A series of storm systems that began around Thanksgiving produced several feet of snow in mountain areas throughout the state, further indicating the likelihood of an El Nino system coming to fruition. Information from the California Department of Water Resources indicates that those storm systems have left the state’s snowpack level significantly higher than this time last year.
“As we move into early December, we are about one-fifth of the way through the Western wet season,” said USDA meteorologist, Brad Rippey. “Interestingly, very quietly over the last several weeks, we have seen the atmospheric pattern starting to take on a configuration that is very consistent with El Nino, which not coincidentally appears to be developing across the equatorial Pacific.”
Over the past several weeks of intermittent storms, the statewide snowpack has accumulated to more than double the amount seen last year. As of December 10, the statewide snowpack is 104 percent of the normal level. This time last year California stood at only 47 percent of the average. The fourth snow survey of last season that was conducted back in April showed that the overall snowpack level statewide was only 52 percent of the average.
Snow levels in the Pacific Northwest are lower than average for this time of year, falling in line with expectations for an El Nino system. “Much more significant snowpacks have built up as you move southward into California,” Rippey noted. “So again, that’s just an early sign that we are starting to see El Nino beginning to dominate weather patterns.”
The weather systems of late November and early December have left the central and southern Sierra the least dry areas of California. Winter Storm Carter alone brought three to five feet of snow to the Sierra. There is optimism that the weather patterns will continue through winter and continue to provide a solid snowpack in the Sierras.