California Surpasses its Largest Snowpack in Recorded History

Photo by Scott Gaffney

California has experienced a record-breaking snow season this year, surpassing the previous record set in 1982-83. The state’s snowpack has reached its highest level ever recorded, with water content at 235 percent of normal, as reported by the California Department of Water Resources. This is due to a series of 17 atmospheric rivers and several non-atmospheric-river storms that have hit the region since December.

The central and southern Sierra regions have been impacted the most, with snow water content at 233 percent and 298 percent of normal, respectively. The northern Sierra has received comparatively less snowfall, with water content at 190 percent of normal, still trailing behind the 1982-83 record.

Ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada have experienced unprecedented snow levels, with some chair lifts even being buried under snow. Mammoth Mountain recently announced its snowiest season on record, measuring 702 inches at its Main Lodge and 879 inches at the summit. Other ski resorts in the Sierra have also reported substantial snowfall totals.

The Central Sierra Snow Lab near Lake Tahoe recorded a seasonal total of 713.8 inches after the latest storm, making it the second highest on record. Snowpack usually peaks around this time of year, but with another 3 to 6 feet of snow expected before the season ends in May or June, it is likely that more records will be set.

The abundant snowfall, along with heavy rainfall at lower elevations, has significantly improved California’s drought situation. As of Thursday, the federal government’s latest drought monitor indicated that only 28 percent of the state was affected by drought, comparced to nearly 100 percent in early October.

While the record snowfall has alleviated drought concerns, the risk of flooding due to rapid snowmelt as temperatures rise in the spring remains a significant concern. Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center, emphasized the unprecedented nature of the situation, stating that the amount of water stored in the snowpack is approximately double the average runoff in an entire year.

As California grapples with the consequences of its record-breaking snow season, it is crucial to remain vigilant and prepare for the potential challenges that may arise from rapid snowmelt and flooding in the coming months.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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