Sierra smashes snowiest December on record

A record-breaking snowfall fell in the Sierra this December – a whopping 16 feet.

"We smashed the previous record," Andrew Schwartz, station manager and lead scientist for UC Berkeley's Central Sierra Snow Laboratory, said on Monday. "This is, officially, the snowiest December on record." 

From Dec. 1 to Dec. 27 at 8 a.m., the lab recorded 193.7 inches of snow. More than 5 ½ feet, or 67.9 inches, fell within the last 48 hours. 

Schwartz said that the record could even grow larger: It's possible that the region could break 200 inches by Tuesday morning. 

MORE: Blizzard keeps some ski resorts from opening

The previous record was set in 1970 when 179 inches, or nearly 15 feet, of snow fell.

Despite the incredible snowfall, the Sierra did not break a Christmas week record, as much of the snow fell shortly after Dec. 25.

But this Christmas week did fall in the top three snowiest winters of all time for the area right near the lab. 

The top two snowiest winters were set in 1982, when 81 inches fell, and 1979, when 80.5 inches fell.

What all this means is that California can begin to think about these storms helping with the drought, Schwartz said. It just needs to continue snowing and raining this winter.

"We definitely won't be exiting the drought," he said. "But we may see some relief as long as we keep getting precipitation this winter."

MORE: Sierra could get 80 more inches of snow by Christmas

Located at Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada, the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory  is a research field station specializing in snow physics, snow hydrology, meteorology, climatology, and instrument design.