Dry Sierra Nevada: not the name of a new pale ale

Source: media.NBCLosAngeles.com. These satellite images of the Sierra Nevada range were taken in January 2014 (left) and January 2013 (right). The images illustrate the dramatic difference between the range’s snowpack in those two years. Credit: NASA

Sierra backpackers will want to hit the trail early this year.  Unlike three years ago when the lakes above 10,000 feet were still frozen in August, it’s going to be difficult to find snow and water , even at the higher elevations this year.  Just look at the aerial photos above.  And that was January.  Here is the link to the story.

Sierra Nevada is Spanish for “snow-covered mountains.”  Seems like an obvious name for such a distinctive landmark mountain range, harking back to the Spanish explorers, who could probably see the white peaks from hundreds of miles away.

But not this year.  The most recent snow survey indicates snowpack in the Sierra is only 18% of average for this time of year.  And, we all know there is no such thing as a true “average” year in California hydrology.  We either have lots of water or we have almost none.  This year, it is much closer to none than all but four other years in the last hundred.  So, much more sierra than nevada.