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The Mono-logue » Blog Archive » February 2019 was Lee Vining’s snowiest February on record

February 2019 was Lee Vining’s snowiest February on record

March 5th, 2019 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist

Wow! With 53.3″ of snowfall, February 2019 was Lee Vining’s snowiest February on record. The Lee Vining record begins in 1989, with the previous record 49.0″ of total snowfall in February 1998.

February 2019 was Lee Vining’s snowiest February on record, and included days when it was possible to ski along the shore of Mono Lake. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Total snowfall for January and February 2019 was the third-largest on record with 78.5″, lagging behind the same time-frame in 2008 with 91.4″ of snow and 1993 with 81.2″ of snow. Snowfall this past February was 313% of average, and the January–February total was 209% of average. The 2019 seasonal total snowfall of 90.7″ already ranks within the top seven snowiest winter seasons, with the potential for additional snow remaining in the weeks ahead.

Precipitation-wise, it was the third-wettest February since 1989. With 5.95″ of total water measured, February 2019 was wetter than all Februaries except 1998 (8.51″) and 2017 (6.30″). This means February 2019 snowfall wasn’t the heaviest, due to the cold storms containing less moisture. February snowfall/precipitation ratios were 8.96 in 2019, 3.56 in 2017, and 5.76 in 1998.

The high-elevation Mono Basin snow surveys were completed on March 4, and the results are no less remarkable than the Lee Vining totals. Snowpack water content more than doubled since the last snow survey at Gem Pass and Saddlebag Lake (rising to 160% of average), Ellery Lake (rising to 166% of average), and Gem Lake (rising to 169% of average).

Gem Lake snowpack on March 4, 2019 was 166% of average. 2019's increase during February over 34 days was a record, however 1986 had a similar increase over 21 days.

Gem Lake snowpack on March 4, 2019 was 166% of average. 2019’s increase during the February period (34 days between surveys) was a record, however 1986 had a similar increase over just 21 days. Due to inconsistent measurement dates it is hard to determine a true record in this case.

The February-period increase was the highest on record at Gem Lake, second-highest on record at Gem Pass and Ellery Lake, third-highest on record at Saddlebag Lake, and fourth-highest on record at Tioga Pass.

Gem Pass snowpack on March 4, 2019 was 160% of average.

Gem Pass snowpack on March 4, 2019 was 160% of average.

The early-March snowpack is typical for a wet year, but the final snow surveys in April will be used to determine the official runoff year type. All this snow means that Mono Lake will rise this year, but how much? Stay tuned as we develop our March lake level forecast, which we’ll share here on the Mono-logue.

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