Record-breaking snowfall in the Sierra poses potential danger

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BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) – The first snow survey of the winter season is taking place on Thursday morning. The measurement will happen during December’s record snowfall.

A UC Berkeley scientist spoke with KRON4 about this year’s record-breaking snow, and the potential danger it poses.

A record-breaking snow level in December 2021 — 210 inches and we still have a few days to go.

“The previous record was held in 1970 and that was 179-inches. So, we’ve blown that out of the water,” Andrew Schwartz, Ph.D., said. 

Andrew Schwartz is the station manager and lead scientist of UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Laboratory. 

The lab has been tracking snow variables in the Sierra from year to year for the past 51-years. He says this December is not the only record-breaking month for snow in 2021.

“We are also now the snowiest October, November, and December going back to 1970,” Schwartz said. 

He talked about the role climate change plays in how snow levels can differ widely from year to year.

“So, we’re used to breaking records, and with climate change continuing, we’re expecting to see this larger year to year variability, and even month to month variability. So, it’s something we do expect to see to a certain extent, but it is still a little surprised when it does happen,” Schwartz said. 

But are there any potential downsides to receiving this amount of snow in such a small window of time?

“In all reality, having it happen during the holiday season is problematic because it impacts travel for sure. The other thing too is there is a heightened avalanche danger right now. We had a snowpack that was very favorable for avalanche conditions before this most recent storm, and now that we have got an additional 10-feet of snow, basically on top of where that spot was at, anywhere in the backcountry, even in the ski resorts, there is avalanche danger. They’re doing their best to mitigate that,” Schwartz said. 

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