California's Sierra Nevada Snowpack Is Larger Than Previous 4 Years Combined, NASA Says

  • 20/04/2017
California's Sierra Nevada Snowpack Is Larger Than Previous 4 Years Combined, NASA Says
Story Highlights The snowpack in California's TuolumneRiver Basin is larger than the last four years combined. Sugar Bowl Resort in the northern Sierra has received over 780 inches of snow this season. Other resorts in the Sierra have also measured 700-plus inches of snow. Squaw Valley ski resort may remain open through the summer and fall.

The snowpack in California's TuolumneRiver Basin in the Sierra Nevada is currently larger than the previous four years combined, according to new NASA data.

The 2017 California snowpack is near the largest on record, NASA's data showed. Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) mapping showed the TuolumneBasin's snowpack is twice as large as last year's and 21 times the volume of 2015, which was the lowest on record.

The combined April 1 snow-water equivalentfrom 2013-2016 adds up to only 92 percent of this year's April 1 measurement, NASA added.

NASA's ASOmeasured theTuolumneBasin's snowpackat 1.2 million-acre feet on April 1 enough snow to fill the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, almost 1,600 times.

The melted snowpackfrom this region is a major supplier of water for California's Central Valley and the Bay Area, including San Francisco.

(MORE:The Most Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters on Record for a First Quarter)

NASA said the ASO, which became operational in 2013,is the only program that measures snow depth, snow-water equivalent and the amount of sunlight snow reflects over an entire basin, using two scientific instruments a scanning lidar and an imaging spectrometer on a King Air aircraft. In addition to California, it'sused in Colorado, Oregon, Nevada and Idaho.

Prior to the ASO program, errors in forecasting the total Sierra snowmelt-season runoff were frequently higher than 20 percent and occasionally higherthan 40 percent, NASA reported. "Now, errors in forecasting runoff from basins that ASO monitors have dropped to less than 2 percent."

One ski resort in California's northern Sierra Nevada is closing in on 800 inches of snow this season. Through Tuesday, Sugar Bowl Resort measured 782inches of total snowfall for the 2016-17 season. This is 282 inches above Sugar Bowl's seasonal average of 500 inches.

The resort tweeted Tuesday that the ski season has been extended through May 7due to the plethora of snow.

Other resorts in the region have also measured at least 700 inches of seasonal snow through Tuesday, including Mt. Rose (761inches), Boreal (747inches), Northstar(708inches)and Squaw Valley (705inches). TheSquaw Valley total is 255 inches above average and nearly as much snowfall as it received the past two winters combined (718 inches).

"I'm actually considering staying open through the summer and fall so it becomes the 16-17-18 season," Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirthsaid in an interview with Truckee Tahoe Radio KTKE, as reported by theSacramento Bee.

This season has brought the second-most snowfall ever recorded at Squaw Valley, trailing only the 2010-11 seasonwhen it received 810 inches, according to a news release from the ski resort.

We know these numbers seem high, but they're nowhere near the seasonal snowfall record for the United States of 1,140 inches, set during the 1998-99 snow season at Mount Baker Ski Area in Washington state, located4,200 feet above sea level.

For comparison, the snowfall at Squaw Valley is measured at about 8,000feet above sea level nearly double the elevation of Mount Baker.
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