California’s wet season is coming to a close without much to show for it.
After consecutive dry months during what is historically the wettest time of year, California Department of Water Resources officials visited Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for the final manual snowpack survey of the season.
The dismal results were not a surprise.
DWR today conducted the fourth Phillips Station snow survey of the season. The manual survey recorded 2.5 inches of snow depth & a snow water equivalent of 1 inch, which is 4% of the April 1 average for this location. The statewide snowpack average is 38% of average. #SnowSurvey pic.twitter.com/bl7yn64rKN
— CA – DWR (@CA_DWR) April 1, 2022
The manual survey recorded 2.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 1 inch, which is 4% of the April 1 average for the location. The statewide snowpack average is 38% of average.
After a January and February that were among the driest in state history, last month’s snowpack survey showed the statewide snowpack at just 63 percent of average for March 1. Without dry spell-busting storms to dump snow in the mountains, not much happened in March to improve conditions.
The peak of the statewide snowpack was around March 8 at about 57% of average.
Water managers conduct a May 1 snow survey when necessary, but that seems unlikely this year.
Snowpack in the Sierra accounts for about 30 percent of California’s water supply. Understanding how much there is to work with is critical for water resources managers to plan for what’s available during the hot and dry summer months. In addition to the monthly wet season surveys at Phillips Station, where water resources officials stick a pole in the ground to measure snow-water equivalent, officials rely on data provided by a network of sensors to determine snowpack.
Snow-water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack.
The US Drought Monitor map released March 31, 2022.
Ideally, a conveyor belt of winter storms ushers in rain and snow during the winter months. Mountain snow then melts nearer to summer, running off into the state’s water supply system and reservoirs.
California is in its third straight dry year. The US Drought Monitor report released March 31 showed all of California in some category of drought. More than 40 percent of the state was in extreme drought, the second-most severe category. That includes portions of southeast, northwest and central California.