California snowpack reaches record high in latest survey | News

California snowpack reaches record high in latest survey | News

“There’s a difference from last year when we had some good storms in December and really good snow cover around January 1, but that was just two or three atmospheric flows,” Rizzardo said. “So it’s a big difference when that number of storms are all coming into the mountains from different angles and orientations and really spreading the snow out pretty well.”

Deep snow has covered the field where the first media snow survey of the 2023 season took place on January 3, 2023 at Phillips Station, California in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Courtesy of Jonathan Wong/California Department of Water Resources via Bay City News.

Rizzardo added that at higher altitudes the snow is very cold and not very dense – the perfect conditions for snowpack to last into spring. Snow in the lower parts of the mountains is likely to melt and rebuild quickly, which is not alarming, he said.

State water officials are safe from the celebration as California has two more months before it should reach its peak snowpack for the wet season. Dubbed the “frozen reservoir,” snow cover accounts for approximately 30% of the state’s water supply and significantly affects how water agencies manage the state’s water supply.

“California has always experienced some degree of wet-dry variability, but recent months have shown how much more extreme those variability are becoming,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “California is preparing for more intense and dangerous climate swings by supporting both drought and flood preparations.”

California typically receives about half of its annual rainfall in December, January and February, said state climatologist Michael Anderson. This season, the state received 80% of its snowfall within three weeks.

But Jeanine Jones, manager of interstate resources at DWR, added that above-average rain and snow levels don’t necessarily mean water for Californians’ faucets. She said the state’s groundwater and reservoir systems are like “really big buckets” that need more than just a good rainy season to be fully replenished after years of depleted levels.

“Some areas will likely come out of the drought due to the very wet conditions that we’ve had, but it really depends on a water utility’s circumstances,” Jones said. “If they’re just taking water from groundwater in an area that’s very depleted over time, or if they’re taking water from a reservoir that’s really full.”

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