A California of Department of Water Resources spokesperson said earlier this week that the statewide snowpack for February 1 is forecast to be 30 percent of normal. The last time the snow statistics were in that range was 2015 when the February 1 average was 25 percent.
By April 1, 2015, that snowpack had shrunk to a meager five percent. On that same day, Governor Jerry Brown called for all Californians to cut their water use by 25 percent. That drought emergency ended last year after historic rainfall and snowmelt caused widespread flooding, locally and statewide, and damaged the spillway at Oroville Dam.
In the southern and central Sierra, the snowpack is far below normal because the temperatures in the mountains are running five degrees warmer than average. In areas above Three Rivers, five degrees means the precipitation will fall as rain and not snow.
If the current trend continues as predicted (no rain in the 10-day forecast), central and southern California will remain stuck in extreme drought conditions. The winter of 2017-2018 could mark the fifth year in the last six to be officially designated as extreme drought.
Only 2016-2017 was an exception to the deepening drought. At this time one year ago, the snowpack in the nearby mountains was at 200 percent; statewide the total was 182 percent.
Although there is still an opportunity to get more rainfall in the foothills and snow in the higher elevations, this year is looking eerily like two other drought years: 2007 and 2014. By the end of January 2007, Three Rivers had received only 4.05 inches, the same total that’s been recorded for the current season at 1,000 feet.
In 2014, the January total was 4.65 inches and finished with a season total of nine inches. Here’s the breakdown of the current season’s rainfall totals in Three Rivers (1,000 feet elevation):
Total year-to-date — 4.05 inches
If you collect local rainfall data your total will vary slightly depending on location. A warming trend is in the forecast as high pressure will tighten its grip on the current weather pattern.
Currently, Kaweah Country remains under the influence of La Nina, cool and extremely dry. But there’s hope: February is the peak season for snow accumulation.