Spring Snow Survey in Sierra Nevada: Epic Snowpack at 221 Percent of Average

April 3, 2023

California Department of Water Resources:

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today conducted the fourth snow survey of the season at Phillips Station. The manual survey recorded 126.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 54 inches, which is 221 percent of average for this location on April 3. The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack and is a key component of DWR’s water supply forecast. DWR’s electronic readings from 130 snow sensors placed throughout the state indicate the statewide snowpack’s snow water equivalent is 61.1 inches, or 237 percent of average for this date.

“This year’s severe storms and flooding is the latest example that California’s climate is becoming more extreme,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “After the driest three years on record and devastating drought impacts to communities across the state, DWR has rapidly shifted to flood response and forecasting for the upcoming snowmelt. We have provided flood assistance to many communities who just a few months ago were facing severe drought impacts.”

Just as the drought years demonstrated that California’s water system is facing new climate challenges, this year is showing how the state’s flood infrastructure will continue to face climate-driven challenges for moving and storing as much of these flood water as possible.

This year’s April 1 result from the statewide snow sensor network is higher than any other reading since the snow sensor network was established in the mid-1980s. Before the network was established, the 1983 April 1 statewide summary from manual snow course measurements was 227 percent of average. The 1952 April 1 statewide summary for snow course measurements was 237 percent of average.

“This year’s result will go down as one of the largest snowpack years on record in California,” said Sean de Guzman, manager of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit. “While 1952’s snow course measurements showed a similar result, there were fewer snow courses at that time, making it difficult to compare to today’s results. Because additional snow courses were added over the years, it is difficult to compare results accurately across the decades with precision, but this year’s snowpack is definitely one of the biggest the state has seen since the 1950s.”


For the record, last year’s measurement, below, at this station showed 2.5 inches of snow depth.
We are in an age of extremes.


One Response to “Spring Snow Survey in Sierra Nevada: Epic Snowpack at 221 Percent of Average”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Looks like Tulare Lake will remain a lake for a while.

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