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 Lake rose a record amount in June 2017

This post was written by Julissa Rosales, 2017 Canoe Coordinator.

Over the past winter, the Mono Basin received record levels of snowfall—estimated runoff was at 206% above average for Rush and Lee Vining creeks at the end of May. According to ASO Principal Investigator Dr. Tom Painter, over a three-week span during January the Sierra Nevada received more water than the entire Colorado River basin receives in an average year. In the first week of July Saddlebag Lake Resort reported 12 feet of snow still on the ground—that is a lot of snow for July.

Mono Lake’s shoreline on June 3, just as high volumes of snowmelt were beginning to flow down the tributary streams to the lake. Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera photo. (Comparison photo after the jump!)

With spring in our pocket and summer upon us, the time has come for warmer weather, and Mono Lake has been at times rising a twentieth of a foot per day. This added up to a record 1.37-foot rise during the month of June! This was also a record monthly rise in volume, which varies when Mono Lake is at different elevations because at higher elevations more water is required for each foot of increase.

The shoreline has changed considerably by June 25, as a month of record lake rise nears its conclusion. Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera photo.

Top six spring/summer rise months since 1941:
June 2017: 1.37 feet (+60,700 acre-feet)
July 1967: 1.02 feet (+47,600 acre-feet)
June 2006: 0.9 feet (+41,200 acre-feet)
June 1983: 0.89 feet (+33,200 acre-feet)
July 1995: 0.7 feet (+29,300 acre-feet)
June 1969: 0.68 feet (+33,600 acre-feet)

Top six autumn/winter rise months since 1941:
March 1995: 0.8 feet
February 1983: 0.73 feet
December 1983: 0.7 feet
January 1997: 0.7 feet
January 1995: 0.6 feet
March 1983: 0.6 feet

The top two months combined for a record rise of 1.7 feet in May and June of 2017. Additionally, for the 2017 months of April, June, and July, the combined lake rise was 1.9 feet, which ties the previous three-month record for May, June, and July in 2006.

The high runoff continues to feed into Mono Lake, and more record-breaking numbers are to be expected in the coming months. As we keep a close eye on things we will let all of you know how truly flourishing and amazing this summer will be for Mono Lake!