Sierra Nevada Snowpack Remains Abundant as Summer Begins

Sierra Nevada Snowpack Remains Abundant as Summer Begins

A late-season storm struck northern California in June and added more snow to the unusually thick blanket already topping the Sierra Nevada range.

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured a pair of images (above) of the mountains near Yosemite National Park and the Tuolumne watershed on June 7, 2017, and June 20, 2016. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) captured the second pair of images (below)—a broader view of the Sierra Nevada—on June 13, 2017 and June 7, 2016. In addition to the more extensive snow cover in 2017, notice the greener landscape on the western slopes of the range.

As of June 14, 2017, the volume of water stored as snow (“snow water equivalent”) in California stood at 173 percent of normal for this time of year, according to the California Department of Water Resources. By region, there was 172 percent of normal snowpack in the Trinity/Northern Sierra sector, 197 percent in the Central Sierra, and 121 percent in the Southern Sierra.

A model from the National Weather Service reported on June 14 that about 13 percent of the Sierra Nevada was still covered in snow. The average depth across the range was estimated at about 6 inches, with a maximum of 288 inches reported at Alpine Meadows.

Successive storms from autumn 2016 through spring 2017 have broken California’s five-year drought and replenished reservoirs across the state. The record-setting snowfall in the past few months has even led several resorts to extend the skiing season in the range.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens and Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and Terra MODIS data from the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LPDAAC). Story by Adam Voiland and Mike Carlowicz.

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