Recent storms give California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack a huge boost

From the “permanent drought” but not this year department and NASA Earth Observatory.

In Spanish, Sierra Nevada means “snowy mountain range.” During the past few months, the range has certainly lived up to its name. After a dry spell in December, a succession of storms in January and February 2019 blanketed the range.

In many areas, snow reports have been coming in feet not inches. Back-to-back storms in February dropped eleven feet (3 meters) of snow on Mammoth Mountain—enough to make it the snowiest ski resort in the United States. More than 37 feet (11 meters) have fallen at the resort since the beginning of winter, and meteorologists are forecasting that yet another storm will bring snow this week.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) acquired these natural-color images of the Sierra Nevada on February 11, 2019, and February 15, 2018. In addition to the much more extensive snow cover in 2019, notice the greener landscape on the western slopes of the range.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview.

Links to individual hires images: February 15, 2018 JPEG and February 11, 2019 JPEG

Statistics complied by the California Department of Water Resources indicate that the mountain range had a snow water equivalent that was 130 percent of normal as of February 11, 2019. It was just 44 percent of normal on Thanksgiving 2018. Last season, on February 15, 2018, snow cover was at a mere 21 percent of normal.

Some of the snow has come courtesy of atmospheric rivers, a type of storm system known for transporting narrow, low-level plumes of moisture across long ocean distances and dumping tremendous amounts of precipitation on land.

The condition of Sierra Nevada snowpack has consequences that go well beyond ski season. Spring and summer melt from the Sierra Nevada plays a crucial role in recharging California’s reservoirs. Though conditions could change, California drought watchers are cautiously optimistic that the boost to the snowpack will insulate the state from drought this summer.

The reservoirs are already in pretty good shape. Cal Water data show that most of the reservoirs are already more than half-full, and several have water levels that are above the historical average for the middle of February.

NASA Earth Observatory Story by Adam Voiland.

99 thoughts on “Recent storms give California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack a huge boost

  1. These extreme snow events are a sign of climate change, don’t you know. When the snow melts there will be floods, which are also a sign of climate change. Whatever, we’re all doomed, doomed I tell you.

  2. So start praying none of your dams has any structural problems this spring. And leave enough capacity so they can absorb the flood waters because you will see that it will rain cats and dogs just when the melt is on its peak. Murphy’s law.

    • Prospectors look forward to strong spring runoffs. Afterwards there is a race to search exposed bedrock areas of streams and creeks for any new nuggets.

      • Right on! Used to pan gold in the Merced River. Find a moss covered submerged rock and scrape the muddy moss into a can and roast it, then pan the color out of the ashes.

        • I bought my first metal detector last year. Trinity County is known for giving up some nice nuggets. So far I have found some small nuggets, coins, and some old fishing lures. Now If I can just cross paths with that one nice signal that isn’t a copper pipe or a .30 caliber piece of lead.

  3. The Twin Cities is poised to break its all time record for the snowiest February. The record goes back to 1962 or 61.

    It’s amazing how the CO2 laid dormant all that time and suddenly lashes out with all this snow.

    • CO2 is sneakier than we thought. One year we have no snow or rain, the next year we have some snow and rain, and then another year we have lots of snow and rain. It seems that CO2 is trying to trick us into believing that it is all unpredictable.

      • The sneakiest trick CO2 has pulled off is by successfully mimicking the behavior of the weather before there was catastrophic climate change.

        • The greatest trick co2 ever pulled was convincing sceptics it only warms…
          -Roger verbal Klint-cortez

          • This skeptic believes that no statically valid data exist to prove that, in a dynamic system, CO2 has any observable effect on climate evolution one way or the other, Matthew. “Show me the data!”

            Observations show none of the UN IPCC climate model-predicted warming of the tropical troposphere. That, alone, disproves the theory that water vapor feedbacks will significantly multiply the theoretical atmospheric warming of increased CO2 concentrations.

            I don’t know the future trajectory of climate change. But I do know that “betting” Trillions of dollars on speculative climate models tuned to late 20th Century warming is a chump’s bet; the same bet one would get using current econometric models to predict future economic performance.

          • Was my joke too confusing?
            I couldn’t get a good play of the original quote.

            To the alarmist ..co2 is a magical creature that affects all weather.

            Us poor skeptics keep pointing out we’ve been told it is going to lead to runaway global warming.

      • CO2 is sneakier than we thought.

        Yes indeedy. Some yrs recently have had AVERAGE temperatures! That can’t be normal — weather is supposed to vary up & down….

  4. Where are all of those apocalyptic predictions when the recent California drought was at its worst? Those of us who have lived though many droughts and floods laugh at the blinkered alarmists who are dismayed by graphs (i.e. models) but ignore weather patterns.

    • Wade, CAGW: try to google it. Up until a month ago, it was described as a sceptic ‘snarl’ to ridicule CC in Wiki. Now they have wiped the internet clean and created a new organization complete with lots of articles and internet traffic called Citizens Against Government Waste CAGW. They went to colossal effort to try to neutralise this obvious irritant and yet they still forecast catastrophic warming.

  5. This IS good news, isn’t it?

    There are some black & white government films from the 1930s and 1940s about forestry department people in CA going out to measure the snowpack load, which appeared in the film to be around 10 feet deep, maybe more.

    I still wouldn’t move there, because we have our own share of snow load right here, but I view this as good news, and I hope sincerely that CA has many, many more incredibly deep snowloads for the foreseeable future. In fact, I might just go out and sacrifice a pack of baloney to the Weather Gods, if that will help to make that happen! 🙂

    We’re due for more snow tonight in my kingdom, next door to Lake Micha Gamu. Like Judy in Waukesah, I don’t want to shovel this **** any more, but my neighbor does when he’s home. Yes, I’d say whatever is going on is weather, normal WEATHER, and no matter how much it hurst, the CAGWers and Greenbeaners and Ecohippies will just have to grow up and deal with it… maybe when they’re 50????

    You all have a really good day.

    • You can get one of those new sammiches that Subway is selling, called the “Jussie”.
      It is made with 100% baloney, but smells like pure bullshit.
      Except to leftists…they love it and swallow it whole.

  6. Snow is water for later…
    Note that due to the global cooling, there would indeed be more snow in winters [cooling]
    but the summers will be both drier and warmer because there will be less clouds and precipitation.
    Simple physics really.

    Serious droughttime coming up for the northern plains of America.

    It just happens every 87-90 years…

    • The drought for the plains and up through Texas happened 2004 through 2011. Roughly 7-11 years long. this is when the gulf streams stop blowing northward.

      • Roughly 7-11 years long. this is when the gulf streams stop blowing northward.

        Interestingly, the last time that happened in Texas was in the 1950’s, and the time before that was during the 1890’s. I can’t explain the mechanism, but it sure looks like our old friend the 60 year cycle has got something to do with it.

    • Henry: And –dry air warms more easily due to not having water molecules soak up heat by vaporization. Though there is less energy in dry air than moist air at the same temperature 🙂

      So, generally, the CA droughts have caused excessive heat, rather than the heat causing the drought.

  7. Mammoth Mountain is a good case study as the ski resort has 50 seasons of monthly snowfall data on its website (starting season 1969/70).

    Anyone capable of 8 year old school maths can use the data to show that average seasonal snowfall was lowest in the 1970s, increased in the 1980s and 1990s and has been at its highest since 2000.

    The only two seasons with 600 inches plus occurred in the 21st century.

    The record monthly snowfalls for the 50 year data set in the five big months (December to April) all occurred since 2000. This includes the all-time record of January 2017 being 245 inches. February 2019 is already a record for February, with one more significant snowfall needed to pass 200 inches for the month.

    So if droughts have really got worse since 2000 (I make no comment), it is not due to winter snowfall in the Sierra.

  8. We need a new documentary showing political climate scientists and their politician masters making failed predictions. We have plenty of footage and enough time has gone by to make the point.

    Maybe shoot it in a Three Stooges Short format and throw in AOC as Curly Joe. The last and lest popular stooge.

  9. Well, the “megadrought” that was supposed to last for decades sure didn’t pan out for the Leftists’ CAGW agenda.

    Even though the current El Niño cycle was a weak one, the Pinnapple Express managed to foil Leftists’ doom and gloom predictions.

    I’m sure California’s eco-warriors will find a way to squander their reservoirs’ surpluses to Save The River Smelt, or some other “nobel” Leftist cause…

    • Megadrought is a tricky thing. The pour of the millennium can’t stop it. Floods will make it only worse, then you’ll have drought and flood. Logic? Not needed.

    • If you want to stave off hurricanes for a dozen years, have warmistas declare that huge number of them is the new normal.
      If you want years upon years of epically snowy Winters, have them declare the end of snow.
      For years of flooding rains, have them declare permanent drought.
      And of course, to have a decades long pause in increasing temps, have them solemnly declare that warming is locked in and nothing can stop it.

      They are the Dennis Gartmans of the atmosphere.

  10. “notice the greener landscape on the western slopes of the range”

    Unfortunately, all the greener landscape on the western slopes will make for one heck of a 2019 fire season.

    • See! See! the warmists were right all along. Global warming causes increased snowfall and worse wild fires. / sarc

    • The original climate hystericals were the fire guys. If the spring brought lots of rain, then the grass will be lush and we will have an awful fire year. If it was low rainfall or snow, it was going to also be a terrible fire year too. Can’t ever win.

  11. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

    Verified account

    Follow Follow @AOC
    ‘You say you love your children, but you are destroying our future.’

    Our sea levels are rising.
    Droughts are worsening.
    Wildfires are spreading.
    Storms are coming.

    There’s precious little time left.

    We must mobilize our economy around a #GreenNewDeal before it’s too late” On Twitter now

    Yes Curly Joe snow storms are coming to the mountains. This stuff is so incredibly dumb it makes you ill to read it. This coming from the darling of the American Left. Of course it is.

    • AOC followers care so much about future generations they are worried sick about a 22 PPM increase in atmospheric CO2 , but think nothing of burdening them with $22 trillion of federal debt. Are they really that “uninformed” or am I missing something? Given a choice between adding 2 PPM of CO2 or $2 trillion per year of debt for the next 20 years they would surely consider CO2 the greater threat (IMO). How crazy is that?

    • I had a co-worker that was so dumb that when he walked by we would remark on how much smarter we all became in the presence of the dumb-sink.

  12. It ain’t a normal climate when the precipitation which interrupts the drought only arrives in extreme weather events.

    • Actually it is normal where it is a generally desert area which occasionally gets deluged by floods or massive snow. Then the wild plants bloom greatly, only to go dormant again for sometimes decades awaiting their next big drink of water.

    • Griff, you really should lay off the Klimate Koolade. It is obviously rotting your brain.
      Or what little gray matter you started with anyway.

    • Griff, this was very bad form, indeed. You didn’t back up your bold assertion with a link to some article you read in the Graun (aka, The Guardian). Tsk, tsk.

      But don’t get too down-hearted. This water will grow lot of tall grasses and woody shrubs in the California chaparral when it melts and runs off. Then there will be a hot dry period, which will dry it all out. And then a Santa Ana wind will come along, and some freaky lightning or power line blow down or human fire bug who might will light that plant matter on fire, and we’ll have a fire unlike any seen since, uh, last year. And so, like every true Climate Scientologist, you’ll be able to once again take a big win for human caused catastrophic climate change. Because you Climate Scientologists have the true understanding of it all, and no one who believes differently from you has your same true knowledge.

    • Seems it never rains in southern California
      Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
      It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya?
      It pours, man, it pours…

    • California climate tends to bimodal weather. Periods of drought separated by periods of high precipitation. so this IS normal climate.

      “Climate” BTW isn’t just some average temperature or precipitation. It’s the patterns of when the precipitation occurs and how the temperature varies with seasons, as well as the annual fluctuations.

      • My father, Kenneth R., was a PG&E lineman out of Cupertino from 1950. I remember being a stripling sub-teen and having to lift him, trembling and weeping with fatigue, from his car and steady him into the house for having worked 48 hours in driving rain. Maybe 1950-ish.

    • But this is California’s normal weather pattern for as long as we have been there to record it. California is not Camelot, where the precipitations is well-mannered and regular.

    • Variables of the weather type do not always follow a “Normal” probability function.
      Other probability functions are necessary.
      One needs a continuous uniform distribution in some places for selected variables.
      The Pareto distribution(s) might work better for other things, such as snowfall in the west coast mountains.
      This is what the study of climates was all about until global warming invented climate as a single temperature.

  13. Yabut, now there will be floods, which is also “Climate Change”. Becuz CO2, especially the manmade kind, is magical. It can do literally anything and everything.

  14. Look at drought monitor.

    It shows the California’s permanent drought vanishing like the permanent Texas drought has.
    Permanent means temporary?
    Published on Tuesday, March 03, 2015 by Common Dreams New Study Shows California Droughts Driven by Climate Change and Here to Stay Stanford researchers say human-driven global warming behind increasingly frequent and severe droughts, including current one The Study – “Edited by Jane Lubchenco” Anthropogenic warming has increased drought risk in California Edited by Jane Lubchenco, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, and approved January 30, 2015

  15. Report from Lake Tahoe: second time in three years we’ve had to have the snow removed from our roof. Too much weight. Also, not melting due to extremely cold temperatures.

    • The Great Flood of 1964/65 was pretty much it’s equal. If the Oroville dam had not been in it’s final stages in that winter, then the Sacramento Valley would have once again been severely inundated. The dam filled up years ahead of schedule as a result of the 1964/65 massive winter. As from a starting point of almost completely empty it filled to the brim and almost over topped in that one winter.

    • The winter of 1964/65 was almost the equal of 1861/62. If the almost finished dam at Oroville was not in place, then the northern valley would have been very heavily flooded instead of just being flooded during those storms. The Oroville dam was expected to fill up over a period of 5 or 6 years, 1969/70. It filled, and almost over topped in 1964/65.

  16. Good thing they got Oroville Dam spillway upgrades finished this past year, looks like it might get a workout come spring.

    • Have no fear. California’s Department of Water Resources, the original designers of the dam who were also responsible for monitoring and maintaining the dam and all of its systems, was in charge of the retrofits and upgrades.

  17. Spend some time looking at the terrain on any of the various satellite websites. It is obvious that their were some rather horrific floods several thousand years ago. Then take a closer look at the state borders eats licked by rivers less than 250 years ago. There you will see large chunks of land belonging to one state on the wrong side of the river. Yet very few of the massive floods needed to change the course of these large rivers have occurred in the last 50 to 100 Years!! Why? Wouldn’t climate change of the magnitude the AGW group is claiming cause these events?

  18. See! See! the warmists were right all along. Global warming causes increased snowfall and worse wild fires. / sarc

  19. When it is really really wet, really really dry, really really cold, or really really warm – it is all because of climate change caused by Donald J. Trump!

  20. Phoenix meteorologists are blaming El Nino. Excep precipitation is normal for February. Every single day has been below average temperature (that is quit amazing). El Nino is normally average temperature and above average rain. Why can’t it ever be just weather?

  21. So God said let there be Snow and cold back in California, just to confound the ultra leftist agenda and make them fools for the next election cycle. See its all Political. Love the left being humbled by a World bigger than there foolish thoughts. Eat this Al Gore. The only warming taking place is in Al’s head before it explodes. What has been going on the past 20 years is non-stop brainwashing of the leftist kind.

  22. I seem to recall a few years ago that lack of snow due to “Global Warming” (maybe they said “Climate Change) was going to be the imminent demise of ski resorts.
    Now too much snow will be?

    But maybe I’ve mis-remembered.
    CA was in a permanent drought then a permanent deluge then a permanent wildfire then a … ski resorts are snowed in?

    Trying to keep up with all the spins makes my head spin. 😎

  23. We had a pretty good snowstorm north of SF and to the east. Mt Diablo (east of SF) and Mt Hamilton (east of San Jose) both had snow cover. That is a LOT of solar energy getting reflected back into space and not warming the ground and thereby the atmosphere!

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