Snowpack measurements have been kept in California since 1950 and nothing in the historic record comes close to this year’s severely depleted level. The previous record for the lowest snowpack level in California, 25 percent of normal, was set both in 1976-77 and last winter (2013-2014).
In “normal” years, the snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
“This was the first time in 75 years of early-April measurements at the Phillips snow course that no snow was found there,” the California Department of Water Resources said.
Plentiful snows in December got the winter of 2014-15 off to a promising start in the Sierra, but conditions regressed to extremely dry starting in January:
Several locations in interior central California had among their driest January-March periods on record:
The abnormally dry weather also extended to the coast. Rainfall in San Francisco for January-March totaled just 1.59 inches, the lowest in 165 years of records. Just 0.12 inches fell in March. San Jose, Santa Rosa, Livermore and Santa Cruz also had historically low rainfall totals in this period – on the order of 2-4 inches. (Information courtesy San Francisco-based meteorologist Jan Null)
Much of California has not only been dry but also unusually hot. The state had its warmest winter on record and scorching heat hit Southern California repeatedly in March.
Redding, Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Diego all had their hottest average high temperatures on record during March.