Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Will the big snowpack last the winter?

The short answer is: It depends.

This week's storms are expected to bring snow levels as low as 3,500 feet, according to the National Weather Service. But if storms warm up as El Nino takes hold and only drop snow above 7,000 feet, the snowpack could still be in long-term trouble.

"If it's 5,000 feet, that's still safe" for maintaining healthy snowpack levels, said Michelle Mead, a National Weather Service warning coordinator in Sacramento. "It's really going to be individual storm dependent."

One or two warm storms wouldn't be enough to wipe out the snowpack, Mead told me. The snow acts as a sponge and absorbs water that falls as rain until it's saturated, then it begins to melt.

"We do have a pretty good snowpack up there now," she said. "It's still at or just above average."

But warmer rainfall and temperatures typically start to melt the snow in the spring, which keeps the reservoirs flush with water in the summer months. If the snow melts earlier than normal, there may not be enough water left over this summer.

"With an El Nino year, we can't for sure say when that will happen," Mead said, referring to snow melt.

My full story at CapitalPress.com is here.

No comments:

Post a Comment