When Gov. Jerry Brown of California walked out onto the Phillips Station snow course near Lake Tahoe on April 1, 2015, for the annual end-of-winter snow survey, he stepped only on bare ground. This year, surveyors were greeted with a much more welcome sight: a sizable snowpack that accumulated over the winter thanks to a spate of storms that nearly wiped out the deep, devastating drought that has plagued California over the past five years.
With the snowpack now at more than 160 percent of normal statewide levels, officials are facing the opposite issue, with potential for flooding as snowmelt runs into streams and reservoirs already swollen with winter rains.
While California is no stranger to such boom-and-bust water years, the state is facing the potential for significant hydrological changes over the next few decades as global temperatures continue to rise with the accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The resulting changes in California’s climate will mean that more winter precipitation falls as rain rather than snow, and that what snow there is will melt earlier in the season, reducing the amount of meltwater available to top up reservoirs in the hot, dry summer months.
Read more at Calif. Snowpack Healthy Again, but Warming Looms Large