The fourth snow survey of the season conducted on April 2 showed that levels have improved following late winter storms, but the overall snowpack remains well below the historical average. The survey performed by the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program demonstrated improvement from the previous snow survey, but the statewide total remains only 52 percent of the average.
“These snowpack results – while better than they were a few weeks ago – still underscore the need for widespread careful and wise use of our water supplies,” California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Director Karla Nemeth said in a press release. “The only thing predictable about California’s climate is that it’s unpredictable. We need to make our water system more resilient so we’re prepared for the extreme fluctuations in our water system, especially in the face of climate change.”
The survey performed in early April is the most important when it comes to forecasting the water supply for the coming summer, as the snowpack is typically at its highest level before temperatures begin to rise. Last year’s wet winter caused the April snowpack to be measured at 183 percent of the historic average.
The late winter storms increased the Sierra Nevada snowpack, but they were not enough to offset one of the driest Februaries on record. The manual snow survey performed at Phillips Station, near Lake Tahoe, measured the snow water equivalent (SWE) at 49 percent of the average. SWE is the amount of water that is contained within the snowpack. Electronic measurements showed the SWE of the northern Sierra snowpack is only 43 percent of the multi-decade average for this time of year. The central Sierra readings measured 60 percent of the average and the southern Sierra readings are 50 percent of average.