Water & Drought

Sierra snowpack falls below average

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources, talks to reporters after conducting the third manual snow survey of the season at Phillips Station near Echo Summit on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. State surveyors found Tuesday that a record-breaking warm, dry month of February ate away at what had been a well-above normal Sierra Nevada snowpack.
Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources, talks to reporters after conducting the third manual snow survey of the season at Phillips Station near Echo Summit on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. State surveyors found Tuesday that a record-breaking warm, dry month of February ate away at what had been a well-above normal Sierra Nevada snowpack. The Associated Press

In another sign that a once-promising El Niño weather pattern is proving to be no drought-buster, California officials say an unseasonably warm and dry February shrunk the Sierra snowpack to below average water content.

On Tuesday, the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program measured 58 inches of snow at Phillips, off Highway 50 near Echo summit. The measurements are the best recorded in early March since 2011, and a marked contrast to March 2015, when the snow depth was only 6.5 inches. But snow water content is still just 83 percent of the March 1 average.

Forecasters nonetheless hold out hope for a wet spring. Rain and snow that fell in the so-called “March Miracles” of 1991 and 1995 pulled California out of a prolonged drought those years, state officials said.

Curious about California’s snowfall? Here is a look at snow depth since Oct. 1, 2015.

Ryan Sabalow: 916-321-1264, @ryansabalow

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