February starts snowy at Mono Lake

This winter season started with the driest autumn since 2013, with no measurable snow in Lee Vining as of the New Year. Then it snowed a little in January, but as of the end of January Lee Vining still only had 38% of average precipitation to-date. Snow surveys at the end of January found just 34–52% of average snow water equivalent, with especially low snowpack in the higher elevations of the Rush Creek drainage. Gem Pass and Agnew Pass snowpack was the seventh-lowest on record.

That all changed dramatically the first week of February. Wetter weather peaked on February 4 with a strong atmospheric river that dumped two feet of snow in Lee Vining. By February 7, Lee Vining’s precipitation percent of average had doubled to 76% (5.77 inches). An additional quarter inch of precipitation accumulated in four inches of snow by yesterday morning.

By the morning of Monday, February 5 the Mono Basin was blanketed in snow. Photo by Elin Ljung.

While this was a dramatic increase, we still need above-average precipitation going forward to catch up to average. Fortunately, after the current dry period ends, the later part of the month is looking like it may be wet. Whether it will be wet enough to keep up with the average precipitation this time of year remains to be seen.

Top photo by Andrew Youssef: January 23, 2024 at Old Marina.