The CSO modeling team is completing snowpack simulations for the 2017 water year, arranging multiple simulations for the previous 2018 water year, and ramping up our preparations for the upcoming 2019 winter season. In order to visualize our most recent results, we’ve compiled a video of the snowpack evolution in the Thompson Pass region from 2017. The regional map below shows the locations of the 2017 citizen scientist snow depth observations and our modeling efforts near Valdez, Alaska.
Figure 1: A map of the modeling study area in the Chugach Mountains near Valdez, Alaska. The red diamonds represent all of the measurements taken by CSO participants.
The video contains two snowpack simulations covering roughly the same area as the map: 1) video left side – a calibrated snowpack simulation lacking on-the-ground observations, and 2) video right side – a calibrated snowpack simulation with citizen scientists’ snow depth observations incorporated into the model workflow. These videos show snow water equivalent (SWE) depth across a wide region of the Chugach mountains in Alaska. SWE is essentially how much water the snowpack contains at any given time. The only difference between these two sets of results are that snow depth measurements taken by citizen scientists have been integrated into the model workflow in order to effect the amount of SWE in the simulation.
Figure 2: Video of snow water equivalence from two model simulations. The left side contains no on-the-ground observations. The right side contains CSO participants’ observations incorporated into the model results.
There are a couple obvious things to note. Less snowpack is simulated by the model run with citizen observations. This is because people measured the snow depth and observed less snow than the model originally predicted, most likely due to our weather inputs containing too much precipitation. These results are promising because it shows that we can adjust the amount of snow predicted by the model simply by adding in some on-the-ground snow data collected by backcountry enthusiasts, avalanche professionals, or just about anyone with a measuring device and a smartphone.
We are working on validating our model runs with additional snow datasets that we’ve collected in the region. Soon, we will have preliminary results from last year’s water year and will be adding new modeling locations in the continental U.S.