California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack shrinks to a 500-year low

The record-low Sierra Nevada snowpack was another indication of the severity of California’s drought, which is affecting everything from agriculture to hydropower generation.

California’s Sierra Nevada mountains haven’t had this little snowpack since the days of Christopher Columbus.

That’s the finding of a new study released Monday indicating this year the state has seen its lowest snowpack in 500 years, and climate change may cause greater water shortages in the already drought-stricken, wildfire-ravaged state.

This past spring, the mountain range had just 5 percent of the average snowpack recorded in the second half of the 20th century, and scientists said the findings indicated “the 2015 low is unprecedented in the context of the past 500 years.”

The study found that the depth of snow at 108 measuring stations in the Sierra Nevada on April 1 was just 2.3 inches in “snow water equivalent” – the depth of the water if the snow melted – against an average 27.5 inches from 1930-2014.

“We were expecting that 2015 would be extreme, but not like this,” said senior study author Valerie Trouet, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

“Sierra Nevada snowpack plays a critical role in replenishing the state’s water reservoirs and provides 30 percent of its water supply,” according to the study, led by the University of Arizona.

Full article: California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack shrinks to a 500-year low (Christian Science Monitor)

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