Each year the Mono Lake Committee supports local students pursuing higher education who display a personal connection with Mono Lake and the Mono Lake story with two $1,000 scholarships. Mono County resident high school seniors who have firm plans to attend a two- or four-year college within a year of graduation qualify.
‘Seasonal Update’ Category
Spring is here with high winds, new green leaves on the trees, almost-blooming desert peach, and fishing season opening on Saturday, April 25. That means that Inyo National Forest campgrounds will be opening soon (Mono Basin campgrounds in bold):
Campgrounds open by April 24:
Since it’s such a severe drought, and there’s almost no snow in the Sierra Nevada, Tioga Pass should be open, right? Well, not quite….
But this is the time of year to start keeping an eye on the pass. Right now we know that Yosemite National Park will begin snow removal on the Tioga Pass Road on April 15. Even though this year there’s very little snow, crews also have to move downed trees, rocks, and other debris off the road to get it open.
At last Wednesday’s local government meeting here in Lee Vining we got the official word from the Yosemite National Park Superintendent via our Mono County Supervisor that Tioga Pass will open on (more…)
Warm March took snowpack to lowest levels on record; Tioga Pass and Gem Lake have biggest March declines ever measuredFriday, April 3rd, 2015 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
Yesterday I was refreshing the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Webpage almost every hour. Over and over again I saw the dramatic pattern across the state—higher double-digit percentages at the highest elevations of almost every watershed, and lower or zero snowpack at the lower elevations.
Finally, this morning, the rest of the Mono Basin data appeared! The good news is that the snowpack in most of the Mono Basin isn’t as bad as the 6% of average at Tioga Pass and Saddlebag Lake. The bad news is that with only 14% of average snow water content, the snowmelt runoff will be lower than anyone anticipated.
Gem Pass, at the highest elevation, tops the charts with 25% of average snow water content. Everywhere else, snow surveyors measured the lowest snow water content ever measured on April 1st. Ellery Lake is 21% of average, and Gem Lake is 12% of average. Also in the Mono Basin, but reported under the San Joaquin River drainage, is Agnew Pass, which lost 7.5 inches of water in March, and currently is only 3% of average (1 inch of water content).
The following is a summary of the five Mono Basin snow courses:
- Gem Pass lost 2 inches of water in March, and at 8.5″ is about the same as 1977, although not as dry as 1931.
- Gem Lake lost 5.5 inches of water in March, and at 3.5″ is driest on record (beating 5.9″ in 1976).
- Tioga Pass lost 6 inches of water in March, and at 1.5″ is driest on record (beating 7.4″ in 1977).
- Saddlebag Lake lost 6 inches of water in March, and at 2″ is driest on record (beating 9.9″ in 1977).
- Ellery Lake lost 1.5 inches of water in March, and at 6″ is driest on record (beating 9.7″ in 1977).
This morning Mono Lake Committee staff met with Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) personnel to conduct the official annual April 1 reading of the lake level together. The consensus: Mono Lake stands at 6379.01 feet above sea level.
The lake has declined to a level at which water exports to Los Angeles are, by the terms of the State Water Board’s rules, automatically reduced by 70%. DWP will be limited to 4,500 acre-feet of water export, a lake-protecting restriction that no one, until recently, thought would ever be activated again. It was a solemn, though not unexpected outcome, given that California’s drought is entering its fourth year and the Mono Lake watershed is officially classified as being under “exceptional” drought. (more…)
As early as late February, it seemed likely that this was going to be the driest year on record. Mono Basin snowpack was lower than any year but 1991, and that year had a “Miracle March” that was absent from the long-range forecasts. Sure enough, the dry pattern didn’t change, and March was very dry.
On Thursday I began checking the snow surveys web page for the April 1st snow survey results, which are conducted within a few days of April 1st. On Friday, results for one of the five Mono Basin “snow courses” appeared. And it was a shocking result: Tioga Pass snow water content is at only 6% of average. (more…)
The Mono Basin National Forest Service Scenic Area Visitor Center will reopen for the year this Saturday, March 28.
The Visitor Center is located north of Lee Vining out on the bluff overlooking Mono Lake and Lee Vining Creek. It’s the place to get permits, see the video Of Ice & Fire, and enjoy the view of Mono Lake from the back patio. The Visitor Center is open Thursday–Monday from 9:00am until 4:30pm.
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) project to improve motorist safety by reducing rockfall incidents along a one-mile section of Highway 395 near Old Marina is scheduled to begin in June. The project will stabilize six eroded slopes using a combination of anchored mesh material and an aggressive soil rehabilitation and revegetation plan.
Once the project begins, people traveling on Highway 395 north of Lee Vining can expect routine traffic delays of up to 20 minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even though construction won’t be occurring 24 hours a day, the highway will be reduced to a single lane with temporary traffic signals that will remain in place for the duration of the project.
In addition, the project will include two eight-day periods of complete road closure for up to one hour, Monday–Thursday mornings between 6:00am–7:00am. (more…)
California just logged its warmest winter in history by the widest margin in history. December 2014 through February 2015 hosted average temperatures soaring 5.9°F above the long-term mean. This record increase topped the previous record gain by 1.5°F.
The state’s last record warm winter was … all the way back in 2014. Before this year, December 2013–February 2014 was the warmest winter in California history by 4.4°F above average (a 0.8°F increase over the previous record, which was, until this year, the highest record increase).
What about Lee Vining? We are still compiling the data, but it’s probable that Lee Vining tracked with the rest of the state. In February 2015 alone, 26 of 28 days brought well-above average temperatures to the town, typically reaching 6–24 degrees above average. For several consecutive days in February temperatures hovered at 67°F (a record high for February). Such extreme winter warmth rapidly melts snowpack while accelerating soil moisture loss in snowless terrain.
And what about the Sierra Nevada snowpack? Statewide it’s currently the lowest in history, sitting at 17% of average for April 1.