The Department of Water Resources conducted the third snow survey of 2019 on Thursday, with results boasting an excellent snowpack.
The manual survey, taken at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada near Sierra-at-Tahoe, recorded 113 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 43.5 inches — which is more than double what was recorded last month at this location.
Statewide, the snowpack is 153 percent of average for this date, thanks to several atmospheric rivers that blanketed the Sierra Nevada with snow during the month of February.
According to DWR data, 150 percent of average or higher snowpack has been recorded only a handful of times since 1980.
The results show a notable improvement since the last Phillips Station survey on Jan. 31, when measurements revealed a snow water equivalent of 18 inches.
Snow water equivalent is the depth of water that theoretically would result if the entire snowpack melted instantaneously. It's a tool used by water managers across the state to estimate anticipated spring runoff.
Current conditions stand in stark contrast to this time last year when the snow depth was only 13.5 inches and the snow water equivalent was just 1.5 inches.
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DWR conducts up to five snow surveys each winter at Phillips Station – near the first of January, February, March, April and, if necessary, May.
Snowpack is an important factor in determining how DWR manages California’s water resources. On average, the Sierra snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer to meet water demands in the summer and fall — including here in Kings County.
The state’s six largest reservoirs currently hold between 84 percent (Oroville) and 137 percent (Melones) of their historical averages for this date. Lake Shasta, California’s largest surface reservoir, is holding 112 percent of its historical average.
“This winter’s snowpack gets better each month and it looks like California storms aren’t done giving yet,” said Karla Nemeth, DWR director. “This is shaping up to be an excellent water year.”
On Feb. 14, the National Weather Service officially confirmed that the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing weak El Niño conditions. As a result of these above-average sea surface temperatures, we are likely to experience more precipitation in the next couple months.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning and is forecasting significant rainfall/mountain snow for today through Thursday. The Valley may get up to two inches of rain, while the Sierra Nevada may get between one to two feet of snow above 7,000 feet, officials said.
According to Scott Borgioli, chief meteorologist for WeatherAg, Hanford has received 6.32 inches of rainfall this year, which is 71 percent of the annual average of 8.94 inches. Currently, only 2 percent of the state is still in an official drought with a “moderate” designation.