After a historically dry winter in Northern California, the region was met with a welcomed April downpour which included multiple heavy storms that drenched the valley and brought renewed snowpack to the Sierra. Recently, NASA released satellite images that show the overhead view of the beautiful snowpack transformation.
On April 1, the Sierra snowpack was measured at 28 percent of average. The satellite image of that day shows barely any snow in the mountains:
Just three weeks later, the snowpack has blossomed:
While the storms are a very welcomed sight for the region, it wasn’t quite a drought buster. On April 22, the NorCal snowpack had grown nearly 10 percent of historical average all the way up to 37 percent. It’s still a low number, but it could help ongoing water issues in the state. The entire statewide snowpack measured in at 35 percent.
The historic dry winter is pushing NorCal into what could become a devastating drought during the summer and fall months of 2022. Even with a much-welcomed stretch of April Showers, extreme drought is moving into the minds of residents and politicians alike.
Cities are already outlining plans to decrease water usage by up to 30 percent in order to meet water demands for farmers, wildlife and residents. These plans aren’t without controversy. Residents will be impacted, asked to cut down water usage and do things like paint their lawns.
An urgency change has allowed officials to hold more water in Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville in preparation of the summer season, but that will certainly have a negative impact on the ecosystem of NorCal rivers. It will also surely have a devastating impact on wildlife, especially salmon runs already decimated by drought conditions, water allocations and dams.
“All the technology in the world so far is only delivering to us the best documented extinction of native species,” said John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association.
The underlying impact of the current drought, which is likely not to be felt for 4-6 months, is wildfires. Following three devastating wildfire seasons, the drought could once again send communities fleeing from deadly flames moving through NorCal. The six largest fires in California’s recorded history happened in the past three years. For the survivors of those fires, wildfire mitigation should be a top priority for the state.