New research shows that California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack will likely not recover from the current drought until 2019

Watts Up With That?

By Lauren Lipuma, Contributing Writer, EOS

Rain over California’s Owen’s Valley in early May 2016. The 2015–2016 El Niño, which officially ended in late May, was one of the strongest El Niños on record. Although predicted to bring heavy rainfall to California, new research shows El Niño’s rains were not enough to ease California’s ongoing drought. Credit: Dustin Blakey, CC BY-NC 2.0 Rain over California’s Owen’s Valley in early May 2016. The 2015–2016 El Niño, which officially ended in late May, was one of the strongest El Niños on record. Although predicted to bring heavy rainfall to California, new research shows El Niño’s rains were not enough to ease California’s ongoing drought. Credit: Dustin Blakey, CC BY-NC 2.0

The unprecedented drought that has gripped the Southwest United States has severely depleted the Sierra Nevada snowpack, the major source of water for drinking and farming in California. Researchers and water managers thought this past winter’s monster El Niño would bring enough rainfall to help ease the strain on water resources, but whether El Niño rains were enough to replenish the dwindling snowpack remained to be seen.

Here Margulis et al. used daily maps of the Sierra Nevada taken from NASA Landsat satellites and snow survey data collected…

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