2013-03-07 / Front Page

Precipitation season is much below normal

Erik Skindrud / GAZETTE EDITOR

Winter snow and rain across Mariposa County adds up to less than 70 percent of normal, local records show. January and February were among the driest of the two months on record.

Despite more than a foot of snow in the high country last week, the snowpack is poor as spring is set to arrive on March 20. An extended precipitation outlook released by the National Weather Service on Feb. 21 shows Central California the center of a low-precipitation zone for the next three months (see image).   

The dark brown spot centered on Central California indicates a probability that rainfall through May will total less than 50 percent of average. 
Image: National Weather ServiceThe dark brown spot centered on Central California indicates a probability that rainfall through May will total less than 50 percent of average. Image: National Weather Service

The March 1 Yosemite National Park snow survey found snow water content in the Merced River drainage at just 68 percent of normal. 

At the Park’s south entrance, the season total was just 47 percent of normal, according to the National Weather Service.

For local ranchers, the picture is mixed. The hills were green at Mariposa County Agricultural Commissioner Cathi Boze’s Cathey’s Valley home this week.

But filaree, a main plant consumed by cattle and other grazers, was "heading out" this week, she said. That's the first step on the way to going to seed. Such plants won't grow much more--no matter how much it rains.

Follow the MARIPOSA GAZETTE for more on seasonal precipitation totals and the outlook for spring runoff.

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I cannot speak for ALL the

I cannot speak for ALL the RAWS stations but I can safely criticize MIAC1, Miami Mountain. They under-report precipitation badly. I live on Chowchilla Mtn, about 5 miles north of Miami as the crow flies. I have a cylindrical collector similar to the ones used by the weather service. To date, I've collected 25.620". If 30.15" is normal for this area for a whole season, then I'm already at 84.98%. MIAC1 shows only 17.61" while Jerseydale, JSDC1, has 28.76", even more than I have collected. MIAC1 does not measure precip from snow accurately. The most blatant example of their ineptitude was the big storm at the end of March, 2011. It snowed from 20-Mar to 27-Mar and old timers said it was the wettest, most damaging storm in the foothills they'd seen. From Lake Isabella north way past Mariposa, trees were down everywhere. I had to shovel off my roof because the snow was so wet and heavy that leaving it there posed a serious threat. And what of MIAC1? On March 20, they listed only 29.96" to date when the actual total was already over 47". Then, through the storm, 20-Mar through 27-Mar, they recorded 4.230". By contrast, I had over 9" and Jerseydale, JSDC1, which had recorded 47.92" before the storm, by midnight, 27-Mar, had 55.44", a total of 7.520". MIAC1 is unmanned and has no heater so when the collector is full of snow, that's it. Why would the Feds allow this? Do you suppose they are deliberately under-reporting precipitation totals so they can allocate less water to the Valley farmers? Less water = less crops = better chance to go belly up so the big agro conglomerates can swoop in and buy them out at a song. A pox on their houses.

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