Coppervale Ski Area still needs about 18 inches of snow to operate. File photo

Snow measurements down

The Department of Water Resources conducted the first Phillips Station snow survey of 2019 Thursday, Jan. 3. The manual survey recorded 25.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 9 inches. These numbers are 80 percent of average for this location.

The water content in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is below average for this time of year.

California’s climate is variable, according to Karla Nemeth, director of the Department of Water Resources. Climate change exacerbates extremes going from drought to record rainfall, according to Nemeth. This creates challenges for maintaining water supply reliability.

Snow surveys have been conducted at Phillips Station since 1964, recording the depth and snow water equivalent for a more accurate forecast of spring runoff. These snow surveys are taken near the first of January, February, March, April and May. The surveys at Phillips Station are one of hundreds taken across the Sierras throughout the winter. In addition, electronic readings are conducted from about 100 snow pillows.

The survey was better than last year. On Jan. 3, 2018 the measurement at Phillips Station, off Highway 50 at an elevation of 6,800 feet, revealed a snow water equivalent of 0.4 inches, which is 3 percent of the average. The snow water equivalent is “the depth of water that theoretically would result if the entire snowpack melted instantaneously.”