California Snowpack Half of Normal, El Niño Conditions Impact Winter Weather


With winter already half over, the state snowpack is only half of what it should be.

The second annual snow survey of the year was conducted on January 30th by the Department of Water Resources at the Phillips snow station in Soda Springs. Last year, scientists stood on a snowpack 214% of average; this year, El Nino conditions have provided not just warmer temperatures but fewer storms across the Sierra Nevadas.

Sean DeGuzman, DWR Snow Survey Manager, says the January 30th snow survey results reflect “a modest increase in the snowpack since January 1, but overall conditions are still far below normal. DWR’s electronic readings from 130 stations placed throughout the state indicate that the statewide snowpack’s snow water equivalent is 8.4 inches, or 52 percent of average for this date, an improvement from just 28 percent of average on January 1. One year ago, the snowpack statewide was 214 percent of average on February 1.”

Dr. Michael Anderson, the State Climatologist with DWR, notes that despite strong El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean, various climate factors, including a high-pressure system, have resulted in below-average conditions. He notes most storm impacts have been concentrated along the coastal regions. This highlights California’s ability to swing from one extreme weather condition to another.

The next survey is tentatively scheduled for March 1.