The Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the second snow survey of the year on January 31 and it demonstrated close to a doubling of snow levels in only four weeks. The measurement was made at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada, about 90 miles east of Sacramento. Several January storms have helped push snowpack levels much closer to the overall average for this time of year.
“The snow depth today is 50 inches and the snow water equivalent is 18 inches, which results in 98 percent of average-to-date and 71 percent of the April 1 average at this location. This is a significant increase from the last survey,” Water Resources Engineer with DWR’s Snow Survey Section John King noted at the press conference immediately following the reading. “It’s very encouraging and we still have two more months to accumulate the typical maximum of snow accumulation.”
The first measurement of 2019 showed a snow depth of 25.5 inches with a snow water equivalent (SWE) of nine inches. That reading represented 80 percent of the average for that location. For the rest of the state, the Sierra snowpack measured 67 percent of the historical average. The second snow survey of the year also demonstrates a sharp contrast to 2018. At this time last year, Phillips Station measured 13.6 inches of snow and a SWE of 2.6 inches. Those numbers represented just 14 percent of the average for this point in the season.
Snow levels are important to overall water needs of California, as the snowpack historically provides for roughly 30 percent of the necessary water supplies of the state. “These numbers, people are going to use to come up with projections of how to do their operations as well as the Water Supply Forecast that Snow Survey puts together and disseminates across the state through California Data Exchange Center,” said King.