Rising temps advance spring snowmelt in NID’s watershed
January 28, 2018
Rising Sierra Nevada temperatures are both reducing snowpack and advancing the time when it melts.
In Nevada Irrigation District's watershed, snowmelt historically crests in late May. But in recent years, it has come sooner — in mid-December during the 2016-17 water year, and in late March during the 2015-16 water year, according to NID records.
That's exactly what researchers predict, using models that project the effects of rising temperatures on Sierra snowpack
"More snow will melt prior to April 1," wrote Daniel Cayan of UC San Diego. "Expected effects … include earlier and more volatile runoff, which could produce more frequent and sometimes more intense flooding."
Earlier spring run-off already has been observed in the watershed supplying the local Nevada Irrigation District.
"The melt is happening earlier by two to three months" said NID Hydroelectric Manager Keane Sommers. "It's coming off earlier and faster."
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"A growing challenge will be to retain and store this mountain runoff," Cayan concluded in a 2016 article in Source magazine, written with Penelope Grenoble.
Trina Kleist is a Grass Valley freelance writer whose clients include Nevada Irrigation District. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-575-6132.