Thanks to a series of drought-busting storms, the mountain range has unusually thick and extensive snow cover this year.
A late-season storm struck northern California in June and added more snow to the unusually thick blanket already topping the Sierra Nevada range.
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured a pair of images (above) of the mountains near Yosemite National Park and the Toulumne watershed on June 7, 2017, and June 20, 2016. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) captured the second pair of images (below)—a broader view of the Sierra Nevada—on June 13, 2017 and June 7, 2016. In addition to the more extensive snow cover in 2017, notice the greener landscape on the western slopes of the range.
As of June 14, 2017, the volume of water stored as snow (“snow water equivalent”) in California stood at 173 percent of normal for this time of year, according to the California Department of Water Resources. By region, there was 172 percent of normal snowpack in the Trinity/Northern Sierra sector, 197 percent in the Central Sierra, and 121 percent in the Southern Sierra.
A model from the National Weather Service reported on June 14 that 12.5 percent of the Sierra Nevada was still covered in snow. The average depth across the range was estimated at 6.4 inches, with a maximum of 288 inches at Alpine Meadows.
Successive storms from autumn 2016 through spring 2017 have broken California’s five-year drought and replenished reservoirs across the state. The record-setting snowfall in the past few months has even led several resorts to extend the skiing season in the range.
- CalWater Snow Water Equivalents (inches). Accessed June 14, 2017.
- NASA Earth Observatory Drought in the Western United States.
- The Sacramento Bee (2017, June 12) Northern California just got hit with snow. In June. Accessed June 14, 2017.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. NASA Earth Observatory images by Jesse Allen, using data from the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LPDAAC). Caption by Adam Voiland and Mike Carlowicz.
- Landsat 8 – OLI
- Terra – MODIS