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Snow in the Sierra Nevadas, January 18, 2014. (NASA Earth Observatory / Terra - MODIS)

California’s Snowpack is 68 Percent Below Normal, Threatening Another Dry Summer

California's snowpack is running low, a bad sign for a state plagued by drought

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California has been in drought conditions for three years. It hasn't been raining much, and when it has, it hasn't been enough. The drought has led to tightening restrictions on water use, with residents, industry, and farmers being forced to cut back. Normally around this time of year the annual spring snow melt would provide some relief, but a survey conducted yesterday by the California Department of Water Resources says that, this year, that's not going to be the case.

Snow accumulates in the Sierra Nevada mountains throughout the winter, and come spring that snow starts to melt, flowing downstream to thirsty Californians. Yesterday, researchers with the Department of Water Resources went out to check on the state of the snowpack, and they came back with some bad news: the amount of water waiting up in the mountains is just 32 percent of what it normally is at this time of year.

And the same section of the Sierra Nevada mountains as seen at this time last year. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory / Terra - MODIS

Resource managers go out every month to check on the snowpack. But April, says National Geographic, is traditionally considered the most important measure, since that's when the snow is usually at its deepest. The lack of water in the mountains will mean a lack of water for the rest of the year. And with reservoirs already running low, this is not a good sign.

According to the Department of Water Resources, 2013 was California's driest year on record, and this drought, says National Geographic, the worst in California history.

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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