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.

Mono Basin snowpack increases to 76% of average

Snow surveys conducted around every April 1st coincide with the average date of peak snowpack. This year, the surveys were completed at the end of March and revealed a large increase in snowpack over the previous month—from 50% of average to 76% of average!

Map by Robbie DiPaolo.
Map of snow survey locations compiled by Robbie DiPaolo. The Lee Vining Creek watershed above the DWP diversion dam and the Rush Creek watershed above the SCE powerhouse are outlined in red.

There are six sites where snow is measured in the Mono Basin, as well as at Agnew Pass, which is lumped in with the San Joaquin Basin but usually not used in the Mono Basin average. Gem Pass is at the highest elevation and Gem Lake is at the lowest.

Gem Pass snow water equivalent compared to 2015, 2017, and similar years.
Gem Pass snow water equivalent 75% of average (2018, black line) compared to 2015, 2017, and other similar years. Graph by Greg Reis.
Gem Lake snowpack compared to similar years.
Gem Lake snowpack 80% of average (2018, black line) compared to similar years. Graph by Greg Reis.

These are just two of the locations where snow is measured, however they each tell a different story. Gem Lake, the lower elevation survey site, was much closer to the 2015 snowpack on February 1, while Gem Pass, the higher elevation survey site, was about halfway between the 2015 and 2016  levels in February, and had a less dramatic rise in March. March 1991 was widely regarded as a “Miracle March” and clearly had a much greater increase in snowpack than either location has seen this year. However, Gem Lake snowpack in 2018 could be regarded as a minor miracle.

And with a very wet atmospheric river storm expected this weekend, water conditions in April will only continue to improve.