U.S. EIA: “Record Precipitation, Snowpack in California”

Guest post by David Middleton

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Drought Monitor

MARCH 22, 2017

Record precipitation, snowpack in California expected to increase hydro generation in 2017

For the first time since 2011, California’s drought is significantly weakening—a result of one of the wettest winters on record. California has experienced record levels of precipitation this winter, and unlike last winter, cooler temperatures over the 2016–2017 winter season have enabled the precipitation to build up snowpack (the total accumulated snow and ice on the ground). High precipitation and snowpack levels, both of which supply hydroelectric generators throughout the year, suggest that hydroelectric generation in California in 2017 will significantly exceed 2016 levels.

Although the drought state of emergency declared by California authorities in January 2014 is still in place, drought conditions have noticeably improved, and the northern half of the state is no longer classified in any stage of drought severity. The area of the state classified as being in exceptional drought (D4), the most extreme category, has dropped to zero, a significant improvement over the 40% and 35% of the state’s land area classified as being in exceptional drought in March 2015 and 2016, respectively. However, 23% of the state—mostly regions in the south—is still in a moderate drought (category D1) status or worse. Mandatory water restrictions, enacted for the first time in the state’s history in April 2015, remain in effect in California. State officials are expected to wait until the full winter season ends in April to amend or rescind the state’s emergency drought declaration.

Snowpack levels have increased significantly from the near-zero levels measured in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in April 2015. As of March 21, 2017, the California Department of Water Resources reported that statewide snowpack was 158% of normal for that date. A more important metric when considering snowpack is the snow water equivalent (SWE)—the total amount of water contained within the snowpack. California’s SWE levels have noticeably increased this year, and as of March 21, the California Department of Water Resources reported that the statewide snow water equivalent was also 158% of average for that date.


Snowpack and SWE are strong drivers of hydroelectric generation because runoff from melting snowpack feeds hydroelectric plants in the spring and summer months. California’s hydroelectric generation increased through most of 2016, especially toward the end of the year. Total 2016 hydroelectric generation in California was well above the 2013–2015 range and was nearly as high as the longer-term, pre-drought generation average over 2001–2010. High levels of SWE from the 2016–2017 winter suggest increases in hydroelectric generation in California later in 2017.


U.S. Energy Information Administration

Source: California Nevada River Forecast Center Note: Click to enlarge.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly, and California Department of Water Resources Note: California snow water equivalent data for March 2017 is based on a partial set of monthly data.

So much for California’s “unending drought.


California Precipitation Index (NOAA)
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
March 22, 2017 2:08 pm

I would say alert the press but then again it doesn’t fit their narrative so these details will likely show up on the second last page.

Reply to  Rick Sanchez
March 22, 2017 3:51 pm

What do you mean it doesn’t fit the narrative? More drought, less drought, more rain, less rain… it’s all due to climate change and therefore all man’s fault.

David A Smith
Reply to  SMC
March 23, 2017 4:25 am

I watched a video presentation referring to change in California from draught to heavy precipitation as a “weather whiplash”. It just falls into the category of everything proves it.

Reply to  Rick Sanchez
March 23, 2017 3:26 am

Abrams currently has disaster article on The Guardian’s site where he claims retrospective “expectations” are proven right and Californa droght / flooding is “a good example”.

Easy to be wise after the event. He does not cite to where these “expectations” were before the event.

He also says climate scientists predict more drought , more flooding and some areas which have both more drought and more flooding ( not at the same time ).

I predict that in two rolls of a dice the numbers will be between 1 and 6 and will be different from each other, except on some occasions where they will be THE SAME. !

Keep all your bases covered when making climate ‘predictions’.

Reply to  Greg
March 23, 2017 1:16 pm

As a native Californian, I agree except I say it a bit differently:

“There is no normal in CA weather, only averages.”

And yes it’s funny how quickly the alarmists went from “permanent drought” to “manmade climate extremes”.

March 22, 2017 2:12 pm
NW sage
Reply to  Resourceguy
March 23, 2017 6:07 pm

We are blessed

Donald Kasper
March 22, 2017 2:12 pm

Yes, you could say no drought whatsoever is “significant weakening”.

Tom Halla
Reply to  Donald Kasper
March 22, 2017 2:16 pm

Too true.

Donald Kasper
March 22, 2017 2:13 pm

Yes, the Sonora Desert in the southern part of the state next to the Colorado River is dry yet again. This is big news to some.

Reply to  Donald Kasper
March 23, 2017 6:52 pm

How’d all that rain fall into the Salton Sea?

Reply to  Donald Kasper
March 27, 2017 1:24 pm

There used to be axiom that stated that the lower total precip an area received the less reliable it became. California certainly would fall into that, especially from centre to the south.

Donald Kasper
March 22, 2017 2:15 pm

A drought emergency in the middle of no drought whatsoever allows CA Democrats to continue that narrative, you know, we are in a 1000 year drought of unprecedented proportion, never seen in modern civilization, blah, blah.

NW sage
Reply to  Donald Kasper
March 23, 2017 6:11 pm

Quick, get the governor to declare an emergency – the predicted drought emergency didn’t occur as expected and now the new emergency is that there are no emergencies! Until tomorrow when we’ll make something else up to suck more money out of Washington.

John Bell
March 22, 2017 2:15 pm

Gotta water that central valley, much food is grown there, and I hope this adds to the aquafer.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  John Bell
March 22, 2017 6:11 pm

Wrong! That water belongs to the Delta Smelt.

Donald Kasper
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
March 22, 2017 11:38 pm

The aquifer is underground water, and as such has nothing to do with surface runoff for smelt.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
March 23, 2017 4:22 am

And just where do you think that underground water comes from?

Reply to  John Bell
March 23, 2017 1:27 pm

Unfortunately, due to subsidence from the uncontrolled pumping out of the aquifer during the dry years, there is no way for it to replenish. It’s not like a flat, dry sponge that will expand again after it’s moistened. Once the water’s removed and the ground sinks, that holding capacity is gone forever.

Reply to  John Bell
March 23, 2017 2:33 pm

They have reverse wells, where they flood a section of field that drains into the aquifer.
Groundwater recharging with Huell Howser.

J Mac
March 22, 2017 2:17 pm

Man made climate change has produce the wettest drought in California history.
Details to follow, Bill Nye video at 11……

Reply to  J Mac
March 22, 2017 2:22 pm


Donald Kasper
Reply to  J Mac
March 22, 2017 11:39 pm

No. Look, straighten up. It is well known that drought causes significant, uncontrollable, dangerous, and alarming rainfall.

Bryan A
March 22, 2017 2:17 pm

The statement

However, 23% of the state—mostly regions in the south—is still in a moderate drought (category D1) status or worse

seems rather incorrect when viewing the map.
According to the map colors around
14% is Yellow – D0 Exceptionally Dry
7% is tan – D1 Moderate Drought
2% orange – D2 Severe Drought
It would appear, by the map, that less than 10% is still in drought with the remainder 13-14% just dry

March 22, 2017 2:24 pm

Now it’s only dry on top of the asphalt………….

Joel O’Bryan
March 22, 2017 2:31 pm

There’s reality.
Then there’s California’s altreality government run by Gov Moonbeam and his band of merry progressives.

(Screen captured just now)

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
March 24, 2017 10:14 am

Regressive progressive. Kind of true conservatism, they try to keep the Nature unchanged, preserved, as a static thing. Biologists have a word for stable. It’s ‘dead’.

March 22, 2017 2:31 pm

The record drought was clearly caused by man made global warming, as is the current precipitation record. If you disagree, then clearly, your brain has been manipulated by global warming. Yeah, it messes with brains too! So pernicious.

Reply to  Kevin
March 27, 2017 1:32 pm

The propaganda nerds have devised that scale: severe, extreme, exceptional. They are missing “unprecedented’!

Ron Williams
March 22, 2017 2:32 pm

How does that song go by Albert Hammond….”It never rains in Southern California” but when it does, Man it pours! So true.

Reply to  Ron Williams
March 22, 2017 6:00 pm

Yes, the girls in California.
Another one with the girls there:

LOL in Oregon
March 22, 2017 2:48 pm

But remember
….it is a “dry” rain!
and my word to Gov. Moonbeam is
….Haaa, Haaa, Haaa, Haaa!
I bet, on what you learned as a little tyke during WW II
…no toys, SAVE THE World!, be safe, no toys, no doctors, little fuel/food……NO TOYS!
By the way, please take back all those people you pushed to Oregon,
They live in Stump Town and buy non-existing bridges over the Columbia.

March 22, 2017 2:52 pm

The snow pack also extends to lower latitudes. There’s still over 8′ of snow on the ground at 6000 feet which is rare this late in March, especially when the bulk of the snow fell in Jan and Feb. This also means a cooler than average summer as significant snow will persist all summer long and reflect a lot of solar energy away.

tony mcleod
Reply to  co2isnotevil
March 22, 2017 3:58 pm

Pity if the Arctic stopped doing that.

Reply to  tony mcleod
March 22, 2017 6:09 pm

“Pity if the Arctic stopped doing that.”

Not that important globally considering that the average 12-13% percent of the planet covered by ice receives a far smaller fraction of the incident energy than its fraction of the surface.

Also, since the planet (especially Arctic regions) is 2/3 covered by clouds, only 1/3 of the area of melted ice actually stops reflecting energy. Compare this to the Sierra’s which are almost always clear skies between about mid May and mid Nov, thus all of the alpine snow pack represents incremental summer reflection. In this case, the local effect is far larger than the global effect can be.

Consider as well that the Antarctic has an average elevation of 1000’s of meters which even at those altitudes in the tropics, summer snow fields can be found.

When you do the math, even if all the ice on the planet melted, the global incremental equivalent ‘forcing’ would be less than half of what’s needed to amplify 3.7 W/m^2 of CO2 forcing into the >16 W/m^2 of incremental surface emissions required to sustain a 3C temperature increase.

Reply to  tony mcleod
March 24, 2017 10:17 am

Here at the Arctic it is cold. Could you deliver some centigrades here asap, please.

Rob Dawg
March 22, 2017 4:06 pm

It should be noted that at no time did any water agency stop issuing “will serve” letters to developers.

March 22, 2017 4:11 pm

Well I have been doing my part by saving water coming off my roof for later use to water my garden here in Southern California.. I do not have closed containers to keep the water so I cannot keep it for very long because of mosquitoes. If I do not save the water, which is really a liquified greenhouse gas, the city just collects it and dumps it just outside the city limits where it is allowed to evaporate back into the atmosphere and cause more global warming The pool of liquified greenhouse gas is now enormous. The EPA should step in and force the city to get rid of the huge pool of greenhouse gas that the city has created or at least cover the pool with plastic..

Frederick Michael
March 22, 2017 4:34 pm

The Drought levels are defined as percentiles. Exceptional Drought (D4) is the driest 2% of the time (for that location). Extreme Drought (D3) is the next 3%, Severe Drought (D2) the next 5%, Moderate Drought (D1) the next 10%, and Abnormally Dry (D0) the next 10%. Thus ON AVERAGE 20% will be D1 or greater.

So the people responsible for mandatory water restrictions when 23% of CA is in D1 or greater remind me of Dilbert’s boss who complained that 40% of his employees’ sick leave was taken on Mondays and Fridays. Noting his suspicion about this he asked, “What kind of an idiot do they think I am?” Dilbert replied, “Certainly not an idiot savant sir.”

Reply to  Frederick Michael
March 23, 2017 4:32 am

So to avoid drought according to the PDI weather has to be like the schoolchildren of Lake Wobegon, i. e. everybody above average.

Reply to  Frederick Michael
March 24, 2017 10:21 am

They should lower the limit down from 23% to 15%. That would be progressive.

Robert Sandor
March 22, 2017 4:43 pm

Just watch, all your local power suppliers including PG&E and the new CCA’s will be increasing your electricity bill due to make up for lost revenue to the solar/wind community.

March 22, 2017 5:04 pm

Too bad that when it starts melting, we won’t be able to capture more of it.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 22, 2017 9:53 pm

Double dam!

Jimmy Haigh
March 22, 2017 5:16 pm

Man made CO2 is a b@st@rd: you never know where it’s going to strike next.

Cliff Hilton
March 22, 2017 5:20 pm

The drought map is way off. It’s going to take decades for the drought to go away. Well, that’s what I read. http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/how-long-will-it-last-and-how-do-we-plan/article_146f0ca1-5d5e-55c8-b7f9-3cf61586af1c.html. It looks like someone removed their article. Must be embarrassing having made up ones mind; a bit to hastily. Where’s the wayback machine when you need one?

Reply to  Cliff Hilton
March 22, 2017 6:35 pm

May have to get a computer expansion and save to your own files. Unfortunately not everything on the internet is permanent 🙁

Reply to  Cliff Hilton
March 23, 2017 1:24 pm

Best part of that BPG article was the writer calling CA “the Eureka state”.

Bill Hirt
March 22, 2017 5:24 pm

I suggest you read the Seattle Times March 18th Front page article showing February rainfalls for the last 70 years haven’t changed.

March 22, 2017 6:24 pm

The article is incorrect. Only 8.24% of the state is at D1 or greater

March 22, 2017 9:46 pm

What they’re trying to say is California’s drought slowdown is accelerating at an alarming rate.

March 23, 2017 1:54 am

Golly, I hope the wines are in good shape. Nothing else matters.

March 23, 2017 3:29 am

Record precipitation, snowpack in California expected to increase hydro generation in 2017

It’s a shame that they can’t find a way to make green, clean, “low carbon”, renewable energy instead of all this DIRTY non renewable hydro. BAH.

March 23, 2017 4:56 am

Oh, this can not possibly be true! It is never, not ever forever, going to snow or rain in Cali ever again!!!!!! Gov Brown said it so of course it is fact!!!!!

March 23, 2017 7:14 am

So now there will be regular rain and snow every year, right?

Absolutely not going to revert to years of drought interrupted by exceptional wetness?

worst drought in 500 years ended by exceptional weather event doesn’t look like the old climate to me…

Reply to  Griff
March 23, 2017 7:27 am

You’re confused.

The drought (“worst in 500 years” — your words) was the exceptional event.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  David Middleton
March 23, 2017 3:35 pm


machines never ever made me no harm.

people do.

tell why.

Reply to  Griff
March 23, 2017 8:23 am

The rains should stay average or higher for the next several decades. Next winter is very likely to be an above average winter for NorCal and the PNW. It may even be a bigger winter for rain than this one.

Reply to  Griff
March 23, 2017 9:58 am

Exceptional wetness occurred do to prolonged laughter leading to loss of bladder control, maybe!

Reply to  Griff
March 23, 2017 1:57 pm

Ever heard of 1862? Old enough climate for you?

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Griff
March 23, 2017 2:51 pm

Griff, how come you never told about

“worst drought in 500 years ended by exceptional weather event doesn’t look like the old climate to me…”

What’s that new insight on

‘500 years’.

Regards – Hans

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Griff
March 23, 2017 3:10 pm

My right thumb is swollen, blue, and throbbing.

Perhaps a work accident.

~ 3 years ago I had the same with the left index finger.
After a tetanus injection, I thought that was done.

Obviously wishfull thinking.

/ the streaks on the fingers are high yellow + deep blue /

Thanks for asking – ICHTHOLAN made it.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Griff
March 23, 2017 3:39 pm
Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Griff
March 23, 2017 4:00 pm

The wound plaster begin to dissolve. After lashing the fringes with the lighter.


Reply to  Johann Wundersamer
March 24, 2017 10:29 am

Get to the doctor!

Reply to  Griff
March 24, 2017 10:26 am

Define ‘regular’ in California. LA is no Bergen, Norway.

Reply to  Griff
March 27, 2017 1:46 pm

Once the Final Four is over Griff, you should start a new pool ; which “permanent drought” will continue first? Texas or California?

March 23, 2017 8:26 am

“Record levels of precipitation”

Sure. If by “record” you only accept records from a few decades past. If, instead, you take “record” to mean actual record, then, no. California as a whole did not experience record precipitation.

Reply to  Richard
March 24, 2017 10:34 am

Record is a function of all space-time volumes.

March 23, 2017 8:55 am

Where is the research study to determine the advance of the Palisade Glacier in the Sierra Mountains? Surely with all this snow pack the glacier will be advancing at an alarming rate.
Given its current rate of advance one could extrapolate that it will bury the Owens valley within decades!

I believe Mark Twain had a similar sarcastic comment regarding extrapolating the reduction in length of the Mississippi River as it cut off ox bows each season.

Douglas James
March 23, 2017 10:54 am

Has anyone an update on Lago Popoo in Bolivia. This lake was a poster-child of global climate change a few years back when it dried up (as it had done before). I can see it is raining in the area but no word on the lake levels.

Reply to  Douglas James
March 23, 2017 2:03 pm
Douglas James
Reply to  tty
March 24, 2017 7:35 am


March 23, 2017 11:00 am

What is Gov. Brown going to do if there isn’t climate fear mongering to fill his busy little day .
Balance a budget ? Nah… a bit to much reality for Moonbeam .

March 23, 2017 11:40 am

I would be interested in looking at the original data of the addendum.
Does someone here know where it is and how I can access it?

Reply to  David Middleton
March 23, 2017 1:17 pm


March 23, 2017 5:41 pm

Climate “Science” on Trial; Did Cosmic Rays End the CA Drought?

Another Scott
Reply to  co2islife
March 23, 2017 11:11 pm

Thanks for the info, co2islife, should have read your post before asking my question below….

Reply to  Another Scott
March 24, 2017 3:48 am

Better late than never…LOL. Thanks for the comment and be sure to share.

Another Scott
March 23, 2017 11:07 pm

Has anyone wondered why California had so much more rain this year than last year, an El Nino year? And everyone forgets our near record 2004-05 rainy season when there was barely any El Nino happening. Maybe someone can wrest some research money out of the CO2 hoard and study this a little. Sure would be helpful to have a better understanding of the factors that contribute to increased rainfall in California, at least to us Californians….

Reply to  Another Scott
March 24, 2017 2:38 am
March 24, 2017 4:59 pm

Just left the grocery store -there is a sign on the register commenting that the reason the price of lettuce has sky rocketed is that the fields in the Southern California desert region (Imperial valley) and Yuma, AZ areas are too wet. Bummer…

Lars P.
March 25, 2017 11:35 am

And still California’s Central Valley Water Project has only allotted farmers 65% of their contracted water allocations for 2017.


%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights