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The nearly 17 feet of snow in California’s Sierra Nevada are breaking records. It’s not enough yet




As of Tuesday, more than 202 inches of snow, nearly 17 feet, had fallen this month at the University of California, Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Laboratory, Donner Pass, east of Sacramento.

Laboratory scientists said this month is now the snowiest December for the location and the third snowiest month in general. The highest month was in January 2017, when it fell 238 inches, and it is unlikely that enough snow will fall in the next three days to challenge that record. The records here date back to 1970.

Laboratory officials said the snow was “deep and difficult to get through,” and it took about 40 minutes to get to where the measurements are being taken just 150 feet from the lab’s front door.

There is a lot of snow and it was very necessary, but Andrew Schwartz, the chief scientist and director of the Sierra Snow Laboratory station, said they would need more.

“While this event has been amazing so far, we’re really concerned that there won’t be as many storms in the coming months,” Schwartz told CNN. “If we don’t get an inch more, we’re still below what we might expect all winter long, which means we can contribute to the drought instead of resolving it.”

The high-altitude snow cover serves as a natural reservoir that relieves drought, stores water during the winter months, and slowly releases it during the spring melting season. The snow mold in the Sierra Nevada is responsible 30% of California’s freshwater supply in an average year, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The snow cover in the Sierra was a alarmingly low levels late last winter and the reservoirs, which are refilled by the melting of the spring snow, are still below the historical average.
Snow on Spring Street in Nevada City, California, is seen Monday.
Lake Oroville Reservoir, for example, is 37% full, which is low compared to its historical average of 71% over the same period. The Oroville hydroelectric plant was forced close this summer, due to its low water level, for the first time since its inauguration in 1967.
The ice platform that holds the
This summer’s drought was the more extreme California’s 126-year record, and July 2021 was the driest month since data collection began in 1895. Across the region, the magnitude of the drought stood at 90% or so. about since June, with several states totally drought.
Then, in October, California and parts of the Pacific Northwest got one the taste of rain they were looking for. The start of the rainy season caused severe storms that drew moisture from the Pacific Ocean, called atmospheric rivers. These winter storms have been crucial in determining whether California will end in drought. During the previous two winters, only one of these storms caused significant rainfall.

As climate change accelerates and winter temperatures rise, snowfall is expected to decrease. Schwartz said he is discovering that what once fell like snow is now falling like rain.

“Ultimately, what is happening now in terms of climate change with our rainfall here at the top is that we are actually seeing an increase in rainfall, but the difference is that we are seeing a reduction in snowfall and an increase. from the rain, “Schwartz said. . “This coincides with our warm-up signal; with this warm-up, we’ve moved away from some of our snowfall.”

Snow covers the streets of Nevada City, California on Monday.
Scientists have discovered that climate change is not only increasing the severity of extreme weather, but is disrupting natural patterns, causing wild oscillations between dry and wet extremes. California has seen this “meteor blow“In recent years, atmospheric river storms have caused destructive flooding one year and extreme drought causing water shortages the following year.
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Similarly, Schwartz said they see conditions at the top changing from a snowless winter to a snowstorm next season. But he also said snow is clearly declining in the Sierra Nevada.

“And that will really be what we see and what we often see up here,” he added. “So as these temperatures rise, we’ll see a lot less of the things we had yesterday that made us go out for 40 minutes.”

Aside from the record snowfall, Schwartz said he is already seeing first-hand the serious consequences of the climate crisis in the Sierra Nevada.

“Overall, climate change trends in the region are a bit terrible when it comes to snow, because we won’t have it for a long time,” he said. “So when we have months like this, I’m really excited about them.”