NWS: Heatwave Could Melt What’s Left of the Northern California Snowpack

May Lake. Photo by Matt Artz.

It was a disappointing winter in Northern California, with very little precipitation leaving the Sierra snowpack mostly barren in the late days of spring. Despite some snowfall hitting the mountains in May, it wasn’t enough to replenish the dry land and this week’s heatwave could completely melt away the remaining snowpack.

Coming into the week, the snowpack around NorCal had already dipped to paltry numbers, with the Eastern Sierra seeing 6-12 percent of its annual snowpack, and the Norther Sierra/Trinity down to 7-17 percent. This week’s heat could be the final blow to the remaining snow.

“The snowpack over the Sierra is rather paltry, averaging only 12 percent of normal as of yesterday,” said the National Weather Service in Hanford. “Much if not all of that snow will melt during the next 7 days as temperatures warm to well above normal.”

While reservoirs around NorCal still have much of their water, it will be an ongoing struggle during the rest of the water year to keep them replenished.

The snowpack has been on the mind of officials since the disappointing snow surveys from California Department of Water Resources this spring. A May snow survey in the Sierra revealed a snowpack of just 6 percent of average.

“This year we’re probably going to have one of the 10 worst snowpacks in California history,” said DWR spokesman Chris Orrock to KQED.

California’s weather variability has been on full display this water year. Dry conditions in October and November were followed by precipitation in December that measured 120 percent of average. Very dry conditions returned to much of the state in January and February, with March and April storms leading to the snowpack peaking at just 66 percent of average on April 9.

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