John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
A survey of mountain snowpack has revealed below-average water content.
Storms cruising in from the El Niño-inflamed Pacific have given California wet, wonderful slaps of precipitation. In January, snowpack in the mountains swelled to its thickest point in 5 years, and more recently heavy rains breathed life into dry basins, as illustrated in this two-year comparison of the state’s biggest reservoir, Lake Shasta:
And yet it still hasn’t been enough agua to raise the state out of drought. Yesterday a team of surveyors from the California Department of Water Resources measured snowpack in the mountains east of Sacramento, and it came up lacking. The agency writes:
Rainfall at the Northern California stations monitored by DWR was impressive in March—more than 16 inches, almost two and one-half times the month’s average. While the rainfall was encouraging, the snowpack hasn’t kept pace. Frank Gehrke’s of DWR’s snow survey team reported about average water content at Phillips Station on March 30. The statewide content was just 87 percent of average for the date. “The effects of previous dry years will remain for now,” he said. In other words, California still has drought conditions
Healthy snowpack is crucial because when it disintegrates in warmer months, the meltwater replenishes reservoirs that serve citizens and the state’s massive agricultural industry. But while 87 percent of average isn’t the best news, it’s a heck of a lot better than the previous situation. The survey team performed their measurements at a place called Phillips Station—here’s that same spot on April 1, 2015. See any snow at all?