Tuesday, December 27, 2016

DWR to do season's first manual snow survey Jan. 3

From the California Department of Water Resources:
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) will conduct its first media-oriented manual snow survey of Water Year 2017 at 11 a.m. on January 3 at Phillips Station, just off Highway 50 near Sierra-at-Tahoe Road approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento.

Electronic readings of the Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack today peg its statewide water content at 10.5 inches, 72 percent of the December 27 average. (The list at the end of this advisory has the statewide snow water equivalents on January 1 from 2002 through 2016.)

The Phillips snow course, which has been measured each winter since 1941, is one of dozens that will be traversed during a 10-day period around January 1 to determine the water content of the snowpack, which normally contributes about 30 percent of California’s water when it melts. Manual readings supplement DWR’s electronic data.

It’s too soon to know whether this winter’s wet season will deliver enough rain and snow to move California closer to the end of the state’s five-year drought. The snowpack usually is at its deepest and most water-laden around April 1, so weather watchers won’t know with certainty what kind of wet season it has been until then.

Water Year 2017 began with above-average rainfall in October in all three Sierra Nevada regions monitored continuously by DWR. Northern California’s wettest October in 30 years sparked optimism for a robust water year. November saw below-average precipitation in all three regions, but wet weather returned in December and produced above-average rainfall in the three regions. Rainfall measured from October 1 through December 27 at DWR’s 19 key monitoring stations totaled 150 percent of the stations’ combined historical average during that period.

As the three traditionally wettest months of the year began on December 1, the statewide snowpack’s water content was just 61 percent of average on that date. Relatively warm temperatures had tended to produce rain rather than snow in the mountains, but the cold storm that arrived last weekend improved the snowpack up to 75 percent of the Christmas Day average. The snowpack today holds 72 percent of the December 27th average water content.

California is three months into what could become its sixth consecutive year of drought. State Climatologist Michael Anderson said, “October was one of our wettest on record, and December has produced a nice rebound from November’s below-average precipitation. California needs sustained above-average precipitation and a decent snowpack to overcome the previous years of drought.”

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