In the latest snow survey conducted by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) at Phillips Station, results reveal that the state’s snowpack remains significantly below average. Despite a modest increase in snow depth and water equivalent since January 1, conditions are far from normal.
The manual survey at Phillips Station recorded a snow depth of 29 inches and a snow water equivalent of 10 inches, which represents just 58 percent of the average for this location. The snow water equivalent is a crucial component of DWR’s water supply forecast as it measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack.
Statewide, electronic readings from 130 stations indicate that the snowpack’s snow water equivalent is currently at 8.4 inches, representing only 52 percent of the average for this date. This is a marginal improvement from the start of the year when it was at a meager 28 percent of average. In stark contrast, a year ago, the snowpack was abundant, standing at 214 percent of average on February 1.
The results from today's snow survey reflect a modest increase in the snowpack since January 1, but overall conditions are still far below normal. However, it only takes one storm to alter conditions and potentially produce severe flooding. pic.twitter.com/UunUyT2PKu— CA – DWR (@CA_DWR) January 30, 2024
Despite the presence of El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean this year, several climatic factors, including a high-pressure system, have resulted in below-average precipitation and warmer storms producing more rain than snow at higher elevations. Statewide precipitation currently stands at 82 percent of average.
“This year’s El Niño has delivered below average precipitation and an even smaller snowpack,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “Californians must prepare for all possible conditions during the remaining months of the rainy season.”
Although precipitation levels are below average, it takes just one severe storm to cause significant flooding, as some regions, including San Diego, the Bay Area, and the North Coast, have already experienced this winter.
DWR and the Joint State-Federal Flood Operations Center have been collaborating with communities and emergency response agencies to coordinate flood response efforts and provide training. All Californians are urged to follow three key steps for flood preparedness: be aware of flood risk, be prepared with an emergency evacuation kit and plan, and take action by following local evacuation guidelines.
The Sierra snowpack, which supplies approximately 30 percent of California’s water needs, is a vital natural reservoir. The data from these snow surveys play a pivotal role in how DWR manages the state’s water resources. The next survey at Phillips Station is tentatively scheduled for March 1.