Weeks of off-and-on storms across California may have been a source of frustration for many of the state’s residents, but it’s been good news for the state’s snowpack.
Precipitation has been so dramatic and persistent in recent months that this year’s historic snowpack totals are now believed to be the largest on record.
New data from the California Department of Water Resources website indicates that the state’s snowpack total for 2022-23 has likely surpassed the record set 40 years ago in 1982-83.
The statewide snowpack numbers are buoyed by historic totals in the Southern Sierra snowpack, which is currently 297% of its yearly average and is currently at the highest level in recorded history.
The Northern and Central Sierra snowpacks are also vastly above historical averages on this date. The Northern Sierra is at 190% of its historical average, while the Central Sierra is 233% of average.
The precipitation has been a welcome sight for a state that has struggled with years of overbearing drought. Just last week it was announced that more than half of California is now considered to be free from drought conditions.
The data that was updated on Sunday is preliminary and comes from CDWR’s automated measuring systems, so CDWR officials have still yet to formally confirm the new snowpack milestone.
But the Department is set to conduct a snow survey on Monday in which officials are expected to confirm the results of the automated systems.
The snow survey will be used to measure the current water content in the snowpack, which CDWR officials say is a key indicator for future water supply.
“The April snow survey is considered the most important as it’s typically the peak of the seasonal snowpack,” officials said in a news release.
April 1 is typically thought of as the end of the snow year as temperatures begin to warm and snowpack declines. But as was the case during the record-breaking snow season in the early ’80s, snow could continue to pile up in California’s mountains well into the spring if more storms bring more precipitation.
Although the historic snowpack is one to celebrate for drought-ridden California, it does come with a certain amount of risk associated with flooding and swollen waterways when it begins to melt.
Data from the monthly surveys also helps create a clearer picture regarding the amount of water that will run off into state reservoirs, which in turn is crucial information for water managers who allocate water resources to various regions downstream.
Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that repealed many of the previous drought restrictions in much of the state, while keeping them in place in some areas of Northern California.
The governor has also requested a presidential disaster declaration to assist Californians who have been affected by storm-related flooding brought on by the same storms that replenished the state’s snowpack.