It’s been a fruitful start to the water year in the Sierra, still playing catch up from the drought-stricken years of the past decade. There’s still plenty of snowfall needed to break Northern California’s string of dry winters, but if December is any indication, we are well on our way.
In April 2022, the Sierra snowpack sat at a paltry 28 percent of historical average, inspiring California officials to call for a rethinking of water management throughout the state. Fast forward to December 2022, and it seems like we have more snowpack than we know what to do with.
This week, the National Weather Service announced the statewide snowpack sits at an astounding 175 percent of historical average. That percentage includes 165 percent of historical average in the northern Sierra and 166 percent in the central Sierra.
Take a look at the graphic created to show current snow depth throughout Northern California:
With an incoming storm set to drop another 5 feet of snow on the Sierra this week, that percentage will certainly climb, possibly topping 200 percent, by next week. But the winter of 2021-22 can serve as a warning that this might now be a sign of things to come.
In December 2021, a month of historic snowfall slammed the Sierra from beginning to end, pushing the snowpack of 200 percent of average and providing a nice boost to snowpack and water flow throughout the state. Once January 2022 hit, the well all but dried up, with little precipitation lasting through the rest of the winter months. So as the snowpack sat above 200 percent in December, it fell to 28 percent in April, a fall of nearly 10X.
All that said, it’s time to enjoy the snow and hope it can continue to fall into 2023. We are far from protected from another year of drought, but we are well on our way to a fruitful winter in NorCal.