The Lowest of the Snow

A birds-eye view of California’s scanty snowpack.

April 06, 2015

California’s snow-capped mountains aren’t just picturesque—they are vitally important thirst-quenchers. Spring snowmelt normally meets about 30 percent of the state’s annual water needs. But thisas you may have heard last week when the governor announced statewide water restrictionsis not a normal year. Ongoing drought has driven statewide snowpack down to just five percent of the historical average for the date of April 1—obliterating the previous record low of 25 percent.

Worse yet, increasing low water levels may be the “new normal.” The downtrend becomes clear in the above NASA satellite imagery. Toggling back and forth between pictures of the Central Valley in March 2010 and March 2015 is basically like using a snow eraser.

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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