As everyone in California knows, it’s been a remarkable year for precipitation. At the highest elevations above Mono Lake in the vicinity of Tioga Pass, we may be facing a snowpack over 200% of average. April 1 snow surveys revealed nearby sites at all-time record snow depth and water content, while other sites, including Tioga Pass itself, fell just short of past record levels. Snow depth in the region likely moved upward with recent April storms, cold temperatures, and generally unsettled spring weather. (more…)
A wet winter has brought needed relief to a drought-stricken Mono Lake. However, a glimpse at Lee Vining weather data reveals that predictions about climate change in California and the Sierra Nevada are becoming real.
Warming temperatures, along with more extreme and less-frequent precipitation, are reflected in our local weather. The record-setting drought of the last five years still casts a shadow across the Mono Basin. Multi-year impacts to the watershed and ecosystem have accumulated due to record high temperatures, remarkably low runoff, and wildfires. As climate forces further change, monitoring, assessment, and adaptation will be critical to the future restoration and protection of Mono Lake. (more…)
After what feels like an endless winter, signs of spring are starting to pop up all over the Mono Basin. Daytime highs in the mid to high 60’s mean that most of the snow around Mono Lake and in town has melted away. Morning commutes are feeling more and more like the crisp summer mornings I came to love while leading canoe tours and Nora, our Lead Naturalist Guide, has led the way, declaring it officially sandal weather.
We’re not the only ones enjoying the warmer weather; the songs of Red-winged Blackbirds, Cassin’s Finches, and Spotted Towhees can be heard through town. And a quick trip to the lake reveals that California Gulls have already begun to arrive for their summer nesting season.
Although we look forward to the warm and busy summer months ahead, we are excited to see that Mother Nature still has snow to share with Mono Lake. The forecast calls for a storm starting Tuesday and our hopes are high for a few more like it!
As of March 15 the lake is at 6378.2 feet above sea level and with all the snow we got this winter it will only continue to rise. It will be a great season and we cannot wait to share it with you.
After the wettest February since 1986 at some survey sites, Mono Basin snowpack is more than double the March 1st average!
Snow water equivalent (SWE) ranges between 205% and 244% of average at the five snow survey sites in the Mono Basin (called snow courses). Gem Pass, Ellery Lake, and Saddlebag Lake have the highest March SWE on record. At the lowest-elevation snow survey site—Gem Lake at 9,150 feet above sea level—SWE was about 10 inches shy of the 1969 record, but it had reached the 1983 amount. The Tioga Pass snow course was 5 inches shy of the 1983 record. In the map below showing the snow courses, portions of the Lee Vining Creek (top) and Rush Creek (bottom) watersheds are outlined.
February 1 snow surveys conducted over the past week revealed an approximately 200% of average snow water content in the Mono Basin. This puts the April 1 average at just over 120%.
It is still early in the season, but even with a dry February and March, it will be an above-average year, and with an average end to the season it will be a wet year. With a wet February and March, new April 1 records could be set!
Those who have been watching Mono Lake drop during the last five years of drought know that we here at the Mono Lake Committee have been preparing to protect nesting California Gulls from opportunistic coyotes with a temporary electric fence across the emerging landbridge.
And then this January happened! We got record amounts of snow and rain brought by atmospheric rivers—enough to see a visible rise in the level of Mono Lake. We started to hear the perceptive question: “Does this mean you don’t have to build the fence?”
We’re still going to build the fence. There are two main reasons…. (more…)
At the end of the wettest January in the 29-year record for Lee Vining, how do Mono Basin season totals for precipitation and snowfall compare to other years? The season precipitation total (since October) of approximately 15.84 inches of water is among the wettest years recorded since 1989. It is the second-wettest year to date (1997 was the wettest) that we’ve recorded in 29 years as of the end of January.
At Cain Ranch, five miles south of Lee Vining and more representative of the precipitation that falls on Mono Lake itself, the 2017 seasonal total of 9.44″ to date is sixth-wettest in 86 years. For both Cain Ranch and Lee Vining, these totals fall into the wettest 7% of years. (more…)
This year’s slate of 28 Field Seminars spans many topics: basketry, oil painting, woodpeckers, moonlight photography, geology, mining history, fire ecology, butterflies, and more. (more…)
This January is proving to be the wettest January in our weather recording history. In Lee Vining, we saw 5.5 inches of snow on January 4, and we received a combined 3.92 inches of rain on January 8 and 9. With all this water pouring into Mono Lake, I set out with my coworker Andrew to measure the lake level on cross country skis.
It was Wednesday, January 11 at 10:00am. The sky was blue, the wind was calm, and the day before had enveloped the basin in (more…)
So far January has been a wonderfully snowy month, bringing precipitation to the Mono Basin that we haven’t seen for six years, since the beginning of the recent drought. We thought some photos of the snow-covered basin might be in order…. (more…)