SLIDE MOUNTAIN, Nev. (KOLO) - Once a month in snow season, hydrologists from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Truckee Meadows Water Authority trek to several sites in the Sierra to manually measure the snow pack and its water content.
They use a century-old method invented by a UNR professor, then adopted world wide. An aluminum pole is thrust into the snow. Depth is measured and the pole is weighed.
This site and a number of others are actually automatically monitored 24/7. This old-school method is employed to confirm what they've been seeing. The results of both aren't what they'd like to see, but come as no surprise.
There was 16 inches of water content, 52 inches of depth.
That's 62 percent of the median for February results or about what we'd usually expect at the first of the year. Mediocre here at 8,800 feet, according to NRCS hydrologist Jeff Anderson.
Down below the results at other sites is even worse. The snowpack below 8 thousand is about 25 percent of median and that's discouraging.
"In those areas we just don't have much snow this year," says Anderson. And that means slopes that account for much of the runoff land area are bare.
There is, of course, some winter to come. Time for a Fabulous February or Miracle March. Possible, but unlikely.
"When you look at the ten lowest years in the historical record, none of the ten lowest years made it back to an April 1 snowpack that was normal."
There is some good news to counter the bad; it doesn't come from Monday's results, but the remnants of last winter's snowfall collected in local reservoirs.
"Yep, definitely last year made up for all those deficits for four years of drought and put us in a good year for a low snowpack year this year."