How dry is this winter? Sierra snowpack on pace to shatter record low of 2015
Feb 8, 2018 at 11:00pm
By Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle
As relentless sunshine continued to pound California on Thursday, the Sierra Nevada hit a reckoning point: There’s less snowpack now than on the same date three years ago, when the winter went down as the driest in recorded history and sent shudders through cities, farmlands and the state Capitol.
The troubling lack of snow during the winter of 2014-15 not only shortchanged the state’s drinking-water reservoirs but left the Sierra nearly unrecognizable. Normally white-blanketed forests and meadows remained a springtime green, and mountain roads were free of ice.
The picture has become increasingly similar this year. Tahoe’s ski resorts have been forced to close many low-elevation runs while working their snow-making machines overtime, and rangers at Yosemite National Park have had to apologize to guests for the lack of snow powering famed waterfalls.
While California’s peak wet season still has several weeks to go, forecasters see no major storms for at least 10 days, raising the specter of a new seasonal low for snow in recorded history.
“This has been another remarkably warm, dry season,” said Mike Dettinger, a research hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. “We’re really screaming into a drought in a way that we didn’t see in the winter of ’14-15.”
On Thursday, snowpack in the Sierra measured just 23 percent of average for the date, according to the state Department of Water Resources. California officials keep a close eye on the snow because its melt-off provides nearly a third of the state’s water supply.
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