'Unusually Normal' Winter Is Great News for California

Snowpack is at 110% of average
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2024 5:15 PM CDT
'Unusually Normal' Winter Is Great News for California
Snow covers a property on March 2 in Truckee, California.   (AP Photo/Brooke Hess-Homeier)

California authorities are celebrating something that's becoming increasingly rare: a normal snowpack measurement. The early April survey—a key indicator of water supply and wildfire risk in the months ahead—found a snowpack measurement of 110% of the historical average, the Guardian reports. The last winter this close to the average was in 2010, when the Sierra snowpack was 104% of average, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Snow supplies about 30% of water in the state, which has been in severe drought for 11 of the last 17 years. In 2022, snowpack was at just 34% of the historical average—but last year, after massive storms, it was 237%.

"Average is awesome," said Karla Nemeth, director of the state's Department of Water Resources, per the AP. "We've had some pretty big swings in the last couple of years, but 'average' may be becoming less and less common." She was speaking alongside Gov. Gavin Newsom, who wore snowshoes to join a measuring team south of Lake Tahoe. He said the state is working on new strategies to store and distribute because extremes are the "new reality and that new reality requires a new approach and a new sophistication in terms of the way we address and manage our water."

The state's reservoirs are fuller than normal. As the snowpack melts, it will supply water to rivers and streams in the dry months ahead. There could still be problems if warm weather causes it to melt too fast, but the back-to-back wet years are a "badly needed reprieve" that gives the state time to make changes before drought returns, the Guardian reports. Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis, described the winter as "unusually normal," the Mercury News reports. "This is a usefully boring year," he said. "It will be useful if people use the lack of urgency to work on long-term preparations for both floods and droughts. That would be time well spent." (More California stories.)

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