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Lake Mead Experiences Unexpected Surge in Water Levels

Lake Mead, straddling Nevada and Arizona, is witnessing a remarkable change in its water levels, a phenomenon not seen during January for over five years. After enduring years of drought, Lake Mead faced dangerously low levels in the summer of 2022. 

Heartening News

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However, a combination of above-average precipitation, snowpack melt from the previous year, and various storms have spurred a notable recovery in its water levels. This surge is defying the typical winter slowdown, as demonstrated by a recent graph.

Water Levels on the Rise

Famous Hoover Dam at Lake Mead, Nevada and Arizona Border, United States.

As of Monday, Lake Mead’s water levels have exceeded 1,070 feet. The lake surpassed 2022 levels in May and outpaced 2021 levels in December.

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Long Way to Go

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While Lake Mead still has a significant distance to cover before reaching full pool at 1,229 feet, a graph from Lakesonline.com provides encouraging news: Water levels have surged by more than 2 feet in the first two weeks of January, a rate of increase not observed since 2019.

Potential Contributors to the Increase

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The El Niño climate pattern has brought several winter storms that have delivered rain to the Southwest. Typically, most of Lake Mead’s rise occurs during the spring as snow melts upstream and flows into the Colorado River, replenishing the lake.

Cause Uncertain

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It remains uncertain whether the recent increase in the lake’s water levels is due to water release from Lake Powell or a consequence of these winter storms.

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Previous Surges and Their Causes

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In late December, the lake experienced a sudden rise of over half a foot, despite the Las Vegas region receiving only 0.06 inches of rain during that period.

National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Jenn Varian expressed doubts that this increase was due to weather-related reasons.

Challenges in Las Vegas

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Despite the lake’s rapid resurgence, Las Vegas is currently enduring a drier than average January, with only 0.04 inches of rainfall recorded.

Typical Vegas Rain

Typically, Las Vegas receives slightly over half an inch of rain in January, with the average amount month to date being 0.27 inches.

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Weather Patterns and Potential Relief

The word “WEATHER” written in vintage metal letterpress type in a wooden drawer with dividers.

Jenn Varian previously explained that Las Vegas is positioned “a bit too far north” to significantly benefit from wet weather patterns associated with El Niño.

Meteorologist’s View

Weather forecast interface on a modern digital display showing cold weather for the next days. Tilt-shift lens used to outline the cold -13 symbols.

However, NWS meteorologist John Adair noted indications of an atmospheric river potentially affecting the West Coast in the coming week, which could bring precipitation to Las Vegas. He emphasized the need for specific conditions to align for this to occur, making the forecast uncertain due to the storm still being more than a week away.

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