WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)

Webcams show stark difference in California snowpack 2018 vs. 2017

By Jesse Ferrell
1/23/2018, 12:35:21 PM

After a blockbuster snowpack winter for 2016-2017, California is once again in a snow drought and these National Park Service webcams, comparing this week to the same week in 2017, show the shocking difference.

Webcam Comparison Jan. 2017 vs. Jan. 2018 Yosemite

Last winter, the snow at the Yosemite "High Sierra" webcam, shown above and located at about 8,000 feet in Northern California, nearly covered the camera. This year, there is barely snow on Half Dome peak shown on the webcam. At the Soda Springs camera, shown below, the ground is bare this year, while in January 2017 this week, the area was inundated with heavy snow (and, I can tell you, was never bare all last winter).

Soda Springs Webcam Comparison Jan 2017 vs. 2018

A high snowpack is required to provide water to much of California, so this could be a problem come spring. The map of U.S. snow depth from today is in stark contrast to the one from the same day in 2017 (approximate locations of the two cameras are shown with arrows):

Snow Depth 1/18 2017 vs. 2018

Is the area in a drought? You'd think so, but those two locations are not officially, according to the Drought Monitor, and the "Water Year" (since October) precipitation map is actually not bad in the north.

Snowpack is a difficult thing to visualize, however, because it depends on the snow depth and water content of the snow. The official graph from the California Department of Water Resources, however, shows that the entire state is at record lows for this time in the season.

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WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)