Nearly 60 percent of Sierra covered with snow

Cheers erupted on social media after the National Weather Service released a new map showing widespread snow coverage in the Sierra, but is it too early to get excited about?|

Snow may have returned to vast portions of the Sierra Nevada, but a Bay Area meteorologist says it’s far too soon for drought-weary Californians to start celebrating.

Cheers erupted on social media Wednesday when the National Weather Service posted a colorful map that showed 58.7 percent of the Sierra is now covered by snow, compared to 0.6 percent on the same day a year ago. A month ago, there was no measurable snow coverage in the Sierra.

The current snow coverage, however, is more of a thin sheet than a fluffy blanket. The average snow depth along the Golden State’s mountain spine was just over 4 inches, noted Jan Null, a former National Weather Service forecaster. Maximum snow depth was almost 25 inches.

“It’s way too early for it to be a big deal,” Null said.

But the difference this year apparently was sufficient to prompt Twitter comments such as “fantastic” and “great news.” On Nov. 11, 2014, the maximum snow depth was 4.4 inches and the average depth was listed as zero, with the color map showing an isolated smidgen of snow on the eastern Sierra well south of Owens Lake.

The enthusiasm no doubt stems from last spring, when the Sierra snowpack wound up about 6 percent of average, the lowest in recorded history.

And early snowfall prompted the opening last week of a few Sierra ski resorts, including Boreal near Donner Summit and Mt. Rose near Reno. The Lake Tahoe area is expected to receive an additional 1 to 3 inches of snow on Sunday, according to forecasters.

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