Tags: sierra | nevada | snowpack

Sierra Nevada Snowpack at Lowest Level in 500 Years

Image: Sierra Nevada Snowpack at Lowest Level in 500 Years
Deficit in the total volume of water contained within the Tuolumne River Basin snowpack in California's Sierra Nevada mountains from April 2014 to Marc 2015 is seen in a NASA image. The deeper the red color, the greater the volume of water lost. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via Reuters)

By    |   Tuesday, 15 Sep 2015 06:57 AM

The Sierra Nevada snowpack is at its lowest level in the last 500 years, a new study found, and the snow's current low point is likely to compound the drought that's left many California residents high and dry.

According to The New York Times, snowmelt contributes significantly to California reservoirs, which in turn provide a third of all drinking water for the state — plus water for used to fight wildfires.

"The 2015 snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is unprecedented," said Valerie Trouet, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona. "We expected it to be bad, but we certainly didn’t expect it to be the worst in the past 500 years."

Trouet and her team published the new snowpack study in the journal Nature Climate Change on Monday, and it is the first to create a model for estimating temperature and precipitation levels in the centuries before scientists began measuring annual snow levels.

The rings from 1,500 blue oak trees in California’s Central Valley were compared to snowpack measurements made from 1930 to 1980, and both findings matched. This consistency provide the basis for the new model.

"Trees are remarkable ... they are the best recorder of past climate," said Trouet. "We should be prepared for this type of snow drought to occur much more frequently because of rising temperatures," she added, alluding to man-made global warming.

Mark Gold, associate vice chancellor for environment and sustainability at UCLA, reacted strongly to the study.

"This is probably the biggest water supply concern our state is facing," said Mark Gold, associate vice chancellor for environment and sustainability at UCLA, according to The Los Angeles Times. "On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s 11."

David Rizzardo, chief snow surveyor at the California Department of Water Resources, commented on the study, saying, "From a department perspective, you can go back 500 years or 10,000 years, it doesn’t really change the context of the here and now. We’re stuck in this situation."

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The Sierra Nevada snowpack is at its lowest level in the last 500 years, a new study found, and the snow's current low point is likely to compound the drought that's left many California residents high and dry.
sierra, nevada, snowpack
329
2015-57-15
Tuesday, 15 Sep 2015 06:57 AM
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