Robust just a couple of months ago, California's mountain snowpack has now dwindled to just two-thirds of its normal level, threatening drinking-water supplies and heightening the wildfire risk for later in the season.
Runoff to reservoirs and farm irrigation ponds is expected to drop by 35-45% from normal.
This winter, the snowpack had been so high that the West was optimistic that years of drought conditions might be alleviated.
March and April in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, though, have never been drier in the 87 years of records.
Scientists have predicted that global warming will produce more frequent and intense wildfires, in large part because mountain snowpacks are expected to dwindle. With less runoff, valley conditions will be drier throughout the season, leaving any dry wood more prone to ignition.
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