Above-Normal Temperatures “Detrimental” to Sierra Snowpack

The snowpack, vital to California's water supply entering summer, was already well below normal

Temperatures 9 to 12 degrees above normal in California reduced an already low snowpack as drought conditions remained unchanged amid the state's dry spell, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor.

The report (scroll down to view map) tracks drought conditions across the country. Drought Monitor

researchers use five categories to indicate drought intensity -- Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4).

More than 95 percent of California remains in the D2 to D4 categories. Three months ago, nearly 90 percent of the state fell into those categories as communities struggle through a third-consecutive dry year.

Above-normal temperatures in the Sierra Nevada range were "detrimental" to the region's snowpack, according to the report. The snow melts as spring runoff, providing water for communities and farmers who depend on it during California's hot, dry summers.

"California lost half of the snow water equivalence (SWE) in a single week and there was little response to inflows into reservoirs," according to the Drought Monitor report.

The Sierra snowpack measured at 32 percent of normal earlier this month -- a time of year when it is supposed to be at its peak. The California Department of Water Resources measures the snowpack monthly during the wet season.

No significant rainfall is in the forecast with summer's hot, dry months ahead. A storm system might bring small amounts of rain to central and northern California next week.

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