Study Finds Sierra Nevada Snowpack At 500-Year Low

By on September 17, 2015

Frank Gehrke of the California Department of Water Resources has no snow to measure on the annual snowpack survey. (Credit: Randall Benton)


Scientists at the University of Arizona helped lead a study looking into the extent of this year’s snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, according to the Sacramento Bee. The results were surprising, as researchers found a high likelihood that the mountain’s range snowpack has not been as low as it is now in at least 500 years.

Surveyors used snow level measurements to make the find. Those were plugged into models to predict how they compared to others throughout an historical period. The scientists admit they were surprised to see the 500-year low and told the Sacramento Bee that they “ran the numbers 10 times” to make sure.

The finding is a dire one, as Sierra Nevada snowpack is a major supplier of water to the state of California. When it runs low, so do the state’s reservoirs. One clear example of this can be seen at Folsom Lake, where ruins from the Gold Rush era are visible along the lake’s dry bed.

Top image: Frank Gehrke of the California Department of Water Resources has no snow to measure on the annual snowpack survey. (Credit: Randall Benton)

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