Back in April, California Governor Jerry Brown ordered drought restrictions that were unprecedented for the state of California. Now researchers have said that this year’s snowpack might be a record low that has not been seen in 500 years. On Monday, scientists estimate the Sierra Nevada snowpack has not been this low since the 1500s.
The report is just the latest in a number of studies seeking to characterize the drought of four-years in California and put it into a broader context historically.
The report is just one more piece of evidence that warns current global warming will lower the snow blanketing the mountains in California, which will lower the available water in the state even as the population continues to rise.
An expert in hydrology said that the current climate change studies show that the state will see much more rain than snow.
The additional rainwater will just flow into the ocean unless there is a way it can be captured quickly.
Snowpack is an important factor in the water supply in California. In a year considered normal, melting snow from the Sierra Nevada provides California a third of its water. Another third is pumped from the state’s underground aquifers while the rest is from reservoirs and rivers.
Due to the snowpack being such an important source of water, officials started to monitor it during the 1930s and have 108 stations where it is measured across the Sierra Nevada.
During this spring, researchers found the amount of water that was contained in the snowpack as of April 1 was just 5% of the average since the monitoring started.
Researchers have said that while the total precipitation in California during 2015 was within the normal range, the winter temperatures were amongst the highest recorded. Therefore, less snow fell, while more rain drenched the area of which the state is very ill equipped in collecting and storing the run off.
It is expected that more precipitation will hit the state this winter, but with the temperatures expected to be higher, it means more of it will be in the form of rain and not the much-needed snow.