#Snowpack/#Drought news: Winter heat bakes the SW #US

Screenshot of the NRCS interactive SWE map for major sub-basins on January 29, 2018.

From the Desert Sun (Ian James) via USA Today:

An average January, February or even March day in Temecula tops out at 67 or 68 degrees, according to AccuWeather.

Cantú has worked previously for the California State Water Resources Control Board and until last year was general manager of the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority. She now leads the Los Angeles-based group Water Education for Latino Leaders.

She’s been following the news about the lower-than-average snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies and seeing the warmth trigger the early bloom in her garden left her feeling concerned about the possibility of another severe drought around the corner.

“It tells me we really need to get back to talking about water conservation and water-use efficiency,” Cantú said.

Californians coped with the most severe drought in the state’s modern history from 2012 through 2016. Gov. Jerry Brown declared the emergency over in April 2017 after one of the wettest winters on record refilled reservoirs across the state.

This week, snow sensors across the Sierra Nevada show the snowpack at just 30% of average for this time of year.

“We have every indication that we’re likely to still be in a drought, in spite of a normal year last winter in Northern California,” Cantú said. “People kind of had a false sense of reprieve and that’s very fleeting.”

“We really need to buckle down” and step up conservation efforts again, she said.

The amount of snow on the ground is also far below average across the Colorado River Basin, where a 17-year run of mostly dry years has left reservoirs at alarmingly low levels.

Climate scientists and managers of water agencies describe the situation as a “snow drought,” driven in part by winter temperatures that are well above the long-term average.

“We can have a decent amount of precipitation in a year and still be in a snow drought,” said senior research associate Laura Feinstein at the Pacific Institute, an Oakland, Calif.-based think tank that focuses on water issues. “Even if we get a similar amount of precipitation, more of it falls as rain rather than snow and runs off relatively quickly.

“And we don’t have that long-term storage to get us through our summers and falls like we used to,” she said.

West Drought Monitor January 23, 2018.

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