California received good news last week as massive snowstorms that dumped several feet of white matter over the Sierra Nevada Mountains increased the drought-stricken state’s average snowpack – with a weather more stormy in the forecast for the next few days.
In seven days, California saw its average snowpack drop from just 18% to 98%. This means that the total snowfall accumulation for this time of year is about normal.
The snowpack is the snow that is found on the ground in mountainous regions. When the weather warms, the snowpack melts and flows into lakes and reservoirs where it becomes an important source of fresh water.
The snowpack atop the Sierra Nevada is essential for California as it provides about 30 percent of the state’s water.
The snowpack atop California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range has increased dramatically over the past week thanks to “atmospheric river” storms, meteorologists say. The darker the purple in the map above, the heavier the snowpack
The Half Dome and the banks of the Merced River are blanketed in white after a major Pacific storm dumped a foot of snow in the Yosemite Valley along the Sierra Nevada Ridge on Thursday
A person looks towards the snow-capped mountains behind the skyline of downtown Los Angeles after heavy rains on Wednesday
The image on the left shows the snowpack atop the Sierra Nevada mountain range on December 10. The photo on the right shows the amount of precipitation as of Friday
The above maps provided by the California Department of Water Resources show how the average snowpack increased statewide in just seven days.
Golden State meteorologists said it was essential for the Sierra Nevada’s snowpack to be higher than usual this winter to offset severe drought conditions that forced Gov. Gavin Newsom to ask residents to reduce voluntarily their water consumption.
Southern California, which has a more severe water scarcity than its northern neighbors, has also seen some relief from the storms.
âTuesday’s storm that brought 1 to 2 inches of rain to coastal areas and valleys reduced our precipitation deficit,â the National Weather Service office in San Diego tweeted.
As the snowpack has increased in California, other drought-affected western states continue to experience severe water shortages, including New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Nevada.
The storm system has brought a welcome dumping ground to the Sierra Nevada, where ski areas that struggled in November reported more than 4 feet of fresh snow ahead of busy Christmas and New Years weekends.
Palisades Tahoe Ski Resort – the newly renowned combination of Squaw Valley, home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, and neighboring Alpine Meadows – reported more than 5 feet of snow over three days.
In this photo provided by Northstar California, fresh snow from a storm surrounds a ski lift at Truckee station on Tuesday
In this photo provided by the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, fresh snow surrounds the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. On Monday
Forecasters have warned residents of mountainous areas to be prepared for days of snowfall and possible road closures. The image above was taken at Mammoth Mountain on Monday
The image above shows snow in Yosemite National Park in California on Thursday
Another round of widespread rains and heavy snowfall in the mountains is brewing for recently flooded California and much of Nevada over the coming week and could create dangers for vacationers, forecasters said on Saturday.
Several waves of precipitation are expected to move inland as a cold low from the Gulf of Alaska deepens off the west coast, the National Weather Service said.
The timing of the precipitation was not certain, but it was likely that it would start in the far north on Monday, become widespread on Tuesday, and spread across southern California by midweek.
The coastal peaks north of San Francisco Bay could receive up to eight inches of rain by Christmas morning.
The Sacramento weather office said mountain snow levels could initially start below 3,000 feet and then progress above 4,500 feet.
âVacation travel could be significantly disrupted by these storms, with little break in the snow during this extended event,â the Sacramento office said.
“There will be few, if any, significant weather breaks for the Sierra once the storms begin on Tuesday, so plan ahead,” the Reno, Nevada weather office added.
While the storms brought much needed rainfall, they also prompted authorities to issue evacuation orders for areas affected by mudslides and flash floods.
In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow continues to fall on Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes, California on Wednesday.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort warned motorists that chains are needed on their cars’ wheels as snow continued to fall on Wednesday
Firefighters and law enforcement vehicles are shown responding to calls for downed power lines in Nevada City, Calif., On Tuesday
Motorists navigate downtown Grass Valley, California during an early morning snowfall Tuesday
A worker takes a break while removing shingles from a roof overlooking the freshly snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains in Huntington Beach, Calif., Wednesday
A snow plow vehicle is seen above at work at the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., Wednesday
The image above was taken by a drone that flew over the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in Mammoth Lakes, California on Wednesday.
Image shows snowfall at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., Early Wednesday morning
The image above shows a snowboarder descending the Big Bear Mountain Resort in Big Bear Lake, Calif., On Wednesday
The above image was provided by Big Bear Mountain Resort in Big Bear Lake, Calif., On Wednesday
The ‘swing bridge’ is blanketed in white after a major Pacific storm dumped a foot of snow in Yosemite National Park on Thursday
The image above was taken as snow fell on Big Bear Mountain Resort in Big Bear Lake, California on Tuesday.
The powerful system was a so-called atmospheric river that sucks moisture from the Pacific Ocean and pours it down to lower elevations as rain and into the mountains as snow.
The storm started last weekend in northern California and brought heavy precipitation as far as Nevada, where more than 6 feet of snow has fallen since Sunday night in the Monte Rosa ski resort just south. west of Reno and over 4 feet fell at Heavenly on Lake. The South Shore of Tahoe.
Mammoth Mountain in the eastern Sierra is also about 4 feet tall.
Residents near Alisal Fire’s burn scar in Santa Barbara County, California were ordered to evacuate on Monday, fearing heavy rains could cause flooding and debris flows.
The order was lifted on Tuesday afternoon.
Similar orders have been issued for people living near burn scars in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, where landslides have been reported.
A mountain road to the resort town of Big Bear was scheduled to be closed until Wednesday as crews cleared several yards of mud and debris.
Car swings against a bridge trestle after entering the flooded Los Angeles River in Los Angeles on Tuesday
Firefighter helps stranded driver as major storm hits California with rain and snow, flooding streets of Los Angeles on Tuesday
Jeffrey Mount, a senior researcher at the Water Policy Center at the California Institute of Public Policy, said the storm would not be a drought breaker, but water watchers are excited about all the snow that ‘it dumps in the Sierra Nevada.
The sleet that flows through the California watershed when the weather warms makes up about a third of the state’s water supply.
It is important that a solid snow base develops in December so that storms later in winter have something to lean on, he said.
Most of the reservoirs in the western United States that provide water to states, cities, tribes, farmers, and utilities depend on spring snowmelt.
âYou literally put water in the bank up there,â he said.
Any moisture is essential in the wider drought-stricken region which scientists say is caused by climate change.
The latest U.S. drought monitor shows parts of Montana, Oregon, California, Nevada and Utah are classified as being in exceptional drought, which is the worst category.