Climatologists will be talking about California’s 2022-2023 snow year for decades.
With less than two weeks remaining in the traditional “wet season,” data collected by California’s Department of Water Resources on Tuesday showed the statewide snowpack at an astounding 225% of the average for this date (March 21), and 219% of a full year’s average.
The Southern Sierra, which has the deepest snow, reached 277% of the average. Snowpack in the Central Sierra is 227% and the Northern Sierra/Trinity region is 182% of the average, according to DWR.
The Southern Sierra region is pacing well above the previous record year of 1982-1983 and the Central Sierra is not far behind.
“There is more snow water equivalent in the Southern Sierra than at any point since at least the 1950s … and likely longer than that,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with the University of California Los Angeles.
April 1 is typically the end of the snow year as temperatures begin to warm and snowpack declines, although, in the 1982-83 season, snow continued to pile up in California’s mountains well into the spring.
Snow surveys on April 1, 1983, showed the state snowpack at 227% of average, DWR said.
Swain says the cold atmospheric river hitting the Golden State this week, the 12th since December, will only add to the historic totals.
“The storms this week are not going to melt the snowpack. They’re going to further add to it,” Swain said. “We’re going to see more white stuff on top of the tens of feet that have already fallen in some places.”
While water managers are reluctant to declare the drought officially over, the wet and snowy winter has led to an easing of water restrictions.
Last week, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California lifted emergency water restrictions impacting nearly seven million people.
DWR also said the storms are “providing enormous benefits” to the state’s critical groundwater basins, which are much slower to recharge than reservoirs.