snowpack | KUNR

snowpack

An image of a person holding up a tube filled with pink snow
Rachel Mallon / Living Snow Project

As summer quickly approaches, snow is melting on the mountaintops. This time of year, some of that snow won’t be the pristine white color you think of. It turns out that in the spring and summer, snow often turns pink or even red thanks to microalgae that have been adapted to live in it, partly as a response to climate change.

Snowpack Report Indicates Another Dry Summer

Apr 22, 2021
A picture of Lake Tahoe and mountains in the background
Ankur Gupta / Flickr

The snowpack this winter indicates we may be heading towards another dry summer. 

Rain and snowfall totals in the northern Nevada basins are below normal, even compared to recent years.  

“We have been seeing March being really a critical month for our water supply, and this year we didn’t see that, especially in the Sierras,” said Jeff Anderson.

New research published in the journal Nature Climate Change finds that snow is melting earlier – often in the winter. That’s a bad sign for the Mountain West. 


An image of the Martis Trail in Truckee during the winter.
Amy Westervelt / KUNR Public Radio

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Friday, Apr. 2, 2021.

Dry and cracked soil covering a large span of sparingly bushed landscape.
Famartin

Nevada had its driest year on record in 2020, according to the National Center for Environmental Information, and recent trends point to it continuing to get drier. Currently, all of Nevada is in drought, with over 72% of the state’s land experiencing “extreme drought conditions,” according to Drought.gov. Desert Research Institute Assistant Research Professor and Climatologist Dan McEvoy says our conditions in the summer months are dependent on the precipitation our area gets in the winter.

An image of a mountain slope with a receding snow line.
Nathan Anderson / Unsplash

In much of the West, snowpack levels have historically been one of the more reliable ways to determine whether a drought was coming. But a new study says climate change could soon make snowpack data much less reliable.

Much of the Mountain West saw record breaking snowfall last year which was great news for the mountain resort industry. This year's snowfall may be less intense. 

Bree Zender

Sierra Nevada snowpacks have been melting faster and faster in recent years, fueled by the effects of climate change. But a new study says that forest fires are also fueling this trend.

A man stands in front of a very large mound of snow.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

The Tahoe region is reporting staggering snowfall totals for the month of February. Truckee received 121 inches while Tahoe City came in at 134 inches. 

Bree Zender

Hundreds of researchers agree that climate change is going to alter the way we will live in the coming decades. Every few years, the U.S. Global Change Research Program releases a National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive look into how the country's climate has changed, and what could be ahead.

Bree Zender

After the first couple of storms of the winter season, much of the Eastern Sierra is at or above the historic median snow totals for this time of year, but areas in the Tahoe and Truckee Basins are trailing behind. KUNR's Bree Zender has more.

Michelle Billman

When farmers first purchase water rights, they typically reserve them for a certain time of the year based on historical predictions of when the most water will flow, but the runoff is frequently coming earlier because of climate change. 

Noah Glick

In December, snowpack in the Sierra was below normal levels, warning some water experts of a drought. Since then, a few storms have passed. Reno Public Radio's Bree Zender checks in again with Jeff Anderson, a hydrologist from the Natural Resources Conservation Service about where the snowpack levels are today, and how that could affect water flow.


Bree Zender


Noah Glick

Northern Nevada had an average year for its snowpack, and sometimes being average isn't a bad thing.

Researchers measured 42.1 inches of liquid water on Mt. Rose Friday, which is above median for the end of the season.

"You know, the take home message is that this was a great year compared to the last four," said Jeff Anderson, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "Fortunately, we didn't dig the hole any deeper for the drought."

Anderson added that last week's surprise spring snowstorm offered a helpful boost, especially out east.

Julia Ritchey

A snow storm warning remains in effect until early Wednesday for much of north central and northeastern Nevada.

As of Monday afternoon, the system had dumped six to as many as 14 inches around the Reno area according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Deutschendorf.

"We expected this snow several days in advance however the amounts came in much higher because the storm came in much stronger in the area, and the heavier snow persisted for several hours longer," he explained. "And it  happened right over the highest populated areas of Western Nevada."

Noah Glick

Local researchers went out yesterday to measure the snowpack levels on Mount Rose. Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick tagged along and learned that February fell short.

Jeff Anderson is walking down a ski run in the Mount Rose Ski Resort. He’s a hydrologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service and he’s leading a group of scientists and members of the media to the Mount Rose snow telemetry, or SNOTEL, site where he’s taking manual measurements of the snowpack to make sure the data are consistent with electronic readings.

Sierra Avalanche Center

Unusual snowpack conditions in the Sierra Nevada mountains are contributing to an increase of a type of avalanche quite uncommon for the area. Our contributor Luiza Vieira has the story.

Even with all the snow Northern Nevada and California are receiving, the number of avalanches has not increased. The Sierra Avalanche Center, however, is seeing a type of avalanche that has not happened in this area in years.

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.

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Snowpack measurements across the Eastern Sierra and Northern Nevada are coming in higher than normal. For the latest snowpack update, let's check in with Reno Public Radio's Michelle Billman.

As a hydrologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Jeff Anderson oversees about 100 snow telemetry sites, also called SNOTEL stations. He visited one on Mt. Rose Monday where he measured 54 inches of snow, containing almost 16 inches of water content.

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