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Sunday, April 03, 2016

The El Niño Bust in California

by Calculated Risk on 4/03/2016 11:10:00 AM

From Accuweather: El Nino-induced snow proves to be 'disappointing' for drought-stricken California

Much-needed mountain snow and rain returned to California this winter, but fell short of expectations amid a super El Niño.

The official snow season for California's Sierra Nevada came to an end at the start of April on a below-normal note and one that AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark called "disappointing."

The amount of water stored in the snow for the entire mountain chain averaged 14 percent below normal on April 1, according to the California Cooperative Snow Surveys.

The northern Sierra fared better than the southern Sierra with the amount of water in the snow averaging only 5 percent below normal, compared to the 27 percent below normal in the south.

"The numbers are not anywhere near what many had wanted going into the winter," Clark said. "The much-heralded El Niño brought more snow than the previous four years, but that was not hard to accomplish."
Here are some excellent graphs showing snow water content in the Sierra. This was close to an average year in the Northern Sierra, but below average in Central and South. There was more rain and snow than the previous four years, but this will still be considered year 5 of the drought.

Tyndall CreekNote: For Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail hikers, I recommend using the Upper Tyndall Creek sensor to track the snow conditions. This is the fifth dry year in a row along the JMT, but there should be more water along the trail this summer than the previous four years, and still not too much snow on the passes.

This graph shows the snow water content for Upper Tyndall Creek for the last 9 years. There is more snow than the previous four years, but that isn't saying much.