Students attending the Westwide Snow Survey Training, in Bend, Oregon this year, construct their own snow shelters and spend the night in them. Training covers a variety of topics focused on outdoor survival. Photo by Jenn Cole.
On a sunny January morning in 2010, Tony Tolsdorf had no idea that a walk in the woods would become the longest night of his life.
“It was really warm that morning, probably 55 or 60 degrees,” he recalls. “It was one of those days where you just have to get outside and do something, so I went for a hike in the Columbia River Gorge.”
His plan was to hike on a creek side trail for about seven miles, then climb onto a ridge and hike back toward his car. Read more »
Hydrologist Randy Julander has been managing Utah’s snow survey program for the past 24 years.
“To say I enjoy my job is an understatement,” said Hydrologist Randy Julander. “Monday is my favorite day of the week, because I get to go back to work.”
As the Snow Survey Data Collection Officer in Utah, Julander’s job is a mix of science, adventure and artistry. He weaves information from data. “Data are just numbers on a page; but information – now that’s something meaningful, something that informs decision makers,” he explained. Read more »
The new, interactive map lets you compare current snowpack data to historical records.
Western snowpack, where it remains, is in full melt.
All along the Cascades and Sierra Nevada are ski courses that never opened, bare mountains and snowless SNOTEL sites where snowpack is measured. Where snow accumulated, it melted prematurely during a warm March. One of the most common questions for snow surveyors has been: how does this winter compare to the past?
A new, interactive map shows you exactly how it compares. The online map, just released by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, shows regularly updated current conditions – alongside historical records – for the entire NRCS snow survey network. Read more »
The April 1 Snowpack Map shows the dramatic, early reduction in snowpack across the West.
“Well, this shouldn’t take long,” Dr. David Garen said as I sat down to interview him about April snowpack conditions. “March was warm and dry. Spring came early and the snowpack is already melting across most of the West. The End.”
Garen is a hydrologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Among other duties, he creates forecast maps and helps write the West-wide forecast summary for the Snow Survey Program.
“This year we had record low snowpack up and down the West Coast,” said Garen. “But even in the areas that had normal snowpack, it’s melting earlier than usual.” Historically, April 1st is when the snowpack peaks. This year has been different. Read more »
James E. Church pictured in 1920. Courtesy of University of Reno, Nevada.
James E. Church was a man who answered his calling. Like a real-life Indiana Jones, Professor Church pursued adventure around the world, ending a war and helping to found the Snow Survey Program on the way. Every hero needs a cause; Church found his in snow.
Born in Michigan in 1869, Church moved west in 1901 to teach classics and art history at the University of Nevada, Reno. The nearby Sierra Nevada fascinated him. He hiked there often, publishing his mountaineering accounts in the Sierra Club newsletter. Read more »
Jeff Anderson, snow survey director for NRCS in Nevada, shows the school’s students how to read snow-measuring instruments. Dan Martyn and Nichole Bolton learn the ropes. NRCS photo by Anita Brown.
If you live in the western United States and you’re sipping a glass of water, irrigating your crops, lighting your home with hydrological-sourced energy, or enjoy skiing or fishing, you’re probably using information made available from USDA’s snow survey program.
Snow provides 50 to 80 percent of the western water supply and while many agencies, utilities, Tribes and others have a role in snow surveys, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) leads efforts to make sure all the players use accurate and consistent methods and come home safely. NRCS just released its February forecast. Read more »