Not only was 2014/15 the worst snow year on record in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, it was the worst snow year in the past 500 years. Whoa.
The Sierra Nevada mountain range’s snowpack hit a 500-year low this past winter according to a document published by researchers today.
The new findings were published in the journal Nature Climate Change and they highlight California’s current 4-year drought along with the recent spike in temperatures and drop in precipitation.
“Our study really points to the extreme character of the 2014-15 winter. This is not just unprecedented over 80 years — it’s unprecedented over 500 years. We should be prepared for this type of snow drought to occur much more frequently because of rising temperatures.” – Valerie Trouet, associate professor in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona
Trouet and her co-researchers from the National Oceanic adn Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Arkansas reached their conclusions comparing historical precipitation in California by studying tree ring patterns in blue oak trees. The researchers found that the lack of snow and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains was “unprecedented in the context of the past 500 years.”
Snow is much more important than rain in California since the traditionally large snowpacks of the Sierra Nevada mountains are the “frozen reservoir” of California. These frozen reservoirs slowly release water down into California all year long providing reliable water supplies year round.
Is this a sign of snowpacks to come? Maybe…
“In this study we didn’t look into the future, we didn’t model anything toward the future, but given what we know, it is likely that this kind of extreme low snowpack is going to be seen more frequently in the future.” – Valerie Trouet, associate professor in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona
Learn much more about this study in the NOAA article below:
Multi-Century Evaluation of Sierra Nevada Snowpack
The 2015 record low snowpack level in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range is unprecedented in comparison to the past 500 years, according to a new paper published in Nature Climate Change (link is external). In their examination of paleoclimate tree-ring based records dating back to 1500, scientists from the University of Arizona, University of Arkansas, and NCEI’s Paleoclimatology Program expect that the current snowpack low has a strong likelihood of occurring only once every 500 years and only once every 1,000 years below 7,000 feet. Such an exceptional low level poses significant challenges to California, which receives over 30% of its yearly water supply from Sierra Nevada snowpack.
The paper, titled “Multi-century evaluation of Sierra Nevada snowpack (link is external),” provides new context for California’s recent snowpack decline, helping to further understanding of the state’s exceptional drought conditions over the past three years. Discussing the interactivity of snowpack, temperature extremes, and drought, the scientists also suggest that human-induced warming will likely have additional significant impacts on California’s primary natural water storage system in the future.
The full paper, “Multi-century evaluation of Sierra Nevada snowpack (link is external),” is available online to those with a subscription to Nature Climate Change.