California Department of Water Resources

Snow Level Is Below Normal In California's Annual Survey

Jenna Lane
January 03, 2019 - 12:59 pm

California is often characterized by warm sandy beaches, but its annual snowfall is just as important, and not just for snowboarders.

The snowpack at the state’s highest points is a key indicator of California’s water supply and the bad news is that it was below average again. 

Engineers with the state Department of Water Resources announced that the levels measured today during the annual snow survey were about 67 percent of normal.

They tromped across a crunchy field of snow at Phillips Station along Highway 50 and found 25.5 inches of snow with a water content of 9 inches. 

"Nine inches of snow water content suggests we’d be standing in nine inches of water right now if all the snow was to be melted,” John King, a water resources engineer said at a press conference. “While these results are below average, they are a stark contrast to where we were last year.”

The good news is that it’s not as bad as last winter. Then, there were only patches of snow at the same location. 

"The season is still early,” King said. “Anything is possible from now until May."

State climatologist Michael Anderson shared that our winter so far has been 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average, part of a recent pattern.

"In fact, consistently since 2013, our seasonal average has been warmer than average,” Anderson said. “Our expectations are that with global warming, that will continue, and as it does, we'll see snow lines slowly rise."

He said managers of the state water supply will have to figure out how to work with more rainfall than snowmelt in the years to come.​

Written by Brian Krans.