Second Snow Survey Yields Concerning Measurements

Brian GermanWater

On February 1 the Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the second snow survey for 2018 at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada, approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento.  The results demonstrated just 14 percent of the 54-year average for early February at Phillips Station.Second Snow Survey

Measurements at Phillips Station revealed 13.6 inches of snow, totaling a snow water equivalent (SWE) of 2.6 inches.  Similar results were seen at the 103 stations DWR has spread throughout the Sierra.  The southern Sierra is 25 percent of the average with a SWE of 3.8 inches.  The northern Sierra measurements were a bit more promising at 27 percent of the average and a SWE of 4.6 inches.  The central Sierra fared the best with a SWE of 5.8 inches representing 30 percent of the average.  SWE is the depth of water that would theoretically result if the entire snowpack melted at once.

“The snow survey today shows water content far below average for this time of year,” said Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program who conducted the survey. “Today’s measurements indicate an anemic snowpack to date, but there is still the possibility of a wet February and March.”

The readings from the first survey that was performed on January 3 showed very little snowpack after a significantly dry December and measured only three percent of the average.  The weather forecast for much of California also shows warmer than average temperatures on the horizon, as the state is in the middle of a dry spell.

“California experiences the most variable weather in the nation,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “It’s vital that water conservation efforts remain consistent regardless of the year’s precipitation.”

Statewide, the snowpack is only 27 percent of the historical average for February 1, which equates to a SWE of 4.9 inches.  The snowpack usually supplies approximately 30 percent of the state’s water requirements once it begins to melt.

More detailed information regarding the second snow survey is available through the DWR website.


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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West