What drought? California snowpack is now above normal

Here’s some good news from the “weather not climate” department. The latest series of storms, part of an “atmospheric river” pattern, have increased California’s snowpack to anywhere from 110 to 115% above of normal for this time of year.

The latest data from the Department of Water Resources shows that statewide average is above normal.

Source: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/snowapp/sweq.action

In contrast, just one year ago on this date, the statewide average was about 26% of normal.

Since that date, California snowpack has quadrupled in size. However, the snow season doesn’t end until April 1st, and according to the DWR, California is at 61% of the statewide normal for this date compared to the entire season. With one or two more storm patterns, it’s possible we’ll end the season on a positive note.



0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
January 23, 2019 9:30 am

It’s dangerous chaotic climate change snow pack that’s good for another 30 feet of high speed rail union funding.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
January 23, 2019 10:38 am

Thanks to Gorebull Warming, ice fishing is ON!!!! in my kingdom. The newspaper story included a scale of thickness that tells you what is NOT safe (2″ or less thickness) and what thickness you can drive a car on (8 to 12 inches) or a pickup truck (12 to 15 inches).

That means that the bluegills, trout, catfish and crappies that are left over from summer will be hungry and available. But we all know that ice fishing is not just about fishing, right?

Reply to  Sara
January 23, 2019 12:13 pm

Something fishy about your comment.

Reply to  Sara
January 23, 2019 1:25 pm

Sara: Ice fishing started 3 weeks early in western Colorado and I removed arctic grayling from my bucket list. Our local mountain now has 254 inches of snow. Last year we were in extreme drought.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
January 23, 2019 9:48 pm
January 23, 2019 9:32 am

“110% above normal” means more than twice the normal snowpack, not to be a %Nazi. Is this what was intended?

Reply to  Michael Moon
January 23, 2019 9:49 am

According to the state chart it appears to be 115% “of normal”. As in, 15% above normal. a pretty important amount relatively speaking.

Reply to  john
January 23, 2019 11:05 am

“Of normal” does not equal “Above normal.”

Reply to  Michael Moon
January 23, 2019 11:55 am

Michael, any percentage above 100% means ABOVE normal

Reply to  JerryC
January 23, 2019 3:31 pm

Did you guys read this? He said 110% ABOVE normal, not OF normal.

Reply to  Michael Moon
January 23, 2019 12:15 pm

“Michael Moon January 23, 2019 at 11:05 am
“Of normal” does not equal “Above normal.”

There’s your problem; using mythical math.

Reply to  Michael Moon
January 23, 2019 3:32 pm

Ahah! corrected

Bill Parsons
Reply to  Michael Moon
January 23, 2019 9:51 am

You’re right. Read as 110% of normal or 10% above normal. Here are Colorado’s snow pack totals which are also worryingly above normal. Must be global warming…


Statewide we’re also at 110% of normal with all of the eight major drainages except one – the Upper Rio Grande – being well above normal. It’s an average of around 30 years I believe.

Bill Parsons
Reply to  Bill Parsons
January 23, 2019 10:08 am

That link is incorrect. Here are the numbers of Colorado snowpack totals for those interested:
Yampa & White River Basin – 109%
Colorado River Basin – 118%
Gunnison – 110%
San Miguel, Dolores, Animas & San Juan – 96 %
Upper Rio Gande – 86 %
Arkansas – 129%
South Platte – 113%
North Platte – 104%

Steve Keohane
Reply to  Bill Parsons
January 23, 2019 11:52 am

I can confirm your figures, living ~8 miles south of the Colorado River, I record precipitation. I have 8.49″ for this water year (Oct.1st on), where ~5″ is average.

Reply to  Steve Keohane
January 23, 2019 1:28 pm

And another 1 to 3 inches of the white stuff falling overnight.

Bill Parsons
Reply to  Steve Keohane
January 23, 2019 8:07 pm

I just discovered this chart. Maybe you’ve already seen it. I was surprised at the basin mean readings for the last few years – all pretty high.


Reply to  Bill Parsons
January 23, 2019 11:21 am

Of course it’s global warming Lol. Anything that is not what they consider ‘normal’ is caused by global warming or whatever term they’re using today. This would probably be “climate disruption” blamed for changes in the jet stream, excess water vapor, lack of an el niño or too strong an el niño. Just wait for next summer when they’re going to be touting the floods caused by the ‘excess’ snowpack.

Reply to  Bill Parsons
January 23, 2019 1:59 pm

A good link:


Snowpack is at 120% and 126% for the Colorado River and South Platte River watersheds, respectively. That’s especially good news since the Denver metro area is lacking in precip since October.

Reply to  Michael Moon
January 23, 2019 10:07 am

I cannot speak with “statistical certainty”, however, here in my little suburban enclave just outside the SF Bay Area … my property is SATURATED in H20. This rainy season started EARLIER, and has been AS INTENSE as any I have experienced. With every rain, I now have STANDING WATER in my yard … and I don’t live in a valley. 115% my ass! My property is well-over a +15% increase above normal. I don’t trust that +15% number at all … it f-e-e-l-s well below the conditions I directly observe.

And what is the “drought” of which you speak? You mean the grossly exaggerated 4-year drought that disappeared 4 years ago? The “drought” that Jerry’s eco-monitors attempted to s-t-r-e-t-c-h into a 6-year long drought. THAT “drought” left lonnnnnnnnng ago … why are we ever speaking the word “drought”

BTW … you DO UNDERSTAND that the word “drought” has no defined meaning? No scientific measurement of time or moisture. Like every other other “scienci-sounding” component of AGW … it can be defined and manipulated at will.

January 23, 2019 9:33 am

I’m always bothered by the use of the term “normal” for anything that is weather or climate related. There really is no such thing as “normal”. There is average, or mean, over some period of record, but with variability that is huge compared to the value of the mean. And given that even climate, not just weather, is itself constantly changing over time.

Reply to  Duane
January 23, 2019 9:40 am

Agreed. “Average” is a better word. “Normal” around here is anything from drought to flood.

Reply to  Duane
January 23, 2019 9:49 am

“normal” is defined meteorological technical term https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climatological_normal

Reply to  BCBill
January 23, 2019 10:34 am

That meteorologists use the term incorrectly does not make it correct. They presume that there is “normal” weather or climate, but as well we all should know very well by now, there is no such thing as a static “normal” condition of either weather or climate. “Normal” is the full range of everything that has ever been experienced in 4+ billion years of earth history.

Reply to  Duane
January 23, 2019 10:54 am

Technologies often give specified meanings to words that also have other common usages. Nobody complains. The meteorological definition of normal implies that there is no such thing as long term “normal” weather because the normals are udated typically on 30 year intervals to keep them relevant. Weather that is different from normal means that it is different from the recent past. It is assumed that current weather will obviously be different from some temporally distant weather so normals are used to give us some basis for making weather comparisons in a human lifespan relevant time frame. Almost the opposite of what you are claiming.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  BCBill
January 23, 2019 11:40 am

You might as well give up on this. I’ve tried several different ways to explain how the notion of a “Normal” was thought about (1930s), discussed, voted on, and accepted.
No one pays a bit of attention.
Learning is hard. Un-learning is nearly impossible.
Ranting is easy.

Reply to  BCBill
January 24, 2019 1:54 am

The definition is utterly stupid. Look at just about any UK weather record and you will see that “normal” almost never occurs – it is hotter or colder it dryer or wetter on every scale every time.

Normal is the rarity, which makes the definition nonsensical.

Yes, any discipline can define its terminology how it wants, but when communicating with the public, using that terminology is a stupid way of communicating if the technical usage differs from the common usage.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Duane
January 23, 2019 10:56 am

Agreed 100%. “Normal” is just a midpoint of extremes, and says absolutely NOTHING about what one “should” experience or “expect” in any given time period.

Steve Reddish
Reply to  AGW is not Science
January 23, 2019 3:02 pm

I find fault with defining normal as the midpoint of the normal range. Any temperature within the normal range should be considered normal. Thus, if normal range for daily high during Jan. in my town is 32F to 48F, today’s high of 35F should be labeled “normal”, NOT 5F below normal.


Reply to  AGW is not Science
January 24, 2019 1:57 am

And when we use things like “normal distribution” it is idiotic to invent your own meaning for a word in common usage both by the public and by other scientific disciplines.

Bill Powers
Reply to  Duane
January 23, 2019 9:57 am

Normal vs average have two very different psychological impacts. I closely monitored weather reports from a local weather channel for years in the midst of this CAGW hoax before i finally stopped watching the local weather reports on television altogether.
Whenever the temperatures were above the mark the weather man implanted the subliminal message that temperatures for the day were above”‘Normal.” Yet whenever the temperature came in below the mark the weather man would alter his daily message that the temperatures for the day were below average.
Check it out where you live and see if this isn’t the generally applied subliminal media propaganda.

Reply to  Bill Powers
January 23, 2019 10:42 am

Exactly … “normal” is a judgment-loaded term. Use of that term anytime something happens that is different from an arbitrarily determined “normal” is therefore “abnormal”, meaning not within the expected or previously experienced range of variance .. something that means it is a problem to be solved, not a completely expected condition.

A “normal” precip or temperature datapoint with zero confidence limits presumes that variability is zero, which is of course preposterous.

Even taking into consideration only an artificially limited (by available data) period of record dataset, we can still apply normal scientific and mathematically sound methods to determine what is “normal” – i.e. determine the 95% confidence interval using statistically sound standard deviation. That is in virtually all instances a very wide range of temperature or precipitation.

Reply to  Duane
January 23, 2019 8:37 pm

I rather like where you are going with this. I’d like normal to be redefined by whoever it was that John F. Hultquist referenced at 11:40 am above. Normal should be about one or two standard deviations from the average, or something thereabouts.

Then the weather (rainfall, temperature, wind, etc.) should be reported as ‘normal’ and also reported whether it’s above or below average.

Then when it’s well below zero degrees* on a given day, and say that only happens every few years, it will probably outside the decided range and can be reported as “X degrees below the average and a bit (or a good bit) outside of our normal range of -2 to +18 degrees.”

It will never happen. No chance for the near daily alarm if reported that way.

* degrees C or F, it’s just an example of the reporting concept.

January 23, 2019 9:33 am

And in order to capture this bountiful gift, the State has created this added storage capacity to capture the Spring runoff…………….. Crickets.

Tom Halla
Reply to  BarryHoffman
January 23, 2019 9:49 am

There is also the mismanagement of the existing water storage, with releases to cater to the “needs of the Delta Smelt”.

Reply to  Tom Halla
January 23, 2019 10:33 am

all 1 of them

January 23, 2019 9:36 am

Clearly icefirefloodroughts are the new normal.

January 23, 2019 9:38 am

Here at my location in the foothills of the Central Sierra I have 56% of an average rainfall season. Since we’re about halfway through the rainfall season it’s pretty likely we’ll have at least an average year. Two more series of storms will do it.

Ken Mitchell
January 23, 2019 9:48 am

“The latest series of storms, part of an “atmospheric river” pattern, have increased California’s snowpack to anywhere from 110 to 115% above normal for this time of year.”

If ONLY there were some method of STORING that water and keeping it for use later on! Once upon a time, humans were capable of building structures called “reservoirs” in which water could be stored. However, this knowledge has apparently been lost, since California has not built any reservoirs in the last 40 years.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Ken Mitchell
January 23, 2019 9:58 am

As you know, history becomes legend, legend becomes myth.

Reply to  Ken Mitchell
January 23, 2019 11:24 am

“since California has not built any reservoirs in the last 40 years.”

While the population skyrocketed.

January 23, 2019 9:51 am

Guess the train that nobody needs will get built as a fetish or Easter Island head. “normal” as was stated above doesn’t really make sense for weather. Average with significant variations seems to match nature.

January 23, 2019 9:52 am

Dangerous freezing rain in the northeast US.
comment image

January 23, 2019 9:59 am

Never doubt that Comrade Newsome and his band of merry socialists in Sacramento will manage to mis-manage even surplus years so they can blame CC.

Save the bait fish in the Delta!!!! or something like that.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
January 23, 2019 10:28 am

Bait fish ! In Quebec and Northern Canada, Garlic and Butter Batter Fried Smelt are considered a breakfast delicacy .. Mmmmmmm…….

Reply to  Marcus
January 23, 2019 12:26 pm

Fried lard with onions and garlic is very good for frost.

January 23, 2019 10:01 am

The Ca Department of Water Resources data internet site went off the rails around Dec 7 of last year. You use to be able to watch “Average Storage” by percentage on a daily basis. As posted by Duane …. what is % of average or normal mean? Anyway, it was a good way of observing water storage health and whether it was declining , increasing, or staying static with our use. Two years ago it was below 50%. One year ago it was at 112% while the governor was saying drought is the new normal. It’s been around 100% since. My bet is we’ll be releasing water from dams soon to maintain safe levels. Too bad they can’t figure out a way to inject the excess into the groundwater supply.

Reply to  markl
January 23, 2019 2:08 pm

Yes but have they done anything to increase storage capacity: meaning more reservoirs? Why no of course not?

Joel Snider
January 23, 2019 10:01 am

It’s probably Brown’s draconian greenie laws bringing up the snow pack.

See? Control-freak regulation of the climate works!

Steve Johnson
Reply to  Joel Snider
January 24, 2019 12:23 am

Governor Newsome promises to be Governor Moonbeam 2.0! Dams? Who needs dams! San Francisco wanted to tear down Hetch Hetchy which is the San Francisco water supply. CA, where the dumb lead the blind!

Reply to  Steve Johnson
January 27, 2019 8:23 pm

My understanding that new dams are planned, Sites reservoir being one of them, the state awarded ~$800,000 in July towards construction of the reservoir.

January 23, 2019 10:20 am

Any day now, Guv’ner Moonbeam will be whining ….”All of this extra GloBull Warming snow will flood Calipornia and cause it to flip over as it sinks beneath the giant sexist waves of SLR caused by the evil non liberal white male Humans driving non electric go carts that I didn’t invest all of my money in !

Did I miss anything ?

Reply to  Marcus
January 23, 2019 2:13 pm

That Jerry Brown is no longer governor of California perhaps?

Joel Snider
Reply to  Phil.
January 23, 2019 2:55 pm

As if that made a difference.

Rhys Jaggar
January 23, 2019 10:23 am

Good news for now, but as clear weather is on the cards for up to a fortnight, this is unlikely to still be true come February 5th.

A good snowpack season will still need solid snowfalls in February and March to give a good April 1st number.

January 23, 2019 10:34 am

BC’s snowpack is very close to 100% of normal (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/water/drought-flooding-dikes-dams/river-forecast-centre/snow-survey-water-supply-bulletin/snow-conditions-commentary )
but the scientifically illiterate Canadian national news broadcaster has been whipping up a drought fear campaign (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/programs/daybreaknorth/full-episode-for-monday-january-21-2019-daybreak-north-1.4987109)

Numerous daily cold records were broken throughout BC in the previous two winters but I don’t recall a single news report.

Just how ridiculous can this get before something snaps? Apparently the utility of a strong correlation between reality and perception was an early casualty in the war on natural selection.

Randle Dewees
January 23, 2019 10:37 am

Here’s hoping the precip continues – there are years that start well then fizzle.

Steven Lohr
January 23, 2019 11:00 am

When we talk about average it always makes me cringe a bit. From grade school on we have used average to deal with stuff that wiggles around too much to pin down. I imagine myself with a high quality light meter measuring the light level in a room. Sometimes the light is switched on and sometimes it is switched off. An average, once determined, is neither precise, predictive or useful in describing the level of light in the room.

Steve Reddish
Reply to  Steven Lohr
January 23, 2019 3:33 pm

Agreed. Also averages have use when used in reference to groups, such as average weight of adults boarding an airliner. No need to weigh each boarder if you have a reasonable average.

However, averages have limited value for small numbers. If my 2-man canoe can carry 400 lbs, it does me no good to know that average male weight is 190 lbs if my friend weighs 220 lbs and I weigh 195 lbs. We are cruising for a dunking.

Steve Reddish
Reply to  Steven Lohr
January 23, 2019 4:07 pm

An exception to my airline example occurred back in 1972, when Uncle Sam sent me on an all-expense-paid trip to Europe. I was ferried to Europe via a chartered airliner with every seat (no 1st class) occupied by a GI. Each of us carried a duffel bag full of uniforms that consumed our entire weight allowance, plus a bag of our civilian clothes.
After topping off our tanks at Bangor Air Force base, Maine, we continued on to Europe. The pilot took the plane to the far back end of the runway prior to takeoff. He locked the brakes, brought the engines up to full rev, then released the brakes. We proceeded to creep down the runway. At about halfway down the runway the pilot assumed we had reached lift-off speed and raised the nose. He was wrong. We rolled the remaining length of the runway on the rear wheels, with the nose in the air. Lift-off occurred deep into the yellow hashed zone at the end of the runway.

I know this because I had a window seat in the aft-most row. When the pilot did his roll-back, my window dropped to within just a few feet of the pavement and stayed there. I clearly saw the end-of-runway warnings flash by.


John F. Hultquist
January 23, 2019 11:48 am

Other basins across the western USA:
strong> snow telemetry

These SNOTEL reading have been questioned in past years; perhaps they are better now.

Jerry Chaney
January 23, 2019 12:00 pm

I have to wonder how they are going to react when California goes into one of its completely normal 200+ year long droughts? Are they going to say it is because of manmade global warming or are they going to admit that these events happened fairly regularly in the past or are they going to say it is only happening because of humans? If they say it is because of humans, then how do they explain the 400-500 year long droughts that happened in the past when humans were new to the area?

January 23, 2019 1:17 pm

With all the major reservoirs about normal for the date (except Oroville, which seems to be intentionally kept low for now) having a snowpack that’s near normal means there is little risk of drought this summer. Good news indeed. A couple more good storms is all we need. Looks to be dry for maybe the next 10 days then hopefully the storm door swings back open and we have a repeat of last week.

Reply to  BillJ
January 23, 2019 2:59 pm

Oroville has an operating policy of not being at maximum capacity because a primary function is flood control for the downstream river, (they’re required to hold 750,000 acre.feet of capacity as a flood control reserve). It was run down to lower than normal to allow the repair work on the spillway to continue in the event of heavy rain in the fall. If it gets full and there’s a storm they lose the ability to control downstream flow. The release at the moment is through the Hyatt Power plant so electricity is being generated for the state. Currently the inflow is about 11,000cfs and outflow ~1,100cfs and the water level is growing about 3’/day. So far ~18″ of rain this year (since end of Sept) compared with ~30″ last year and ~48″ the year before.

Steven Fraser
January 23, 2019 1:44 pm

Looks like the storms are modeled to take a more northern track, delivering precip to southern Alaska, particularly the area Juneau/Skagway area, including the Ice Fields.

Steve Johnson
January 23, 2019 7:42 pm

I think that it would very prudent for the authors to see if there is any confidence in the GFS at Days 11 to 16 before announcing more storms are due into CA. Those two storms that were on the 12Z model run Wednesday morning, completely evaporated in the 18Z in the afternoon. None of the Operational Runs of the GFS have been very consistent, period, end of story. The GFS trick at putting a storm into the Fantasyland always catches the early bird with his foot in his mouth. Sorry, but this could have been avoided with just a little patience. Just my opinion.

January 23, 2019 9:45 pm
January 24, 2019 1:28 am

After heavy rainfall to the east US, frost will return.
comment image

Johann Wundersamer
January 24, 2019 3:46 am
Alan McIntire
January 24, 2019 6:00 am

California is a lot drier than the average spot on earth. With rainfall variable, not the exact same every year, a MAJORITY of years will have below average rainfall, and a few will have quite a bit above average rainfall.

January 24, 2019 8:00 am

Moonbeam is on his very large, very SECURE gated ranch that is simply dripping with all the conveniences fossil fuels can provide. It is his new normal.

January 24, 2019 12:12 pm

Here is a video from a really clued up airline pilot, He notes that about 3 weeks ago, the DWR noted that the snow pack was at only 60%. The weather can change!!!!!

January 31, 2019 9:50 am

With no more snowfall over the last week or so the snowpack is at about 100% of normal.

%d bloggers like this: