Officials say data helps create a clearer picture regarding the amount of water that will run off into state reservoirs.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The California Department of Water Resources is conducting its first snow survey of the season in the Sierra Nevada.
While this survey can't say what our snowpack will look like this year, it did show there was more than 140% less snow than there was at this time last year at Phillips Station in South Lake Tahoe.
These measurements are important to help water management agencies prepare for runoff in the spring and summer.
This time last year, crews had to trudge through almost five feet of snow when they went to make their first measurement of the year.
Now, in 2024, the snowpack sits at a sparse seven and a half inches.
In fact, the snowpack was so small the team had to get creative to get accurate measurements of the water content in the snow.
"Basically, when we weigh the snow in the tube using our scales, sometimes there isn't enough snow to make a difference to pull it down, so we'll actually dump the snow into the bag and then dump multiple samples into the bag until you can actually get something to register on the scale," explained Sean de Guzman with the California Department of Water Resources.
Sean says his team determined the water content is just 30% of the typical level at Phillips Station in South Lake Tahoe.
That's significantly smaller than last January's 177% measurement.
The survey is just one of 260 happening around the state.
The data collected helps water management agencies estimate the amount of runoff we will see in the spring and summer and develop their response, such as managing reservoirs, deploying resources to the community, and reinforcing levees.
After we saw one of the largest snow packs on record last year, statewide water storage sits at more than 115% of the average.
Although measurements across the state came back drastically smaller than last year, State Climatologist Dr. Michael Anderson says he's not concerned yet.
"It's still too early to tell. A lot can change between now and April 1st. We'll know more when we get to that second measurement in early February," said Dr. Anderson.
April 1st is when that peak snowpack is expected each year.
This data collected then helps scientists look at the impacts of climate change on the snowpacks and create long-term plans.
"When we look at these and their trend lines you can see that snowfall is declining in about every month and rainfall is increasing. The only month we're not seeing that in is in February. This really shows us that our snow season is getting shorter. We're going to have to plan for shorter periods of snowpack and the complications that may bring with our management of water resources," said Dr. Andrew Schwartz with UC Berkley's Central Sierra Snow Lab.
This time last year, we saw a series of atmospheric river storms that caused devastating flooding across the state.
To prepare for the potential flooding this year, make sure you know the potential risks to your home.
Also be prepared with an emergency evacuation kit and evacuation plan and follow forecasts and evacuation or guidelines issued by local agencies.