California’s Drought, Relentless and Inexorable, Takes its Toll

With the rainy season come and gone, drought’s withered hand remained firmly fixed on California this month, as it has been, with few exceptions, for the last decade.

Woes pile up. Rain didn’t save us, the snowpack is all but gone, the Coastal Commission says no desalinating sea water, and urban-interface fires have already begun.

It’s almost summer in the Golden State.

Watershed Moment

Dave Steindorf knows California’s North Fork Feather River like his backyard. He’s driven along its banks so many times, people wave to him as he goes by. As he passes, he takes mental notes about any day-to-day changes—silt backup in reservoirs that could muck up habitat, or river levels low enough to threaten frog and trout spawning grounds. His personal slogan is “Couch potatoes make poor river advocates,” so he gets out in the river whenever he can, on his kayak or with a fly-fishing rod in his hands.

Folsom Lake Levels Improve, Drought Conditions Still an Issue

The latest Spring snowstorms helped increase California’s water supply and lake levels, but the Golden State continues to face drought conditions.

April’s wet weather in northern California have increased water levels at lakes like Folsom Lake.

“The particular storm of this week increased the rain and snow over northern California by about 5-10 percent,” said Meteorologist and forecaster Jim Mathews with the National Weather Service.

Late-Season Snowfall Helps California in Dry Winter, Drought

Heavy snow in Northern California has given a recent boost of moisture to a region grappling with drought.

The Central Sierra Snow Lab at the University of California, Berkeley said Friday that more than 16 inches (43 centimeters) of snow fell in the past day.

“We are now at 61% of our normal #snow #water equivalent for this date,” said a tweet from the lab specializing in snow hydrology and climatology.

The spring storm had triggered warnings from the Oregon border down through the southern Cascades and the northern Sierra Nevada. But the late-season precipitation was welcome after a dry winter.

Californians Urged to Save Water as State Faces Dismal Snowpack in Sierra Nevada

California is going into spring with a minuscule amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada, leaving the state in a third year of extreme drought and with depleted reservoirs to draw on during what’s likely to be another hot, parched summer.

The mountain snowpack, as measured by snow sensors across the Sierras, now stands at just 38% of the long-term average.

Study Previews How Climate Change May Alter Rain-making Atmospheric Rivers by 2100

The people, economy, and ecosystems of the Pacific coast states of California, Oregon and Washington are highly dependent on cool-season atmospheric rivers for their annual water supply. These long, narrow flows of saturated air can transport enormous amounts of water vapor – roughly equivalent to the flow at the mouth of the Mississippi River. They can unload  heavy precipitation on the Cascade and Sierra Nevada ranges, but their annual yield regularly swings between boom and bust.

Snow Drought Expands as Western U.S. is Running Out of Time to Replenish Water Supplies

February total precipitation was record low at over 200 Snow Telemetry sites, leading to continued expansion of snow drought conditions across the West. Fifty percent of the SNOTEL sites now have snow water equivalent that is less than one-third of historical conditions, up from 22% in early February.  In California, the driest January and February in state history has led to a March 1 statewide snowpack of less than 70% of average, down from 160% at the start of the new year.

Satellite Images Show Just How Quickly Sierra’s Snowpack Is Retreating

The storms that frosted the Sierra Nevada with a healthy layer of snow in December soon gave way to dry weather, and the snowpack is showing it.

Satellite images from NASA show a big difference even between January and February. Images from Jan. 9 showed a blanket of snow over the Sierra Nevada and their foothills, with clouds overshadowing parts of the Bay Area and Central Valley.

Snow Falling: As Climate Warms, Overhauling California Water Projections Gains Urgency

Packed onto the slopes of the Sierra Nevada is a precious source of water for California — a frozen reservoir that climate change is already transforming.

As the planet warms, the spring snowpack is dwindling. The snow is creeping up mountainsides to higher elevations, melting earlier in the year and seeping into dry soils rather than washing into rivers and streams that feed reservoirs.

Snow to Spread Across West as Temperatures Plunge

An active weather pattern is in place across the western United States, AccuWeather forecasters say, and the arrival of a storm in the Northwest will eventually result in widespread impacts from California to the central and southern Rockies.

An area of low pressure was diving southeastward over the interior West on Tuesday. As the storm strengthens will moving into the Southwest region, areas of snow will break out and become locally heavy from the Sierra Nevada to the Rockies in Colorado and the various ranges in northern Arizona and New Mexico.