May Snow Survey Still Shows Abundant Snowpack

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Water

The May snow survey conducted at Phillips Station illustrated an abundance of snow remaining in California. The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) measured a snow depth of 59 inches with a snow water equivalent of 30 inches. The measurements represent 241 percent of the average for May 1 at that location. “No matter how you look at the data, only a handful of years in the historical record compared to this year’s results,” manager of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit, Sean de Guzman said in a news release.

May Snow Survey

While the snow depth at Phillips Station dropped by more than half over the last month, it has been melting at a slower pace than anticipated. Below-average temperatures in April helped mitigate the rate of runoff. Over the past month, an average of 12 inches of California’s snow water equivalent has melted. While good for water storage needs, the substantial snowpack also presents a series of concerns.

“While providing a significant boost to California’s water supplies, this year’s massive snowpack is posing continued flood risks in the San Joaquin Valley,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “The snowpack will not disappear in one week or one month but will lead to sustained high flows across the San Joaquin and Tulare Basins over the next several months and this data will help us inform water managers and ultimately help protect communities in these regions.”

The statewide snowpack is 254 percent of the average at 49.2 inches, according to DWR’s snow sensor network. DWR will continue tracking snowpack conditions and update snowmelt runoff forecasts accordingly. The historic nature of the 2023 water year was contrasted with the fact that a May snow survey had not been conducted since 2020. At that time, there were only 1.5 inches of snow at the Phillips snow course.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West