Rockies Faring Well in Snowpack Readings, Sierra Nevada Not So Much

Despite a massive Pacific storm that brought widespread flooding to both Northern and Southern California last month, the Sierra Nevada snowpack – as well as that in the Cascades of Oregon and Washington – remains critically short, according to updated survey results from the USDA’s National Water and Climate Center.

Field work, Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Field work, Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The measurement, called snow water equivalent (SWE), compares the current snowpack against the median measure of the years 1981-2010. Two of the Sierra measurements stand at 37 and 48 percent of the median.

While the winter is still young, the tone of alarm in the agency’s announcement comes from the severity of California’s prolonged drought. The absence of a Sierra snowpack doesn’t bode well for spring water supplies.

In the Cascade Range, the readings as of January 9 were at 25 percent of median along the California-Oregon border to similar markings almost all the way north to Canada. Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and its postcard mountains were at 26 percent of median.

Closer to home, the readings were much more encouraging. Most of Colorado measured between 96 and 109 percent of median, with the only exceptions being in the Four Corners at 70 percent and the Rio Grande basin at 66 percent.

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