January 31, 2024 — The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) revealed yesterday that the state’s snowpack remains below average after conducting the second snow survey of the season at Phillips Station. The survey showed a snow depth of 29 inches and a snow water equivalent (SWE) of 10 inches, which is 58% of the average for this location. SWE is crucial as it determines the water content in the snowpack, a vital element in forecasting the state’s water supply.
Despite some improvement since January 1, the overall snowpack is still significantly below normal. DWR’s electronic readings from 130 stations statewide show the SWE at 52% of the average, a modest rise from 28% at the start of January. This is way below last year’s figure, where the snowpack was 214% of the average on February 1.
Impact of El Niño and Climate Conditions; Reservoirs Still Above Average.
DWR Director Karla Nemeth attributed this year’s deficient snowpack to El Niño, which has led to below-average precipitation and reduced snowpack. She emphasized the need for Californians to prepare for varying conditions during the remaining rainy season.
January saw some increase in precipitation, but many storms have been warmer than usual, resulting in rain instead of snow at higher elevations. Statewide precipitation is currently at 82% of the average. Last year’s exceptional snowpack and reservoir levels, which remain above average, benefited from both higher precipitation and cooler temperatures. For instance, Lake Oroville, a major reservoir, is at 76% of its average capacity.
The Sierra snowpack, accounting for about 30% of California’s water needs, is a critical “frozen reservoir.” The data from these surveys by DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit are essential for managing state water resources. DWR conducts five snow surveys each winter, with the next scheduled for March 1.
Image Credit and More Information:
California Department of Water Resources, DWR staff conduct the second media snow survey of the 2024 season at Phillips Station on Jan. 30, 2024.