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Valentine’s Day Snow Cover

What a difference a year makes!

Even a glance at the maps above make it clear that snow cover for the continental U.S. on Valentine’s Day, 2014 was light-years beyond what we saw a year ago. 

The one big exception: California, which is already suffering through one of its worst droughts in 500 years. Normally, the snowpack that builds up over the winter in the Sierra Nevada mountains supplies the state with much-needed water as it slowly melts to feed rivers and streams during the dry summer. But this year, there’s very little snow, even at high altitude. That’s bad news: not only will there be less water for drinking and irrigation, but reduced snowpack also raises the risk of wildfires — a threat that has been steadily rising in recent decades thanks to generally rising temperatures and early snowmelt that have been linked in part to climate change, leading to more big fires since the 1970s.