This week may seem unusually cold for Southern California, but climate scientists say December 2023 was the month that truly had extraordinary temperatures – on the warm side.
With precipitation and snowpack falling behind normal levels for this time of year, the 40 million people served by the Colorado River have last year’s wet winter to thank for the Basin’s relative stability. Right now, the entire American West is struggling with snow drought. Snowpack for the Upper Colorado River Basin — which includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — stands at a dismal 57.7% of average as of Jan. 3.
California’s statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack—the source of nearly one-third of the state’s water supply—is at its lowest level in a decade, a major turnaround from last year when huge storms ended a three-year drought and buried ski resorts in massive amounts of snow.
California’s vital Sierra snowpack has fallen “well below average” in the third official measurement of the season, signaling another year of drought is ahead.
That was the conclusion after the Department of Water Resources conducted the third snow survey of the season Tuesday at Phillips Station west of Lake Tahoe.
Following the driest January and February in state history, the manual survey recorded 35 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 16 inches, which is 68% of average for this location in March.