Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

Dismal March snow surveys but a good forecast for storms this week

The March 1st snow surveys in the Mono Basin found 33% of average snow water content to date. This is only 28% of the April 1st average, when the snowpack usually peaks. There is still much less snow in the Rush Creek drainage:

Rush Creek March 1 2012 snow course water content
Gem Pass 7.9″ (6.7 in 1977, 2.0 in 1991)
Gem Lake 7.4″ (4.8 in 1977, 3.4 in 1991)

Lee Vining Creek March 1 2012 snow course water content
Tioga 8.6″ (7.5 in 1931, 8.2 in 1976, 7.6 in 1977, 0 in 1991)
Saddlebag 9.0″ (7.1 in 1977, 3.2 in 1991)
Ellery 8.8″ (8.2 in 1976, 7.0 in 1977, 2.6 in 1991)

Based on these snow surveys, April–July runoff for the Mono Basin has been forecasted at 39% of average. This is an average for the Mono Basin—Rush Creek would be lower and Lee Vining Creek would be higher.

In Lee Vining only a quarter inch of precipitation was recorded in February, tying 1997 for the driest February since 1988. Mono Lake’s level has remained steady so far in March. There is a chance Mono Lake might not rise this month, although that has only happened in March three times since 1982: in 1999 and 2002 there was no rise in March and the lake stayed flat; in 1988 the lake dropped a tenth of a foot in March.

This week’s weather forecast is promising, however; snow is in the forecast every day, with especially good chances going into the weekend. Up to four inches of precipitation could fall near the crest, which would result in a 50% increase in snow water content over the March 1st numbers listed above.