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Breaking Down Nevada's Snowpack So Far

Amy Westervelt

The Natural Resources Conservation Service collects a lot of data, including snowpack measurements from more than 80 snow telemetry stations, also called SNOTEL sites, across the Sierras and Northern Nevada.

Now that we’re halfway through this winter, NRCS Hydrologist Jeff Anderson is digging into what those numbers mean, and he visited with News Director Michelle Billman to share some of his early findings.

"January, historically, is our most important month," Anderson says. "We get most of our snowpack through that month."

Last January, of 2015, Anderson remembers only measuring two-tenths of one inch of liquid precipitation for the Sierras for the entire month.

"Last year was really disappointing," he says, "and anyone who's been around the Eastern Sierras knows just how stark, how history-making that kind of lack of snow was."

Things are certainly looking better this winter with the snowpack in the Sierras measuring about 120% compared to a normal year. For the Humboldt Basin as well as Eastern Nevada, it's closer to 150% of normal. 

Over the last four years of drought, the Sierras lost more than an entire year's worth of precipitation which Anderson says will take more than one wet season to recoup. 

"Hopefully, what we can do is reverse the trajectory," he explains, "and get the ship headed in the right direction."

KUNR's extended interview with Anderson also covers the potential impacts of this year's El Nino and the history of snow surveying in Nevada.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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