Spring like weather in January, enjoyable as it is, can be worrying in when one thinks ahead to water supply for the coming year.
Midway through January, the LADWP snowpack measurement at Mammoth Pass shows the water content of the snow to be about half of what is normal for this time of year.
December ended big for Mammoth. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area shows 174 inches, or 14 6, of snow for the year. The storms that brought 123 of snow to Mammoth Mountain in December were relatively cold leading to light powdery snow. While light fluffy snow is fantastic for skiing, it doesnt pack as much water content as the famous sierra cement, type snow. The DWP website lists only 11.3 inches of water content for Mammoth Pass, 52% of long term mean for that important measuring site. Bishop Creek, Big Pine Creek and other sites all check in at about half the normal amount of snow for this time of year.
With most locations showing less then two inches of rain for the season so far, the Owens Valley is also low for this time of year. According to the DWP numbers, the half inch of rain in Big Pine adds up to 14% normal for the year. Bishop has received just over one inch of rain which is 50% normal for the year to date.
The weather has not only been dry as of late, but temperatures have been high. With temperatures near 70 degrees and higher in the Owens Valley this week, Sierrawaves Forecast Specialist Dennis Mattinson says that what he finds really unusual are not the high temperatures, but the lows. The low temperature in Bishop Tuesday night was 39 degrees while the Alabama Hills clocked an overnight low of 51 degrees. Mattinson says that these low temperatures are unheard of, in January.
With numbers running roughly half of normal, and no new precipitation expected through next week, Mattinson is taking a wait and see, approach to the long dry spell. Were definitely not in panic mode now, he says, adding that, if this were the middle of February, wed be very worried. January has been unusually dry, but there are still two more weeks left in the month. Mattinson says, anything can happen in February and March.