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.”
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.”
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.”
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