California Snowpack Levels Reaching Record Highs

California's snowpack is currently at astounding levels, with the statewide average for snowpack across all sites standing at 45 inches as of Friday — 190% of the normal for the date and 171% of the April 1 average.[0] In certain areas of the Sierra, snowpack levels are even expected to exceed those of the 1982-1983 season – the highest winter in the modern era.[1]

The recent deluges have dramatically improved California’s drought conditions, with less than half of the state in at least moderate drought conditions, down from 85% last week according to a weekly update from the U.S. Drought Monitor.[2] The heavy rains and snow have improved soil moisture and streamflow levels, while the snow has increased mountain snowpack to much above-normal levels.[1]

At Phillips Station off Highway 50 near Lake Tahoe, the state Department of Water Resources measured a snow depth of 116.5 inches and a snow water equivalent of 41.5 inches, which is 170% of what they typically expect to see by April 1.[1] The area is still under a freeze warning for overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning, with temperatures ranging from the upper 20s in outlying areas and low 30s in urban areas such as Fresno.[3]

Experts caution residents against thinking the yearslong drought is over in California, as a prolonged warm atmospheric river event could potentially lead to floods.[3] There’s a chance of another major atmospheric river and serious temperature increase in the middle of March, said Alex Tardy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, which could quickly lead to floods.[4]

Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, said on Twitter that should a significant warm atmospheric river event occur, “that could indeed pose a significant flood threat.”[2] However, he said that is “speculation at this early juncture” since the present odds of such an epic warm happening are about 1 in 5.[2] Another storm began moving in by late Monday, and there’s more to come.[5] A National Weather Service forecast discussion released Thursday reports that after a predicted mild holiday weekend, a storm system is expected to bring more wind and snow to the Lake Tahoe and Reno areas during the next week.[0]

0. “Storms headed for California to boost already healthy snowpack” Missoula Current, 22 Feb. 2023,

1. “California's snowfall so far this winter rivals the state's record-setting season, officials say” CNN, 3 Mar. 2023,

2. “Could warmer storms melt California's impressive snowpack?” msnNOW, 3 Mar. 2023,

3. “More Storms for Valley in March. Will They Add to Snowpack or Melt It?”, 1 Mar. 2023,

4. “Get Ready — Winter Wonderland Of Snow Heightens Risk Of Bigger Spring Floods (Landslides, Too)” LAist, 3 Mar. 2023,

5. “In like a lion: March to bring fresh snow and rain to California” Courthouse News Service, 28 Feb. 2023,

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