After Big Snowfall In The Sierra, How Bad Is the California Drought Right Now?

After Big Snowfall In The Sierra, How Bad Is the California Drought Right Now?


After Big Snowfall In The Sierra, How Bad Is the California Drought Right Now?


Lake Orville, California | Photo Credit: California Department of Water Resources

Lake Orville, California as of January 28 | Photo Credit (+Cover Photo): California Department of Water Resources  

The California drought is far from over.

After reservoirs dropped to record lows this past year, causing California Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency, things are finally starting to change for the Golden State. Although California residents should not expect a few precipitous months to alter the overall condition of the drought, it certainly doesn’t hurt to see significant snowfall in the Sierra and rain in Los Angeles.

However, how far has the state of California come since El Niño’s arrival?

California Snow Cover

2015 on the left | 2016 on the right

For one thing, the Sierra mountain range is doing very well. The Sierra are reporting a snowpack that is currently at 130% of its average for this time of year and Nevada is currently covered in snow (as evidenced by the map above).

Also, lake levels have improved significantly. According to the NWS Reno Facebook Page, Lake Tahoe is just 11 inches short of its natural rim while Folsom reservoir is at 104% of its capacity for this time of year. However, other reservoirs such as New Melones and Exchequer remain at only 28% of their average.

Note: Visit – for practical advice on how to conserve California’s water supply 

New Melones Lake

New Melones Lake

That said, the Sierra hasn’t seen this much snow since 2011, which was a record year for the Tahoe area. That snow, once the spring thaw comes around should raise lake levels significantly. Unfortunately southern California has not felt El Niño’s embrace the same way. Currently, most of southern California remains below average for precipitation but with two more months of El Niño’s effects in the forecast, the weather door is still open to change.

California Drought

Photo Credit: NOAA

What is needed for the drought to continue to lessen? If a series of Atmospheric River delivers excess precipitation and snowfall through the spring, drought conditions should improve across the state.

Cross your fingers California!

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