Addressing Bias in Snow Water Equivalent Measurements

French, Jordan
Wintertime snow precipitation is the largest precipitation type in the northwestern United States. For example, in Wyoming at least 70% of the State's water originates as snowfall. The majority of this snowfall deposits on mountain ranges where it accumulates over the winter season and is released into rivers during the runoff season (April to July). Wintertime snow accumulation is measured both manually and with the automated SNOTEL system. Accumulation is reported as a snow water equivalent (SWE) depth. Because of problems with both the SNOTEL and manual SWE measurements new methods are being developed. The objective of this study is to compare measurements of snowfall as SWE made manually and with a new system known as the hotplate snow gauge. My research is concerned with this manual SWE method and determining whether it is robust and unbiased. Understanding how well this manual method works will help us in understanding the source of the bias and should help to improve confidence in SWE measurements generally. Improved confidence in snowfall measurements is expected to result from this research.
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