Lack of Sierra Snow

IMG_4409 SierrtanCrestAug1by Emil Morhardt

Another shot of the high Sierra above South Lake near Bishop, California, taken between rain events at the end of July, 2014. The snowy patches on the north-facing slopes are all that is left of the once much larger glaciers. Otherwise there’s no mountain snow left and precious little runoff at a time of year the runoff would normally have peaked a month ago and still be going strong. There’s a large fire in progress in Yosemite in the direction we’re looking, but so far the smoke is blowing the other way.

 

Climate on the Ground: Not Good for Hydro

SouthLakeLowIMG_4370by Emil Morhardt

This is South Lake, in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains at 9500 ft. ASL above Bishop, California. Looks (and was) rainy at the end of July 2014, but this reservoir, one of the largest on the east side of the Sierra is at the lowest level I’ve seen it in many decades. It is the primary source of water for Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Bishop Creek Hydroelectric Project, usually a 50 MW source of renewable energy that won’t be producing much of anything this year. The problem this year is, of course, a severe drought that may or may not be attributable to anthropogenic climate change (I’m betting it is though.) But drought or not, most models predict that more and more Sierran precipitation will be coming down as rain going forward. So this time of year, South Lake will fill up during the autumn rains, but won’t continue to be refilled by snowmelt as summer approaches, sharply curtailing a major source of renewable energy.