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Sierra Snowpack Might Be Biggest on the Planet Right Now



California snowpack 80 days ago, left, and on Jan. 18, 2023. (Twitter/Colin McCarthy)
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The gold standard for figuring out how much water will be delivered to California communities, businesses, and farms is the annual April 1 snowpack measurement.

Finally, after three years of drought, things are looking up.

Thanks to a long parade of storms, the statewide snowpack has already surpassed the April 1 average. In fact, according to the state Department of Water Resources, the snowpack is 124% of the April 1 average and 248% of “normal” as of Wednesday.

Why does the April 1 measurement matter?

After that, as temperatures rise, the snowpack melts and feeds California’s extensive reservoir system. Water from reservoirs is released into river channels, canals, and pipes and carried to where it needs to go. In addition, the water in riverbeds and creeks nourishes habitat, wildlife, and fish. And, some of the snowmelt percolates into the aquifer for future use.

So, while California’s just-concluded parade of nine atmospheric rivers has been deadly (at least 20 people killed) and costly (damage in the billions), the storms have also possibly created the biggest snowpack on the planet.

More Snow Ahead

The forecast from the National Weather Service in Hanford calls for a 30% chance of rain in the Fresno area Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.

But the biggest precipitation impact will be felt in the Sierra, where up to 8 inches of snow is expected at some locations.

(GV Wire/Paul Marshall. Source: NOAA)


Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email