NOAA: Does the Current Low Snowpack Mean California Will Have a Dry Winter?

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Credit: NWS Reno Nevada Facebook

We know it has been incredibly dry for California lately, and sadly there are no storms on the horizon through the middle of the month. So the big question is: Does having little or no snowpack in early November mean that it will be a dry winter?

Thankfully, the answer is a resounding “Nope!” There is no correlation, zero. Take a look at recent years as an example…

We started with a rather healthy early season snowpack in 2014 and it ended up being a record or near-record dry winter in many locations. 2015, 2017, and 2018 were all quite dry early on and we ended up with near or above-normal precipitation for the winter. The winter of 2016-17 started with a bang and just never stopped, leading to a record wet winter in many locations.

The reality is that seasonal predictability with decent accuracy is beyond the current state of the science, so time will tell what this winter will bring.

More details on the graphics above, courtesy of NWS Reno NevadaThe bottom images show NASA MODIS satellite views focused on the Sierra for early November 2014-2018 with the associated overall winter precipitation percentiles on the top. Winter precipitation (rain and snowmelt) percentiles in yellow and orange are below normal, with red being the record driest; while the greens indicate above-normal precipitation, with the dark green being the record wettest. If it’s white, it just means near-normal precipitation was experienced for those locations over the winter.