Map Reveals Huge Difference in California Snowpack After Dry January

Martin Kuprianowicz |
These maps show the difference in California’s snowpack measurements from Dec. 30, 2021, left, and Feb. 1, 2022, right. | Photo courtesy of California Department of Water Resources

On December 30, California’s snowpack statewide was sitting at roughly 160% of its average—the highest it’s been in over 10 years. But as of Tuesday, February 1,  the snow water content measured 90 to 95% of normal across the Sierra range, with the statewide average hovering around 92%, according to the California Department of Water Resources. That’s a huge drop.

It hasn’t snowed in California in a month. January was super dry, even though it’s normally one of Sierra Nevada’s wettest months.

“Amid record-dry Jan across portions of Sierra Nevada, California snowpack has now fallen below avg for date–remarkable given it was ~160% of avg for date in late Dec!” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, tweeted Monday.

Dry conditions are expected to persist over the next two weeks in California, likely meaning that those snowpack percentages will continue to fall, according to Swan. He also tweeted that, “in addition to record or near-record January dryness in mountains, it has also been much warmer and sunnier than usual at high elevations in Jan–leading to substantial mid-winter snowmelt (so there is active loss of snowpack, not just stalling of growth).”

These numbers are so important because California’s snowpack is responsible for about a third of the state’s water supply once it melts and runs into reservoirs that people get water from. Mind you, 90-95% of the average snowpack is still a good snowpack—currently. However, with lingering high pressure and dry conditions that are actively melting snow throughout the state, there is reason for concern. So for now, California can only hope that Old Man Winter comes back to visit soon.

Westwide SNOTEL Current Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) % of Normal. | Photo courtesy of NRCS


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