'Great news': California snowpack above average for 2nd year in a row

California has recorded an above average snowpack for the second consecutive year, the California Department of Water resources announced.

Statewide snowpack readings came in at 110% of the April 1 average, according to the department.

The department said that the snow depth measured 64 inches at a station in El Dorado County, which includes part of Lake Tahoe. The measurement found that the "snow water" equivalent came in at 27.5 inches, 113% of the average for that location.

Officials consider April the key reading of the year, marking the peak of the snowpack season and the start of the snowmelt that feeds the state's rivers and aquifers.

“It’s great news that the snowpack was able to catch up in March from a dry start this year," Water resources Director Karla Nemeth said in a news release. "This water year shows once again how our climate is shifting, and how we can swing from dry to wet conditions within a season."

Snowpack comparison year over year

Chart courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources

Readings provide relief after dry start to year

Before a series of atmospheric river storms, the snowpack was significantly below expectations.

When the same measurement was taken in January, it was about 25% of its average size.

"These swings make it crucial to maintain conservation while managing the runoff," Nemeth said. "Variable climate conditions could result in less water runoff into our reservoirs. One hundred percent snowpack does not mean 100% runoff. Capturing and storing what we can in wetter years for drier times remains a key priority."

While the major storms began the process of refilling the snowpack, they didn't cause it to hit its average. A water resources spokesperson told USA TODAY in February that the state's snowpack then was 73% of average.

"With three record-setting multi-year droughts in the last 15 years and warmer temperatures, a well above average snowpack is needed to reach average runoff," Michael Anderson, state climatologist with the department, said in a statement Tuesday. "The wild swings from dry to wet that make up today’s water years make it important to maintain conservation while managing the runoff we do receive."

A handout image of Angelique Fabbiani-Leon, left, State Hydrometeorologist, and Andy Reising, Water Resources Engineer, from the California Department of Water Resources Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit, working during the measurement phase of the fourth media snow survey of the 2024 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada on Tuesday.

What is snowpack?

"Snowpack is snow on the ground in mountainous areas that persists until the arrival of warmer weather," according to National Geographic.

For example, the snow that makes mountain peaks look white during winter and doesn't melt away for months is snowpack. It's made of multiple layers of snow from different snowfalls that become compacted.

Once it melts, it turns into snowmelt. For California, that snowmelt usually makes up about 30% of the state's water needs.

"Its natural ability to store water is why the Sierra snowpack is often referred to as California's 'frozen reservoir," the department said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California snowpack above average for second year in a row