The Sierra Nevada snowpack continues to build during one of the wettest winters in California’s recorded history.
On Wednesday, the California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) manual snow survey at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada found a snow water equivalent (SWE) of 43.4 inches. February’s Phillips survey found 28.0 inches of SWE, and January’s reading was 6.0 inches. SWE is the depth of water that theoretically would result if the entire snowpack melted instantaneously.
In a press release announcing the snowpack findings, officials with the DWR said measurement is more important than depth in evaluating the status of the snowpack. On average, the snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer.
The March 1st average at Phillips is 24.3 inches.
Statewide, the snowpack today holds 45.5 inches of SWE, or 185 percent of the March 1 average (24.6 inches). On January 1 before a series of January storms, the SWE of the statewide snowpack was 6.5 inches, just 64 percent of the New Year’s Day average.
Measurements indicate the water content of the northern Sierra snowpack is 39.2 inches, 159 percent of the multi-decade March 1 average. The central and southern Sierra readings are 49.0 inches (191 percent of average) and 46.4 inches (201 percent of average) respectively.
Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, said Wednesday’s results aren’t the record, that being 56.4 inches.
“But still a pretty phenomenal snowpack,” Gehrke said. “January and February came in with some really quite phenomenal atmospheric river storms, many of which were cold enough to really boost the snowpack.”