Last week, officials from the state Department of Water Resources conducted the annual January snow pack survey. But unlike January 2017, DWR found little snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
At the usual measuring site, they found some snow with the water equivalent of less than half an inch. This is about 3 percent of the normal snow found in early January.
Electronic readings from 100 other sites resulted in an estimate that the current water equivalent of the Sierra Nevada’s snow is about 2.3 inches, or 20 percent of the historical average for January.
“The survey is a disappointing start of the year, but it’s far too early to draw conclusions about what kind of a wet season we’ll have this year,” said Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program who conducted the survey. “There’s plenty of time left in the traditional wet season to reverse the dry trend we’ve been experiencing.”
Historically, about half of the state’s annual precipitation falls during the three months from December through February.
Despite the lack of snow this season so far, the heavy rains and snows during the 2016-17 winter have amply filled the state’s reservoirs. According to the DWR, total storage in these reservoirs at the end of December amounted to 24.1-million acre-feet or 110 percent of the average for the end of the year. One year ago, those reservoirs held 21.2 million acre-feet.
The end-of-year storage is now the highest since December 2012, which was early in the first of five consecutive water years of drought in California.