Snow settling into sizable pack

 

WEATHER WATCH: No more rain is forecast for January, but come February 1, there is a 60 percent chance of showers starting in the evening and continuing through Friday, Feb. 3. As for the lingering, pesky drought, there has been significant improvement due to a very soggy January. As it currently stands, the southern half of California is still experiencing moderate drought conditions while the northern half of the state has had a notable reduction in drought conditions. But, as for now, no part of California is experiencing what was previously diagnosed as "exceptional drought."

 

Storms that ended on Monday, Jan. 23, brought more rain and snow. More than three inches of rain was recorded in Three Rivers, translating to two to three more feet snow in the nearby mountains. 

The local rainfall now has a season-to-date total of more than 20 inches, already eclipsing the 30-year norm for the entire season. But climatologists no longer agree on what is “normal.” 
 
Here’s what we do know for the current season. On this day in January 2016, Three Rivers rain gauges at 1,000 feet elevation in Three Rivers had recorded 15.19 inches for the water year. 
 
Thanks to this January of recurring storms, Three Rivers now, one year later, has between 20 and 21 inches of rainfall.
 
Kaweah Country, being located on the boundary of where warm and cold storms were expected to collide in the current season, has turned decidedly colder. That means more snow in the mountains and suddenly less runoff in the flatlands.
 
In the wee hours of Monday morning (January 23), the peak flow on the Middle Fork of the Kaweah reached 5,500 cfs; not even close to flood stage. Snow continues to pile up in the high country and now is settling into a pack with frozen layers. 
 
Fortunately, with each passing cold storm, the likelihood of a rain flood occurring is facing greater odds. At the 6,500 ft. level at Lodgepole and in the Giant Forest there is six feet of snow on the ground. 
 
In the Mineral King valley, at 8,000 feet, there is seven feet of snow on the ground. The Mammoth area, on the east side of the Sierra range due east of the southernmost portion of Yosemite National Park, is reporting 300 inches; farther north, the Tahoe ski resorts have 140 to 240 inches depending on location.
 
The southern Sierra region is currently tracking with an average of more than 200 percent of normal precipitation for late January and more than 100 percent of the April 1 norm. And the precipitation season is far from over.
 
Although sunny days will grace the rest of January, another storm is taking aim on the West Coast. A chance of rain is forecast for each day from February 1 to 3. 
 
To repair previous storm damage, Governor Jerry Brown has declared emergency assistance available to 41 of California’s 58 counties, including Tulare County.
 
In Sequoia National Park, the Generals Highway reopened after nearly a week of being closed due to cleanup efforts of storm-related debris, slides, and snow. All Giant Forest area roads not subject to winter closures have reopened so the snow is accessible for those on snowshoes or cross-country skis. 
 
The Wolverton Road is plowed and open. That location has the best hills for snow play.
 
The San Luis Reservoir near Pacheco Pass that stores San Joaquin Delta runoff is currently at 78 percent of capacity. That reservoir hasn’t filled in six years. 
 
Its 2,041,000 acre feet of storage makes it the fifth largest reservoir in California. It is expected to fill to the brim this year by April 1. 
 
On Thursday, Jan. 26, Lake Kaweah reported a current storage of 62,158 acre feet, or approximately one-third of capacity. Mean inflow is 1,814 cfs. Outflow is 2,454 cfs, meaning the lake level will be dropping slightly. 
 
Currently, the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River is running at about 1,300 cfs. Water temperature is 45 degrees.
 
Whitewater kayakers will soon be descending the river. Submerged objects that got carried down in the high water and lodged between boulders or trees could create hazards for kayakers and rafters.   
 
HIGH TEMPERATURE RECORD FALLS FOR THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR
 
Last week, climatologists released temperature data for 2016, and it’s official. Last year, Earth reached its highest temperature ever recorded, eclipsing the existing record set in 2015.
 
The 2015 record bested the previous record set in 2014. So another record has also been broken: this is the first time that global-warming-era temperatures have surpassed the previous record for three consecutive years. 
 
The data show that the Earth is heating up. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many scientists believe pose an imminent threat to the natural world and humans. 
 
The 2015-2016 warming was intensified by El Nino, a pattern of weather during which the Pacific Ocean released a burst of energy and water vapor into the atmosphere. A much bigger factor is the long-term rising temperature that is being fueled by increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
 
El Nino has ended and most climate experts are forecasting that 2017 will be slightly cooler. The scale of the heat burst, however, has been startling and some scientists fear that global warming could rapidly accelerate over the next few years and the alarming record of consecutive high temperatures will continue.
 
Sixteen of the 17 hottest years on record have been in this century.     

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