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After dry January, Sierra snowpack below average

Sean de Guzman (right), chief of California Department of Water Resources, Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section, inserts the long aluminum snow depth survey pole into the snow during the second media snow survey of the 2020 season at Phillips Station near Sierra-at-Tahoe.
Provided

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The California Department of Water Resources second manual snow survey of 2020 at Phillips Station showed the Sierra Nevada snowpack below average.

The manual survey recorded 40.5 inches of snow depth and snow water equivalent of 14.5 inches which is only 79% of average for this location.

“After a good start in December, January saw dry conditions that added little to the Sierra snowpack,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth in a press release. “As climate change continues to impact California’s snowpack, we look to actions described in the recently released California Water Resilience Portfolio to meet the challenges brought by weather variability to California’s water supply.”

Measurements collected from 130-electronic snow sensors scattered throughout the state indicates California snowpack’s water equivalent is 12 inches or 72% of the Jan. 30 average.

“The foundation of California’s water supply forecasting system remains the manual snow surveys,” said Sean de Guzman, chief of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section in the release. “The data gathered from these surveys are used to create seasonal runoff forecasts and define how wet or dry a year is based on the total precipitation, including both rain and snow, and runoff.”

The Nevada side of the lake is seeing similar trends.

A statement from NRCS Nevada State Hydrologist Jeff Anderson, said with the exception of the storm leading into MLK weekend, little snow or moisture has pushed over the Sierra Crest since Christmas eve.

“The timing of storms has given ski resorts a boost on key dates, but the snow water equivalent graph looks similar to 2013 when snow amounts stalled after Christmas,” Anderson said. “Hopefully we break out of that pattern and get back into the storm track.”

According to the Weather Channel, there is a slight chance for some snow this weekend.

NRCS will be conducting its next manual survey on Feb. 3.


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