Shrinking snowpack drops below average

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The record snow in December is long gone and the recent storms may have been fun for skiers, but did little to help the shrinking snowpack.

The snowpack was well over 200% of normal on Jan. 1 but the snowfall rates did not keep pace through January and February.

As of Monday, Feb. 28, the snowpacks in Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Carson and Walker basins and other areas average about 85% of normal according to Natural Resources Conservation Service Hydrologist Jeff Anderson who measured the SNOTEL site at Mount Rose Ski Tahoe which was at 86%. Other snowpacks across northern Nevada are lower and range from 64-78%.

Last month, the Mt. Rose SNOTEL was at 117% of normal and last year it was at 66%.

Precipitation in January and February was the lowest on record at 30 of 35 SNOTEL sites in the eastern Sierra with most sites receiving 1 inch or less over the two months. Sites on average get 12 inches during those two months, said the NRCS.

Thanks to record rainfall in October and those big December storms the water year precipitation remains above normal. Last year the soil was very dry under the snowpack and was 65% of median.

NCRS said there is a better streamflow than last year which has had a positive effect helping reservoir storage to recover.

Lake Tahoe has risen 1 foot since mid-October whereas last winter storage decreased from the fall through the end of February.

Carson River has had 85% of average flow since Oct. 1, compared to only 28% last winter. Since the end of October, Topaz Lake has increased storage by 22,000 acre feet, compared to adding 10,000 acre feet last winter between Nov. 1 and March 1. Storage in Topaz Lake is twice as much as last year at this time.

The NRCS said wet soils in the spring will continue to have a positive impact allowing a larger fraction of the snowmelt to reach streams, lakes and reservoirs instead of soaking into the ground.

The California Department of Water Resources will hold its third snow survey of the season Tuesday at the Phillips Station near Sierra-at-Tahoe.

A view from the summit of Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe where the snowpack is about 86% of normal for the time of year.
Screengrab from a Mt. Rose webcam

The Tahoe Daily Tribune is a sister publication of the Sierra Sun.

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