In Good Sign for CA Drought, Improving Sierra Nevada Snowpack | NBC Southern California

Coverage of one of California's most severe dry spells on record and its dramatic turnaround

In Good Sign for CA Drought, Improving Sierra Nevada Snowpack

This week's U.S. Drought Monitor report says "abundant precipitation" will need to continue deep into the wet season before California sees drought improvement

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    NOAA images show Sierra Nevada snowpack depth in November 2015 (left) and November 2014.

    Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is well ahead of last year, indicating California might see improved drought conditions after a record dry spell.

    Moderate to heavy precipitation was reported in the region during the last week, getting the snow season off to a promising start. Snow in the Sierra Nevada melts during the spring, providing water for millions of Californians and replenishing the state's water reservoirs, which are well below normal due to four years of drought.

    "We're off to a good start with about 30 inches at the highest peaks," said NBC4 forecaster Crystal Egger.

    The snowfall comes after record low snowpack measurements during 2015 in the Sierra Nevada.

    NOAA images show a dramatic difference between this month and November 2014, when no snowfall was reported in the mountain range. On Monday, a wet-weather system pushed into Northern California, where forecasts called for up to 9 inches of snow along Sierra Nevada mountain passes and up to 1 1/2 feet at the highest peaks.

    But that won't mean immediate or dramatic impact on drought conditions. More than 44 percent of the state remains under exceptional drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor's most severe category. The figure remains unchanged from last week's report.

    More than 97 percent of the state is under some type of drought category, showing no improvement from last week's report.

    "Areas where drought was more entrenched will need abundant precipitation to continue much farther into the wet season before any notable improvement could evolve," according to this week's Drought Monitor report.

    More snow is expected in the Sierra Nevada Sunday into Monday as the region benefits from a strong El Nino, warming in the Pacific Ocean that influences California's weather.

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