | WeatherWeather
Mt. Whitney, as seen from HWY 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. (DPW)
Mt. Whitney, as seen from HWY 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. (DWR)

Despite heavy precipitation in the first two weeks of December, California is in need of even more rain and snow to tackle its crippling four-year drought. In a report released by the Department of Water Resources, officials state that while there is more snow in the Sierras than last year at this time, the snow water equivalent statewide remains far below average for this date.

The DWR conducted the survey near Echo Summit, about 90 miles east of Sacramento. According to DWR’s Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys, snow covered the ground there to a depth of 21.3 inches, and the snow water equivalent was 4 inches at that particular snow course, or 33 percent of average.

Frank Gehrke leads a team on Dec. 30 to conduct the snow survey in Echo Meadows.
Frank Gehrke leads a team on Dec. 30 to conduct the snow survey near Echo Summit.

Across the state, 105 electronic sensors are taking measurements in the Sierras. They detected a snow water equivalent of 4.8 inches, only 50 percent of the multiyear average for Dec. 30. Surprisingly, this is a dramatic improvement from last year when the snow water equivalent statewide was only 20 percent of normal, which tied with 2012 as the driest readings on record.

Governer Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency nearly a year ago, on Jan. 17 2014.

Frank Gehrke, chief of California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources, crosses a snow covered meadow as conducts the first snow survey of the season at Echo Summit on Tuesday
Frank Gehrke crosses a snow covered meadow as he conducts the first snow survey of the season. (DWR)

The snow in the Sierras is known as California’s “frozen reservoir”, which makes up 60 percent of the water captured in the states reservoirs when it melts in the Spring. 

“We’re above average in precipitation, but below average on snowpack,” said Doug Carlson, a water resources department spokesman. “We don’t care what fills up the reservoirs, but when it does fall as snow, it eliminates the danger of flooding during the winter and fills up the reservoirs in the late spring and summer. That’s the ideal because the water can then be released slowly from the reservoirs during the summer, when it doesn’t rain much.”

climate.gov
climate.gov

As of the first week in December, about 55% of the state was considered to be in an “exceptional drought”, but after two weeks of rain and snow, that number has since dropped to 32%, which has remained unchanged throughout January. 

“Although this year’s survey shows a deeper snowpack than last year, California needs much more rain and snow than we’ve experienced over the past two years to end the drought in 2015,” said Mark Cowin, director of the Department of Water Resources. “The department encourages Californians to continue their water conservation practices.”

Read the full DPW report here. 

 


Related Articles

2 thoughts on “California’s Dec. Snowfall Not Enough to Combat Drought

Got an opinion? Let us know...