×
×
homepage logo

New Powder Mountain snow data site added to state water forecasting network

By Mark Shenefelt - | Dec 2, 2021

Photo supplied, Utah Snow Survey

This undated photo shows the site of a newly installed snow telemetry station at Powder Mountain ski resort. The Utah Snow Survey network of 137 stations collects snowpack and other climate data needed to produce water supply forecasts and support resource management across the West.

EDEN — A new snow data collection station has been installed at Powder Mountain ski resort to augment a statewide network that tracks water supplies and enables more accurate hydrological forecasts, an especially vital function as drought grips Utah and the West.

The automated SNOTEL, short for snow telemetry, system collects snowpack and other climate data needed to produce water supply forecasts of interest to water managers, farmers, dam operators, skiers, kayakers and others. The 137 sites around the state feed data to the Utah Snow Survey, handled by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Generating intelligence during droughts — like the one dominating the West now — and in times of flooding, the network is essential to water management, the NRCS says.

The Powder Mountain site is a real improvement, said Jordan Clayton, Utah Snow Survey supervisor.

“This site is high enough that it retains snow much farther into the spring,” he said of the site, 8,500 feet above sea level. “The way we develop forecasts, we look at the relation of snow water equivalent at the site compared to the stream gauges. The longer you have overlapping data, the better correlation you can make.”

Photo supplied, Utah Snow Survey

This undated photo shows the site of a newly installed snow telemetry station at Powder Mountain ski resort. The Utah Snow Survey network of 137 stations collects snowpack and other climate data needed to produce water supply forecasts and support resource management across the West.

Most SNOTEL sites are in remote places and hard to reach. Many are visited only annually for inspection and maintenance. The Powder Mountain site differs from that mold.

“We’ve been wanting a site close to the Wasatch Front and Salt Lake area,” Clayton said. “It’s walking distance from a paved road and you can get to it in the middle of winter.”

He said the SNOTEL site is next to the resort’s own pod of water study instruments, which allows mutually beneficial sharing of data.

“The No. 1 thing a new site does, it increases our ability to forecast how much water will be available from the snowpack,” Clayton said. “That is our mission.”

Other new SNOTEL sites are near the headquarters of the Duchesne and Provo watersheds, Parley’s Canyon near Summit Park, Santaquin, Salina and Moab.

Image supplied, Utah Snow Survey

This map shows the location of Utah Snow Survey stations. Those marked in red, including one at Powder Mountain ski resort, are new as of December 2021.

The sites consist of a precipitation gauge, snow depth sensor, air temperature sensor, three soil moisture sensors, a power and telemetry system, an electronics shelter and a meteorological tower, all surrounded by a small fence.

In its most recent monthly report, the Snow Survey said October precipitation in Utah’s mountain locations was well above normal at 196%. Despite the good month, Utah’s reservoir storage was at 50% of capacity, 12% lower than last year at the same time.

Newsletter

Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)