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Posts Tagged ‘Hydrology’

Summer thunderstorms give Mono Lake and its tributaries a drink—and a break

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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We were expecting the worst for streamflows this summer. Runoff at 48% of average this year—as forecasted in April, and even lower than the last two dry years—would make 2014 the driest year of the last three, adding up to the three driest consecutive years on record for runoff in the Mono Basin.

Late July and early August thunderstorms have brought important water to Mono Lake during this drought. Photo by Sandra Noll.

But then the summer thunderstorms came, dropping an inch and a half of rain. The late July and early August rains extended the late July streamflows into mid-August, buying about 3–4 weeks of extra time at or above the late July flows. For most creeks, this means that the late July and early August flows this year ended up actually higher than last year. Click on the graphs below to enlarge. (more…)

Mono Lake forecast: Level dropping to 18-year low

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) has issued its Mono Lake level forecast for the 2014 runoff year. The forecast, running from April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015, has Mono Lake reaching 6379.0 feet above sea level by December. This will be the lowest level we have seen since March 1996.

2014 runoff year forecast for Mono Lake's level in the context of the last 34 years. Excessive water exports ended in 1989, allowing the lake to reverse its long-term decline from 6417 feet above sea level. Graph courtesy of LADWP.

2014 runoff year forecast for Mono Lake's level in the context of the last 34 years. Excessive water exports ended in 1989, allowing the lake to reverse its long-term decline from 6417 to 6372 feet above sea level. Graph courtesy of DWP. Click to enlarge.

This summer, with only 43% of average snowmelt runoff, Mono Lake is expected to fall from its current elevation of 6380.6 to 6380.0 by August, and to 6379.2 by October. Already the May 1st level is a tenth of a foot lower than the prediction—as also happened in April of the last two¬†years. (more…)

Mono Basin snowpack is the highest in the state

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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We have good news, and we have bad news. The good news is that for the Mono Basin, this year’s snowpack could have been worse. The bad news is that it is a another dry year—and in the Mono Basin, 2012–2014 looks like it will be the driest 3 consecutive years on record.

Late March at South Tufa, with a receding shoreline and the Sierra sparsely covered in snow. Photo by Rose Catron.

California’s April 1, 2014 snow surveys have been completed, and the statewide average snow water content is 25% of average. The lowest is the Scott River Basin at 7% of average. In the Mono Basin, it is (more…)

2012-2014 on track to be driest 3 consecutive years on record

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Yesterday marked the first day of the 2014 runoff year, and it is also time for adding up the total runoff from the 2013 runoff year.

Mono Lake Committee and DWP staff met to discuss Mono Lake's level on April 1, 2014. Photo by Elin Ljung.

A runoff year runs from April 1 to March 31, and enables tracking of stream runoff from the time of peak snowpack from one year to the next. Mono Basin runoff was about 54.5% of average between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014. This is 17.4% less runoff than the 66% of average runoff forecasted one year ago, thanks to the very dry spring, fall, and winter (last summer, precipitation was above-average thanks to thunderstorms). It was the second-farthest-off runoff prediction since the California State Water Resources Control Board’s Decision 1631 in 1994, after 18.6% too much runoff was predicted in 2008. (more…)

Mono Basin drought conditions are improving

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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A substantial snowstorm at the end of February helped ease the Mono Basin's drought conditions. Photo by Rose Catron.

The severe drought conditions that persisted through most of January eased a little more in February. At the end of January, Lee Vining precipitation for the water year was 37% of average. But February precipitation was 76% of average in Lee Vining (and 70% of average at Cain Ranch), which raised the water year total-to-date since October 1st to 47% of average.

March 1st snow surveys, conducted between February 25th and March 3rd, found 49% of average snow water content in the Mono Basin. This is a big improvement—almost double the February 1st surveys. As with the February surveys, the Rush Creek drainage was surveyed before end-of-month storms, and the Lee Vining Creek drainage was surveyed after the storms. This makes the Rush Creek numbers look bleak (21–22% of average April 1st water content), (more…)

Mono Basin preliminary runoff forecast: 33% of average

Friday, February 14th, 2014 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Each year, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) issues a preliminary runoff forecast in February, March, and April, based on snow surveys on the first of the month. This month’s snow surveys were 25% of average in the Mono Basin, and so it is not too surprising that the April–September runoff forecast is also 25%. The April to July forecast of 23% is looking somewhat worse than runoff during that period for the rest of the state.

Lee Vining Creek and Mono Lake on February 12, 2014: no snow on the ground. Photo by Elin Ljung.

The forecast for the 2014 runoff year (April 1, 2014–March 31, 2015) is 33% of average. That is the number we watch on April 1st and after the final May 1st runoff forecast, because it determines the flow requirements in the streams for the remainder of the runoff year (more…)

February 1 snow surveys find just 25% of average snow water content in the Mono Basin

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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The February 1st snow surveys are in, and they are very dry. The Mono Basin snow water content is 16% of the April 1st average, and 25% of the February 1st average.

Name Date Water Content* Previous Lower Records
Gem Pass 28-Jan 2.0″ (6%) 1.7″ in 1991
Tioga Pass 31-Jan 6.0″ (22%) 1976, 1977, 1987, 1991
Saddlebag Lake 31-Jan 6.5″ (21%) 1976, 1977, 1987, 1991
Ellery Lake 31-Jan 6.0″ (21%) 76, 77, 87, 91 (1994 tied)
Gem Lake 28-Jan 2.5″ (8%) tied in 1977
*% of April 1 average

It is important to note that the surveys in the Rush Creek drainage—Gem Pass and Gem Lake—were conducted before the January 30th storm, and found only 6% and 8% of the April 1st average water content, respectively. The surveys in (more…)

Mono Lake rose in January thanks to end-of-month storm

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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January was an extremely dry month in the Mono Basin—almost. Mono Lake was at the bulls-eye of a January 30 snowstorm that dropped 3/4-inch of precipitation at Cain Ranch, and 9 inches of snow containing 1.35 inches of water in Lee Vining (about 50% of our January average).

The snowy scene at Old Marina, late on January 30. Photo by Elin Ljung.

This was our biggest storm—and our biggest monthly precipitation total—since December 2012, over a year ago! Prior to that month, it was January 2012—two years ago—that you have to go back to if you want to find a bigger monthly total. To illustrate how remarkable that is, usually there are four months each year that are wetter than January 2014 was, but we have only been getting (more…)

Driest calendar year for the Sierra

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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In a previous post, I reported that Cain Ranch, a location east of the Sierra that is representative of precipitation on Mono Lake, last year had its third-driest calendar year (after 1947 and 2007) since record keeping began in 1932. Based on reporting from the rest of the state, however, we expected portions of the Mono Basin in the Sierra to be the driest on record. The upper Mono Basin watershed in the Sierra Nevada is where most of the snow falls, generating most of the runoff to Mono Lake via its tributary streams. Since the beginning of the new year, more precipitation stations are reporting totals, and for the Sierra, it looks like the driest calendar year in the records going back to 1925—but just barely. (more…)

On snow surveys, drought, water conservation, and Mono Lake

Friday, January 3rd, 2014 by Arya, Communications Director
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Today, January 3, the Department of Water Resources will finish conducting the season’s first snow surveys in the Feather, Yuba, American, and San Joaquin river basins. Talk of how dry things have been in California seems to be everywhere you turn.

Graphic courtesy of Michael Buckley.

Here at the Mono Lake Committee we are, of course, fans of water awareness and water conservation practices. We’re also big fans of data and information. Greg Reis is the Mono Lake Committee’s Information & Restoration Specialist, which means he tracks the weather and water data in the Mono Basin. When I asked him for some perspective on what it all means for Mono Lake, he gave me this great response:

Last winter, the big storms just stopped coming about a week before the new year, and a year later we are still waiting for them to return. This has made the 2013 calendar year (more…)

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