For the second weekend in a row, Sacramento and the Sierra Nevada mountains saw back-to-back storms bringing rain to the valley and snow to the hills.
Despite the recent wet weather, including snow intense enough to snarl mountain travel in the Sierra this weekend, California is still grappling with a number of drier-than-usual winters and persistent drought. So how much did these storms help?
CapRadio’s Mike Hagerty spoke with Dr. Andrew Schwartz, the lead scientist and manager of UC Berkeley's Central Sierra Snow Laboratory at Soda Springs near Donner Pass, about how much snow we got and if it made a dent in the state's drought.
On how much snow we received from this weekend's storm
We saw about 49 inches overall with the storm that came through this last Thursday night. We have a total of 59 inches, so just shy of five feet. And a lot of that was very moisture-laden snow that should really help bulk up our water supply and the snowpack going into the rest of the winter.
On how healthy the snowpack is
So far it does look healthier. And I think what's a little bit more hopeful is that we're seeing relatively low temperatures compared to what we saw in mid-winter last year. We had a string, you know, in January and February of these temperatures that got into the upper 40s and mid-50s that really helped melt that snow and evaporate it when we didn't want it to. And right now, it's looking like we're going to stay pretty low. So we've got this snow pack. It looks like it's hanging around. And we can only hope that the storm window doesn't close and we keep seeing precipitation come in.
On what it would take for this to be considered a good water year
Realistically, in order for this year to be considered a good one, we need probably a little bit more than average. You know, anything that can help us pull out of the drought or help pull us out of the drought. So realistically speaking, you know, an average winter is just going to keep us in the same drought conditions we've been in. Of course, the below-average is going to make it worse.
Anything that's above that average line of 30 feet of snowfall up here at the lab will really help out. So we can't really tell right now if that's going to happen. Of course, we really have to wait until March or April to start to decide whether or not we're getting enough snow to help us out of what's going on with the drought.
We really need to keep conserving. You know, we see these massive storms and there's a ton of excitement. And believe me, I'm always the first one to get excited about them. But we're still in that drought and we have to act in that same regard. So making sure that we're limiting our water usage because as much as we can save now, you know, that means more for the future.
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