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article imageSierra Nevada snowpack not likely to recover until 2019

By Karen Graham     Jun 22, 2016 in Environment
Los Angeles - Even though El Nino was pegged to bring some relief to California after four years of unrelenting drought, it hardly made a dent in the Sierra Nevada's snowpack deficit. One study says it will take another four years to return to pre-drought levels.
UCLA hydrology researchers made a new analysis that included NASA Landsat satellite measurements taken over the past 31 years. The imagery and measurements gave researchers a far more detailed and precise picture of snowpack levels than ground sensors that are typically placed at the more accessible mid-elevations.
The study was published online today in The American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters. In the study, researchers used a newly developed snow reanalysis in conjunction with historical snow course data to show that the cumulative effects of the ongoing drought will lead to a different outcome than what has been found in previous droughts.
The image on the left shows the 31-year average snow water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada mountains...
The image on the left shows the 31-year average snow water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada mountains compared with the snow water equivalent in 2015.
Steve Margulis/UCLA
The researchers found that even if the state receives above-average rainfall and snow over the next few years, the amount of snow needed to replenish the snowpack won't be seen until 2019. This means that California has another few years of drought ahead. This will affect the water supply because the Sierra Nevada snowpack, along with rain is responsible for as much as 70 percent of the state's water supply.
"This four-year drought has led to by far the largest deficit on record," said the study's lead author, Steven Margulis, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, reports Science News Line.
Margulis cites the media coverage as saying El Nino was "going to be a drought-buster," adding a lot of hype to its ability to ease the drought. Margulis says the assumption is wrong on two counts. First,even though El Nino's can bring more rain to coastal areas, they don't always help the snowpack situation. And secondly, he says El Nino would not have been able to fully replenish the snowpack, anyway.
"It is critical for regions like California, that rely on their regional snowpack for water supply, to understand the dynamics of the system," Margulis said. "Our new tool could help not just California, but other regions, gain insight about their regional snowpack."
More about California, snowpack deficit, rl nino, drought conditions, sierra nevadas
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