The California Department of Water Resources announced that electronic readings of the Sierra Nevada snowpack Tuesday pegged its statewide water content at 10.5 inches, 72 percent of the Dec. 27 average. Manual readings, which supplement the department’s electronic data, will be taken on dozens of snow courses during a 10-day period around Jan. 1.
The 2017 water year began with above-average rainfall in October in all three Sierra Nevada regions monitored continuously by the Department of Water Resources. Northern California’s wettest October in 30 years sparked optimism for a robust water year, according to a department news release. Precipitation was less than average in all three regions in November, but wet weather returned in December, producing above-average rainfall in the three regions. Rainfall measured from Oct. 1 through Tuesday at the Department of Water Resources’ 19 key monitoring stations totaled 150 percent of the stations’ combined historical average during that period, officials said.
As of Dec. 1, the beginning of the three traditionally wettest months of the year, the statewide snowpack’s water content was 61 percent of average. Relatively warm weather tended to produce rain rather than snow in the mountains, but last weekend’s cold storm boosted the snowpack up to 75 percent of the Christmas Day average, officials said.
California is three months into what officials say could become the sixth consecutive year of drought.
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“October was one of our wettest on record, and December has produced a nice rebound from November’s below-average precipitation,” Michael Anderson, state climatologist, said in a written statement. “California needs sustained above-average precipitation and a decent snowpack to overcome the previous years of drought.”