An onslaught of rain and snow has pulled most of California out of exceptional drought, but experts warn that the state’s dry spell is far from over. Officials issued emergency water regulations this week — including a controversial exemption for agriculture — even as the northern part of the state braced for possible flooding from winter storms.(No paywall)
With one month left in what are California’s three wettest months of the year, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is at 27 percent of average for the start of February, said the state Department of Water Resources.
Snowpack in parts of the Rocky Mountains is at record lows because of warmer than usual weather, “raising concerns about water supplies and economic damage,” says Inside Climate News.
Three new studies show that the West is running low on water, and that much of that decline is a result of climate change, says High Country News.
Snowstorms since late December dumped the equivalent of 17.5 million acre feet of water on the Sierra Nevada, says the Los Angeles Times, pointing to estimates by University of Colorado researchers. "That figure amounts to about a third of what the researchers said was the drought’s 54 million-acre feet shortfall in the snowpack" during the five-year California drought.
The California Department of Water Resources is to conduct its first "media-oriented manual snow survey" of the 2017 water year today in the Sierra Nevada, with the state potentially headed for a sixth year of drought. A week ago, the snowpack held 10.5 inches of water content statewide, 72 percent of average, one month into the three wettest months of the year, according to electronic monitoring.
California is so big "[i]t has different droughts in different places," Jay Lund, an engineering professor at UC-Davis, told the Los Angeles Times. Rainfall in the northern Sierra Nevada, a water source for much of the state, is 180 percent of average so far in the wet season, but Southern California, which gets half of its water from local sources, is historically dry.
Snowmelt from the northern Sierra Nevada provides water for a large part of California during the warm months. An analysis by UCLA says that if greenhouse-gas emissions are not curbed, the snowpack that provides the water could be half its current size by the end of the century, reports public radio KPCC-FM in Pasadena.
“Snowpack levels in the West are melting faster than climate hydrologists have seen in nearly four decades, bringing the snowpack far below normal in most states in the West,” says High Country News.
Meltwater from snowfall in California's mountains provides 30 percent of the state's water needs in a normal year. The snowpack this year is vastly improved from a year ago, when it was 5 percent of average.
California Gov. Jerry Brown stood on dry ground at the Phillips Station snow-measuring outpost in the Sierra Nevada mountains last April 1 and ordered a 25-percent reduction in urban water use. When the state Department of Water Resources conducts a snow survey on Wednesday at Phillips Station, 90 miles east of Sacramento, the snowpack will be several feet deep.
Six weeks are left in the rainy season in California "and results are mixed," reports The Atlantic. Heavy rain and snow swept the state over the weekend, but the state "as a whole seems on track to have only an average precipitation year."
The California snowpack is only 83 percent of the average for March 1, "the result of moderate precipitation since last October and relatively warm temperatures," said the state Department of Water Resources.
Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada last winter "was the lowest it has been in more than 500 years," the Los Angeles Times reports, citing research published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Snowpack is a primary source of water for California.
Five western states - Idaho, Utah, Washington, Oregon and California - saw the hottest June this year in 121 years of record-keeping, says the weekly Drought Monitor.
Gov. Jerry Brown and California legislative leaders proposed a $1 billion drought-relief package as the state enters its fourth year of drought. The pair of bills includes $128 million to alleviate the impact of drought...
The governor of Washington state declared a drought emergency in three regions of the state, including key agricultural areas, due to record-low snowpack levels, said Reuters.
Snowpack in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada shrank during warm February weather, said the USDA in its third forecast of snow and water conditions in the West.
The snowpack in California's Sierra Nevada is 25 percent of normal for late January, "on par with some of the worst years on record," says the San Francisco Chronicle.