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Snowpack across Klamath National Forest starts 2024 below historic averages

February 1st snow survey results for Scott River sub-basin

FOREST SERVICE NEWS RELEASE
COVER PHOTO: Post-storm snow survey at Dynamite Meadow (in Middle Boulder Creek drainage). Forest Service personnel (left to right): Kip Van de Water and Matt Libby.
Credit: USDA Forest Service

YREKA, Calif.February 5, 2024— The Klamath National Forest has completed the February 1st snow surveys. These measurements are a part of the statewide California Cooperative Snow Survey program, which helps the state forecast the quantity of water available for agriculture, power generation, recreation, and stream flow releases later in the year.

The month of January began with a nice accumulation of snow, but a shift to warmer weather mid-month, including rain at higher elevations, resulted in on-the-ground snow conditions reminiscent of March or April. While the atmospheric river at the end of January did add more snow to the mountains around the Scott River Valley, most significant additions were at the higher elevations. According to measurements taken for the February survey, the snowpack is at 73% of the historic average snow height (snow depth) and at 60% of the historic average Snow Water Equivalent (SWE, a measure of water content) across all survey points (see result table). Historically, snowpack reaches its annual maximum by late-March/early-April.

Of note, survey crews were only able to complete part of the Middle Boulder 1 course (5 of 10 planned holes) due to very difficult sampling conditions including ice layers, voids, and highly compressible snow. 

Snow surveys are conducted monthly during the winter and spring months (February through May). Forest Service employees travel to established sites in the headwaters of the Scott River watershed to take measurements. The newest measuring site at Scott Mountain has been monitored for over thirty-five years; the oldest site at Middle Boulder has been monitored for over seventy years. Some sites are located close to Forest roads with good access, while others require hours of travel by snowshoe and/or snowmobile.

The height of snow and Snow Water Equivalent (“SWE”, measure of water content) are measured by a snow sampling tube with a cutter end that is driven through the snowpack, measuring depth. The snow core is then weighed to determine the water content (SWE). The information is forwarded to the State of California, where the data is compiled with other snow depth reports and becomes part of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys program. The data is managed by the California Department of Water Resources; more information is available on their website at http://cdec.water.ca.gov/snow/current/snow/index.html


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