Snow Water Equivalence
averaged over
Observed Data (1950–2010) Modeled Data (2011–2099)

Snow Water Equivalence

Grid Cell near Sacramento, CA, USA

Emissions peak around 2040, then decline (RCP 4.5)

Climate Models
  • This chart shows monthly averages of projected Snow Water Equivalent values for the selected area on map under the RCP 4.5 scenario. The colored lines (2006 – 2100) are projections from 10 LOCA downscaled climate models selected for California.
  • Four models have been selected by California’s Climate Action Team as priority models for research contributing to California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment (Pierce et al., 2018). Projected future climate from these four models can be described as producing:
    • A warm/dry simulation (HadGEM2-ES)
    • A cooler/wetter simulation (CNRM-CM5)
    • An average simulation (CanESM2)
    • The model simulation that is most unlike the first three for the best coverage of different possibilities (MIROC5)
  • Use year sliders to get means for different time periods. The projected mean is calculated for all visible models in the chart. Use slider below the chart to zoom and pan within the chart.


If heat-trapping emissions continue unabated, more precipitation will fall as rain instead of snow, and the snow that does fall will melt earlier, reducing the Sierra Nevada spring snowpack by as much as 70 to 90 percent. How much snowpack will be lost depends in part on future precipitation patterns, the projections for which remain uncertain. However, even under wetter climate projections, the loss of snowpack would pose challenges to water managers, hamper hydropower generation, and nearly eliminate skiing and other snow-related recreational activities.

Data Sources

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Snow Water Equivalent output from LOCA VIC Runs

Scripps Institution Of Oceanography - University of California, San Diego

Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) projections are produced by using a land surface/hydrology model known as the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model. The VIC model uses high resolution LOCA precipitation and temperature data from Scripps Institution Of Oceanography as input to calculate SWE and a suite of additional parameters. Details are described in Pierce et al., 2018.

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Snow Water Equivalent output from Gridded Observed Meteorological Data VIC Runs

UW Hydro | Computational Hydrology - University of Washington

Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) data are produced by using a land surface/hydrology model known as the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model forced by Livneh observed gridded data. Details are described in Livneh et al., 2015.

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Additional Calculations

Geospatial Innovation Facility - University of California, Berkeley

In order to create data layers used in this tool, we calculated monthly averages of daily values of Snow Water Equivalent for each year (1950–2100). This process was done for each of the 10 LOCA downscaled climate models selected for California, for historical and future scenarios - RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5.