Calif. snowpack survey forebodes tough summer

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - State officials say California's snowpack is at 32 percent of normal at a time of year when it's supposed to hit its peak.

The state's Department of Water Resources said measurements taken in the Sierra Nevada Tuesday indicate no relief for a state in the grips of its third consecutive dry year.

The reading is the third lowest on record since 1970. The April measurement is important because it marks the peak of the snow season. Spring storms generally do not supply significant amounts of snow or rain to the region.

The average April 1 snowpack is around 28 inches. Tuesday's snowpack measured only 9.2 inches.

Water agencies depend on the snowpack for water allocations to farmers and other businesses that rely on spring runoff. The survey measures the amount of water content in the snow.

Some method of snowpack measurements started in the early 1900's. Modern-day surveys for the Sierra are manual as well as electronic. For the manual survey, a metal tube is weighed. The tube is then pushed into the snow at a designated location. The difference between the weight before and after the snow is collected equals the amount of water content in the snow. Each ounce of the weight of the snow is equal to one inch of water.

For example, if there is a 10-ounce difference in the tube's weight after the snow is collected, that is the equivalent to 10 inches of water.

There is one month left in the rainy season and there will be a final snowpack survey in the beginning of May.


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