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Seasonal Update | The Mono-logue

‘Seasonal Update’ Category

Mono Lake likely to rise four feet over the next year

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Last week the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) released its preliminary runoff forecast based on record-breaking March 1st snow surveys: 195% of average runoff for the April 1, 2017 through March 31, 2018 runoff year. This volume of runoff is very similar to 1983, the wettest runoff year on record. Due to the warm storms in January and February, the lower-elevation snowpack below about 9,000 feet above sea level is much lower than in 1983, so we are assuming that record runoff is a high-end scenario. That forecast also assumes median precipitation over the next year.

Based on 1983 as a high end, 1995 as a probable scenario, and 2006 as a lowest possible scenario, we modeled the likely rise in Mono Lake based on those past year inflows and probable reservoir operations this year. The result? A 3.8-foot rise in Mono Lake is likely over the next year. Expected Grant Lake Reservoir operations add about half a foot to our forecast.

A 3.8 foot rise in Mono Lake is likely over the next year. (Click on the graph to enlarge it.) Graph by Greg Reis.

All three scenarios have little or no rise before May and a similar rise in May and June, since snow can only melt so fast, (more…)

Spring is springing at Mono Lake

Sunday, March 19th, 2017 by Gabrielle, Project Specialist
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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.

Red-winged Blackbird. Photo by Nora Livingston.

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.

Donate now to protect Mono Lake’s gull colony

Friday, March 17th, 2017 by Andrew, Project Specialist
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It’s really starting to feel like spring in the Mono Basin—the days are getting longer, afternoon temperatures are nearing 70°, and we’ve started seeing the first California Gulls return to Mono Lake to nest. Right now, there is only a small, watery barrier separating the California Gull nesting grounds from the mainland, making it just a short swim for coyotes to get to the islands and wreak havoc on the gull colony.

The good news is that plans are advancing for the construction of a temporary fence across the landbridge on Mono Lake’s north shore to block coyote access to the islands until enough snow melts to raise the lake above the threshold of concern later this summer. Thanks to the generosity of 76 donors, we have already funded a significant amount for the fence, but we still need your help. We’ve made the short video above for you to enjoy and share with your friends to encourage them to join this collective effort. You can also watch the full campaign video below or visit the Long Live the Gulls campaign page to donate and learn more. Thank you for your support—we, and the gulls, appreciate it! (more…)

Winter & Spring 2017 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

Thursday, March 9th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Nimble. That’s the word of the year so far for the Mono Lake Committee. We were braced to face a sixth year of drought, with plans and contingencies in place to protect Mono Lake to the best of our ability. And then the calendar ticked over into 2017 and the weather faucets turned on! Suddenly, thankfully, our plans needed some new math.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me—since 1978 we’ve worked to find solutions to human-created problems, which sometimes requires changing horses mid-stream. (more…)

Mono Basin March 2017 snowpack breaks March and April records

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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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.

At Ellery Lake and Saddlebag Lake, in the Lee Vining Creek headwaters, March 1st SWE was already higher than the record April 1st SWE set in 1983. Map by Robbie DiPaolo.

At Ellery Lake and Saddlebag Lake, in the Lee Vining Creek headwaters, March 1st SWE was already higher than the record April 1st SWE set in 1983! Map by Robbie DiPaolo.

(more…)

Mono Basin snowpack is 200% of average for February 1

Sunday, February 5th, 2017 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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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%.

Outlook for April 1, 2017 peak snowpack at the Mono Basin's five snow courses based on February 1 snow surveys and historic data.

The current outlook for April 1, 2017 peak snowpack at the Mono Basin’s five snow courses based on February 1 snow surveys and historic data. Graph by Greg Reis.

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!

Mono Basin precipitation is among the wettest years so far

Thursday, January 26th, 2017 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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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.

Lee Vining Monthly Precipitation

Lee Vining monthly precipitation. Graph by Greg Reis.

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…)

Sign up for 2017 Field Seminars on February 1

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 by Andrew, Project Specialist
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Learn all about the region's fascinating geological history with Yosemite geologist Greg Stock in Geology of the Mono Basin. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Learn all about the region’s fascinating geological history with Yosemite geologist Greg Stock in Geology of the Mono Basin. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

The complete list of all the Mono Lake Committee’s 2017 Field Seminars is now available online here. Registration opens at 9:00am on Wednesday, February 1.

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…)

A skiing adventure to check Mono Lake’s level

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 by Robbie, Project Specialist
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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.

Mono Lake Committee Project Specialist Andrew Youssef. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

An amused Andrew shuffles towards Lee Vining Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

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…)

A snowy January at Mono Lake

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Thanks to the recent snowfall, it looks like real winter in the Mono Basin for the first time in years! Photo by Nora Livingston.

Thanks to the recent snowfall, it looks like real winter in the Mono Basin for the first time in years! Photo by Nora Livingston.

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…)

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