California's snowpack is outpacing state's wettest season on record after boost from recent storms

David González Image
Thursday, February 2, 2023
California has huge snowpack, but dry trend raises worries
The mountain snowpack that supplies a significant amount of California's water got an incredible boost from recent powerful storms and is outpacing the state's wettest season on record, state water officials said.

One of the state's most crucial sources of water is packed with snow, which is great news for the state that has been mired in drought.

However, forecasters warn that the next two months will be crucial because significant snowpack can quickly disappear if the state doesn't receive any more rain or snow.

Sean De Guzman, the unit manager for snow surveys and water supply forecasting for the Department of Water Resources said, snow conditions for 2023 are off to one of the best starts in decades.

"Our snowpack is off to an incredible start and it's exactly what California needs to really help break from our ongoing drought," De Guzman said.

The department conducted its second snow survey of the season Wednesday at the Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

"We recorded a snow depth of 85.5 inches and a snow-water content of 33.5 inches," De Guzman said.

Data provided by the California Cooperative Snow Surveys shows the snow water equivalents are well above the April 1 average and above the normal for Feb. 1.

About 33 million gallons of rainwater were captured locally in the intense rains and snow storms slamming into California recently, according to Los Angeles County officials.

Northern Sierra is reporting 171%, Central Sierra is just over 200% and Southern Sierra is at 249% of normal for this date.

"Our statewide snowpack is currently sitting at 205% of average to date as of this morning," De Guzman said.

DWR said the snowpack got a big boost from the nine different atmospheric rivers that have hit the state so far this winter.

"We're currently outpacing 1982, 1983, which is the wettest year on record dating back about 40 years," De Guzman noted.

The Sierra snowpack supplies 30% of the state's water, so forecasters said that every day it doesn't rain or snow the state returns to drier conditions.

Karla Nemeth, DWR's director, said it's too early to tell if the state's big January busted the drought.

She said other things need to take place to get the state out of the drought, like collecting snowmelt and runoff.

Nemeth said a lot of things change between now and April 1 when the snowpack is expected to reach its peak.