So far in 2017, Mono Lake has risen an astounding 4.5 vertical feet before leveling off in the past month. About 3 feet of that total lake rise occurred from mid-May to mid-August. Watch below for a quick 20-second timelapse showing the incredible lake rise this summer, or scroll down and see the full two-and-half-minute timelapse video.
June 2014—Mono Lake level: 6380.4 feet above sea level
Just three years ago, during the middle of California’s historic drought, I visited Mono Lake for the first time. The large, salty lake in the middle of the high desert amazed me and I vividly remember admiring the incredible tufa towers for the first time one summer evening. That was before I worked for the Mono Lake Committee, before I understood the significance of Mono Lake’s level, and the last time I would see the lake with that much water until this month (August 2017). (more…)
Join us for this summer’s first Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists presentation, next Wednesday, July 26 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery!
Come hear hydrologist Sue Burak give an inside look at the work of an avalanche forecaster, the science behind the forecasts, and the headaches of an avalanche forecaster during a winter when nature put the hammer down in a presentation entitled “Atmospheric Rivers Bring It On: Big Storms & Big Avalanches in a Record-Breaking Winter.” Admission is free and there will be free snacks! (more…)
Over the past winter, the Mono Basin received record levels of snowfall—estimated runoff was at 206% above average for Rush and Lee Vining creeks at the end of May. According to ASO Principal Investigator Dr. Tom Painter, over a three-week span during January the Sierra Nevada received more water than the entire Colorado River basin receives in an average year. In the first week of July Saddlebag Lake Resort reported 12 feet of snow still on the ground—that is a lot of snow for July.
With spring in our pocket and summer upon us, the time has come for warmer weather, and Mono Lake has been at times rising a twentieth of a foot per day. This added up to (more…)
This just in from Caltrans—Sonora Pass (Highway 108) is scheduled to open today at 2:00pm.
From the press release: “The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) would like to notify the traveling public that State Route (SR) 108 over Sonora Pass is scheduled to open today at 2 p.m. Snow and debris have been removed and work to ensure the traveling public’s safety is finishing up.
“The State Route opening is dependent on favorable weather. If the area is impacted by inclement weather Caltrans may have to re-close the highway.
“Caltrans would like to also remind travelers of the truck restrictions recently enacted on SR 108 and advise big rig drivers to continue to use an alternate route.”
Update at 11:24am on Friday: Sonora Pass will not be opening today. Crews will reevaluate tomorrow.
According to the Caltrans email, there is no estimated date for opening Tioga Pass (Highway 120) yet. Caltrans crews plowing from the east have met up with Yosemite National Park crews plowing from the west, and work will now continue to remove snow from the shoulders, remove rocks from the road, and repair any damaged sections of road. In particular, extensive damage occurred to guardrails from the unusually heavy snowpack, so those are being repaired and/or replaced before the road can be opened.
Just how much water is contained in the Sierra Nevada snowpack? NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, along with the California Department of Water Resources and the USDA Agricultural Research Service, have developed the high-tech Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) to answer that question with greater precision and clarity than ever before.
Flying out of nearby Mammoth Lakes, a plane equipped with an imaging spectrometer and an incredibly precise LIDAR laser measurement system has been gathering vast quantities of data that allow scientists to calculate how much water is contained in every square meter of snowpack in the high Sierra. Knowing how much water is stored in the snowpack and waiting to flow down Rush Creek, for example, is incredibly valuable. The details of how ASO works are fascinating and the big-picture implications for Mono Lake and all of California water management are exciting. I talked with ASO Principal Investigator Dr. Tom Painter in May during a break in his schedule between flights, project development, and a roster of presentations worldwide. (more…)
Mono Lake, and all of us here at the Mono Lake Committee, have just been through the biggest winter on record. It is an abrupt and welcome end to drought conditions (though not to all the effects of the drought), made all the more enjoyable by the way it crept up unannounced and surprised us with its intensity.
Stories abound of Highway 395 being closed for days, snow blanketing every facet of the Sierra Nevada crest, and backcountry snowfields that measure taller than any building in Mono County. Speculation about an opening date for Tioga Pass—certain to be among the latest ever—is a popular springtime guessing game in town.
So what does it all mean for Mono Lake, its tributary streams, and the operation of the Los Angeles Aqueduct? Here’s the exciting outlook:
Mono Lake on the rise
With a deep snowpack fueling runoff that is forecast at 206% of average, Mono Lake is expected to rise (more…)
Caltrans just sent out a video of a flyover of Tioga Pass, filmed last Monday, May 1. The video shows the road from low in Lee Vining Canyon to the eastern gate to Yosemite National Park; there is no sound in the video.
There is no estimated opening date for Tioga Pass, and this video helps to show why. We knew there was a lot of snow up there—it’s exciting to see just how much!
The temporary electrified fence protecting Mono Lake’s nesting California Gulls has been up and running for about three weeks now. After a long and snowy winter the gulls’ calls signal spring’s arrival, and it’s gratifying to know that as they build nests and lay eggs out on the islands, they are protected from coyote predation.
The fence stretches for about one mile across the landbridge, and is made up of five sections that overlap—an electrified long middle section, two shorter electrified sections at the ends near the water’s edge, and two passive sections at (more…)