First Snow Survey of the Year Reveals a Strong Start

Brian German Water

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) performed the first snow survey for 2019 today, about 90 miles east of Sacramento at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada.  The readings found that while still below the average for this time of year, 2019 is still off to a significantly better start than the year prior. 

First Snow Survey“The snow depth is 25.5 inches and the snow water content is nine inches, which results in 80 percent of average-to-date, and 36 percent of the April 1 average at this location,” Water Resources Engineer with DWR’s Snow Survey Section John King said during the press conference. “Despite some late-November, early-December storms the statewide snow water content is 67 percent to-date, according to our statewide snow sensor network.”

Since 1964 the historic average for the snow water equivalent at Phillips Station has been 11.3 inches in early January.  “While these results are below average, they are a stark contrast to where we were last year where there was just patches of snow at this location.  The season’s still early, anything is possible from now until May,” King noted.

There was also a discussion about the overall climate during the press conference, where DWR’s State Climatologist Dr. Michael Anderson noted that temperatures are a few degrees higher than normal but there is still plenty of time left for a strong snow season.  “We’ve seen storms pop through, we’ve had a break here, we’ll see the storms resume here over the weekend.  We’re below average but there’s still opportunity, we’re only through the first of our three wettest months of the season,” Dr. Anderson said.

California typically receives approximately half of its annual precipitation during the months of December, January, and February. The snowpack typically supplies approximately 30 percent of the water needs of California.  A more significant snowpack creates the better potential for reservoirs to receive the necessary runoff as it melts in the spring and early summer.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West