Spring snowpack below average in much of the West

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Spring snowpack below average in much of the West Powered By Docstoc
					                          National Water & Climate Center

     SnowNews                                                                                        Spring 2012

                                                                                                     Volume 1, Issue 3

                                                                                                     Inside this issue:

Spring snowpack below average in much of the West
                                                                                                     Maintenance facility hums                      3
Automated SNOTEL and                gon, Idaho, Montana, Wyo-        The Kenai Peninsula has         CoCoRaHS citizen network                       5
manually measured snow              ming and eastern Colorado.       greater than 150% of average
course sites are located                                             snowpack.                       Spotlight on… Rose Loehr                       7
                                    A few areas are expected to
throughout the West and oper-
                                    receive above average            Following are more detailed
ated by the NRCS Snow Sur-                                                                           Snow School 2012                               9
                                    streamflow, including the up-    projections from the National
vey and Water Supply Fore-
                                    per reaches of the Columbia      Water and Climate Center
casting (SSWSF) program.                                                                             SCAN continues to grow                        10
                                    River Basin, the Tongue-         (NWCC) forecast hydrolo-
These measurements are                                               gists.
                                    Powder region of the Missouri                                    Missouri Basin forecasters                    11
invaluable to irrigators and
                                    River Basin in Wyoming and,                                      meeting
other water users for indicat-                                                      Continued pg 2
                                    notably, much of Alaska.
ing water supply availability for
                                                                                                     Products and resources                        15
the spring and summer.
                                                                                                     Director’s news                               16
As of March 1, nearly half of
the West is expected to re-
ceive below average snow-
melt runoff. In a sharp con-
trast to the large snowpack
that developed last year, snow
sites in the Sierra Nevada of
California are reporting record
lows, overall less than 40% of

The Great Basin, which in-
cludes rivers in California,                                                                         Special points of interest:

Nevada, and Utah, is forecast
to receive significantly below                                                                          Missouri River flood task force update
average spring and summer
streamflows. Southern Ore-                                                                              Interagency partnerships

gon and Idaho in the Lower
                                                                                                        Spatial weather/climate data tools
Columbia River Basin, and
Arizona, which covers most of                                                                           Snow Survey activities (1954)
the Lower Colorado River
Basin, also are reporting much                                                                          Water Supply Outlook page updated
below average conditions.

Not quite as dry, but still near
normal conditions are pro-
jected for the Columbia and
Missouri River Basins includ-
                                      Mountain snowpack map shows many parts of the West below
ing areas in Washington, Ore-
                                      to well-below average on March 1.
                           Westwide Spring forecast (cont from pg 1)
                            Columbia River Basin                 border are forecast to provide      The US Drought Monitor is
                            Rashawn Tama                         over 110% of average runoff         indicating that more severe
                            Water supply conditions are          for the April through July pe-      drought conditions are slowly
                            subject to wide variability          riod.                               working their way north from
                            across the Columbia Ba-                                                  the Great Basin and California
                                                                 At the opposite end of the
                            sin. Based on current snow-                                              into Southern Oregon.
                                                                 spectrum, many watersheds in
                            pack conditions and precipita-       southern and southeastern
                            tion patterns so far this sea-       Oregon and southwestern             Missouri River Basin
                            son, many watersheds are             Idaho are forecast to see less      Cara McCarthy
                            likely to see near normal run-       than 50% of average runoff for      In the headwaters of the Mis-
                            off in the spring and summer.        the same period. The Mal-           souri River Basin, which span
  “Those areas where                                             heur and Owyhee Basins,             from Canada to Colorado,
                            From the Kootenai, Flathead,
                                                                 along with the Oregon Closed        areas in Wyoming stand out
    reservoirs do not       and Clark Fork Basins in Mon-
                            tana, through the Spokane            and Upper Klamath Basins,           with the highest mountain
   provide significant      and Clearwater in Idaho, and         are all facing drought-like con-    snowpack. Of particular note
                            on to the Central Columbia           ditions.                            are the Bighorn Mountains,
   carryover storage        and Yakima Basins in Wash-                                               where the snowpack is 110-
                                                                 Those areas where reservoirs
                            ington, seasonal water supply                                            150% of average. These
   from the previous                                             do not provide significant
                                                                                                     mountains feed the Bighorn,
                            forecasts are near normal.           carryover storage from the
   year will likely face    However, there is an ex-             previous year will likely face
                                                                                                     Tongue and Powder Rivers
                                                                                                     which experienced heavy
                                                                 water availability issues this
    water availability      tremely strong North/South
                                                                 coming spring and sum-
                                                                                                     flooding last year. Spring and
                            gradient in the Columbia Ba-                                             summer streamflow forecasts
   issues this coming       sin, with the northerly latitudes    mer. Even under the most
                                                                                                     for this region are approaching
                            fairing much better than those       optimistic future weather sce-
                                                                                                     the “much above average’“
 spring and summer.”        in the southern portions of the      narios, seasonal runoff vol-
                                                                                                     flow designation.
                            basin. For example, the Oka-         umes in these basins will re-
                            nogan and Similkameen Riv-           main below normal.                                 Continued pg 14
                            ers along the US – Canadian

                           Largest runoff volume in 114 years

                           Missouri River Flood Task Force issues recommendations
                           This is an update from the last      Reston, Virginia, and Cara          Recommendations included
                           issue of SnowNews.                   McCarthy with the NRCS Na-          increased infrastructure sup-
                                                                tional Water and Climate            port, updating the design flood,
                           The report, “Review of the           Center.                             reviewing storage allocation on
                           Regulation of the Missouri                                               the river, enhanced collabora-
                           River Mainstem Reservoir             After several months of in-
                                                                                                    tion and communication with
                           System during the Flood of           tense work examining records,
                                                                                                    other agencies, and an im-
                           2011,” was handed to the U.S.        interviewing Corps staff and
                                                                                                    proved data network to assist in
                           Army Corps of Engineers              others in the water resource
                           (Corps) last December.               community, and attending
                                                                public meetings, the panel          The 2011 flood, which went on
                           The assessment was con-              concluded that the unprece-         for months, was the largest
                           ducted by an independent             dented precipitation in late        annual runoff volume in the 114
                           review panel consisting of Neil      spring significantly contributed    years of record.
                           Grigg at Colorado State Uni-         to the flood, the Corps fol-
                           versity, Bill Lawrence of the                                            The complete report can be
                                                                lowed operating guidelines          found here: http://
                           National Weather Service in          before, during, and after the
                           Tulsa, Darwin Ockerman from          flood, but the Corps has room       MRIndependentReview-
                           the U.S. Geological Survey in        for improvement.                    Panel.pdf

Page 2                                                                                                                  Spring 2012
 Climate Center’s maintenance facility hums
 The quality of the data we         data collection sites. They        Many things contributed to this
 collect at the National Water      maintain a warehouse for           high failure rate, including the
 and Climate Center is directly     parts and maintenance equip-       fact transducers were installed
 influenced by the reliable op-     ment. Everything from towers       right out of the box, without
 eration of our Master Stations,    and antennas to power amplifi-     any testing or burn-in period.
 automated SNOTEL sites and         ers and radios
 SCAN sites.                        are ready for
                                    distribution to the
 Maintaining reliable operations    DCOs when
 means equipping stations with      needed.
 components that can with-
 stand the extremely harsh          High quality,
 conditions at our sites. At the    reliable parts
 heart of this operation is the     In addition to
 NWCC Electronics Mainte-           buying and ware-
 nance Facility (EMF).              housing equip-
                                    ment, EMF is
 EMF’s primary role is to en-       responsible for
 sure the Data Collection Of-       the quality and                                                        “In 2005, the field
 fices (DCOs) have all the          reliability of the
 equipment and support they         parts they pur-                                                         failure rate for
 need to keep automated sites       chase.
 in top working order. Housed                                                                              transducers was
 in a 5,000 square foot facility    “Pressure trans-
 in Portland, Oregon, EMF is        ducers are a
                                                                                                          almost 30%. Today,
 the equipment hub for the          major component                                                         it’s about 1%.”
 SNOTEL/SCAN network, as            of our systems,
 well as its maintenance and        and they cost           Environmental chamber burns in transduc-
 calibration center.                about $800                       ers in about 10 days.
                                    each,” according
 John Weeks, EMF leader and         to John Weeks,
 Steve Dunn, electronics tech-      EMF leader. “In 2005, we were       In 2006, EMF installed an
 nician comprise the EMF            seeing an almost 30% field          environmental chamber. Pres-
 team. The team works closely       failure rate for pressure trans-    sure transducers now go
 with DCO technicians in the        ducers.”                            through 100 cycles of tem-
 field to maintain stations year                                                  perature which
 ‘round. And,                                                                     takes a full seven
 that can                                                                         days, plus they get
 sometimes be                                                                     1000 cycles of
 a tall order.                                                                    pressure during this
 and distribu-                                                                    With inventory,
 tion                                                                             setup, calibration
 EMF pur-                                                                         and record keeping,
 chases many                                                                      it takes about 10
 of the parts                                                                     days for a run.
 and compo-
 nents re-
 quired to                                                                              Continued pg 4
 equip the
 Master Sta-
 tions and
 automated             Steve Dunn monitors test equipment in the EMF lab.

SnowNews                                                                                                                  Page 3
                            Maintenance facility hums (cont from page 3)
                            “We’ve significantly reduced        and a parts inventory that          They are closely involved with
                            our field failure rates on these    allows them to perform repairs      our contractors and other sup-
                            critical parts,“ according to       down to the component level.        pliers in the development of
                            John. “Our environmental                                                next generation products.
                            chamber lets us burn-in the         They have also replicated a
                            transducers before they go to       Master Station onsite to assist     For example, the team is sup-
                            the field. We’re able to weed       in troubleshooting issues at        porting the pilot project to de-
                            out bad parts here, and then        Master Stations throughout the      ploy and test the new
                            return them to the manufac-         U.S.                                “fluidless“ snow pillows at two
                            turer while they’re still under                                         sites in Oregon. They are also
                            warranty. It’s a lot less expen-    Master Station support              working closely with suppliers
                            sive to return a bad part from      Although not their primary          to design and deliver new
                            here, than to return it once it’s   responsibility, our DCOs are        dataloggers and communica-
                            failed in the field.”               sometimes called on to assist
                                                                             with Master Sta-
                                                                             tion issues. The
                                                                             EMF team’s inti-
                                                                             mate knowledge
                                                                             of each Master
                                                                             Station’s configu-
A few statistics on EMF’s                                                    ration allows them
contributions:                                                               to quickly assist in
1019 = Number of                                                             even remotely.
stations supported.                                                          Maintenance and
5 = Number of Master                                                         Ongoing mainte-
Stations supported.                                                          nance and calibra-
                                                                             tion of compo-
166 = Number of SCAN                 John Weeks in the EMF lab.              nents are other
station frequency                                                            major responsibili-
conversions                                                                  ties of the EMF
completed in 2011.          EMF also works with suppliers       team.
                            to solve known problems with
600 = Approximate           parts and equipment. Because        Transducers undergo calibra-
number of transducers       our application of parts often      tion every three years. Consid-
calibrated annually.        places them at or near their        ering there are currently about
                            operating boundaries, suppli-       1800 transducers in the net-
2 = Number of NWCC          ers are anxious to work with        work, the team calibrates ap-
employees who               us to improve performance           proximately 600 units every
                            and reliability.                    year.
accomplish these tasks.                                                                                  Replicated Master Station
                                                                                                         hardware in the EMF lab.
                            “When we saw a dramatic             EMF also maintains and cali-
                            increase in transducer failures     brates sensors, gages, radios
                                                                                                    tions equipment.
                            a few years ago, we worked          and data loggers on a regular
                            closely with our primary sup-       schedule. To imagine the
                                                                                                    All these activities may over-
                            plier to uncover the design         scope of these activities, in
                                                                                                    whelm some. However, Steve
                            problems and get them re-           2011 EMF calibrated over 100
                                                                                                    Dunn, a 28-year veteran in the
                            solved.”                            radios.
                                                                                                    EMF group sums up the
                                                                                                    team’s philosophy by saying,
                            Engineering lab                     New technology
                                                                                                    “We’re fanatic about what we
                            In addition to the warehouse,       EMF evaluates new technolo-
                                                                                                    do. It’s an important function.
                            the team maintains an engi-         gies in data collection, com-
                                                                                                    We know it, and we love it.”
                            neering lab outfitted with a        munications and telemetry.
                            wide range of test equipment,

Page 4                                                                                                                 Spring 2012
 Volunteer observers measure up with CoCoRaHS
 Henry Reges, CoCoRaHS              2. Provide educational oppor-     NOAA’s Meteorological As-
 National Coordinator                  tunities for the public.       similation Data Ingest System
                                                                      (MADIS) and is archived as a
 Precipitation affects the lives    Data-wise, CoCoRaHS is the
                                                                      part of the National Climatic
 and activities of nearly every-    largest source of accurate
                                                                      Data Center’s Global Histori-
 one. It may well be the most       daily precipitation measure-
                                                                      cal Climate Network (GHCN).
 noticeable, variable, impactful    ments in the country. It’s
 element of our climate and is      amazing to watch the website      In terms of education, Co-
 well suited for “backyard” ob-     maps populate with reports        CoRaHS is enhancing the
 servation.                         each morning showing nation-      "volunteer educational experi-
                                    wide precipitation patterns.      ence" by improving access to
 CoCoRaHS (Community Col-
                                                                      and visualization of the data
 laborative Rain, Hail and          In winter, volunteers measure
                                                                      collected by volunteers. This
 Snow) is a nationwide "citizen     the depth of new snowfall,
                                                                      allows volunteers to be data
 science" precipitation monitor-    total snow on the ground and
                                                                      analysts, not just collectors.
 ing network engaging thou-         the snow water equivalent
                                                                      New mapping capabilities are
 sands of people of all ages.       (SWE) of both new and total
                                                                      being added to view both re-
 CoCoRaHS currently has over        snow through snow core sam-
                                                                      cent and historic national,
 15,000 active volunteers.          ples. In 2011 more than half
                                                                      regional or local precipitation.
 Participants use low-cost, high    of the measurements supplied
                                                                      Through collaborations with
 -capacity 4-inch rain gauges       to the National Operational
                                                                      Oregon State University, vol-
 along with rulers, snow boards     Hydrologic Remote Sensing
                                                                      unteers will be able to view
 and foil wrapped Styrofoam         Center (NOHRSC) came from
                                                                      their recent precipitation data
 "hail pads" to measure rain,       CoCoRaHS volunteers.
                                                                      in context with 100-year time
 hail and snow.
                                                                      series of precipitation data for
                                                                      their area. Graphing capabili-
                                                                      ties are also being added.

                                                                      New additions in 2012
                                                                      An exciting new addition for
                                                                      2012 is the measurement of
                                                                                                         CoCoRaHS volunteer Noah New-
                                                                      "reference evapotranspiration"
                                                                                                         man, Fort Collins, CO, measures
                                                                      to improve the visualization
                                                                                                         snowfall.        Photo: H. Reges
                                                                      and understanding of the wa-
                                                                      ter cycle in action. Other
                                                                      newly-added features on the
                                                                      website include a climate
                                                                      guide for Master Gardeners
                                                                      and an educational series of
                                                                      live monthly webinars called
                                                                      CoCoRaHS WxTalk which
                                                                      provide opportunities for par-
                                                                      ticipants to learn directly from
      Map depicting precipitation amounts at CoCoRaHS                 top atmospheric scientists and
      reporting sites for a given day.                                educators.

 Measurement and communi-                                             CoCoRaHS welcomes anyone
                                    Data are reported daily (24       with an interest in learning
 cation of precipitation informa-
                                    hour amounts), but when ex-       about precipitation and con-
 tion helps connect the public
                                    treme weather threatens, ob-      tributing useful local data. We
 to atmospheric and hydrologic
                                    servers can submit real-time      encourage you to sign up
 processes and impacts. Co-
                                    “significant weather” reports     today and tell others about
 CoRaHS’ main mission is
                                    that alarm forecasters at local   this opportunity. For more
                                    National Weather Service          information visit the Co-
 1. Accurately measure and          offices around the country.       CoRaHS website at http://
    map precipitation patterns      Data are quality controlled and
    across the United States.       are currently ingested by         Content.aspx?

SnowNews                                                                                                                        Page 5
         Interagency partnerships foster shared data
         Part of our mission at NRCS/     the U.S. Drought Portal. The       Research Program
         NWCC is to promote partner-      site features data from many       (USGCRP). The group ana-
         ships and joint ventures with    Federal, State and academic        lyzes the effects of global
         other Federal agencies, aca-     sources, including a page on       change on the natural environ-
         demic partners and collabora-    Forecasting Hydrology. This        ment, agriculture, energy pro-
         tors. We currently participate   page contains NRCS Stream-         duction and use, land and
         in several interagency pro-      flow and Snowpack Forecasts,       water resources, transporta-
         jects, such as:                  river flood conditions from the    tion, human health and wel-
                                          Advanced Hydrologic Predic-        fare, human social systems
         U.S. Water Monitor. This
                                          tion Service (AHPS) at the         and biological diversity; and
         web resource is a portal to
                                                  National Weather Ser-      analyzes trends in global
         real-time and
                                                  vice, and soil moisture    change, both human-induced
                                                  monitoring and forecast    and natural, and projects ma-
         water data
                                                  maps from the Climate      jor trends for the subsequent
         from the
                                                  Impacts Group at the       25 to 100 years. The
                                                  University of Washing-     USGCRP coordinates cutting-
         NWCC, the
                                                  ton.                       edge climate change research
         National Oce-
                                                                             across 13 Federal agencies.
         anic and At-
                                                National Drought Miti-
                                                gation Center (NDMC).        National Atlas. The National
         Administra-                            NDMC at the University       Atlas was originally published
         tion (NOAA),                     of Nebraska-Lincoln hosts the      in 1970. Since inception, the
         the U.S. Geological Survey       U.S. Drought Monitor. The          participation of many Federal
         (USGS) and the University of     Drought Monitor is a partner-      agencies has been crucial to
         Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).          ship between UNL, several          the development of the Na-
                                          Federal agencies (including        tional Atlas. Included in the
         National Integrated Drought
                                          NRCS, NOAA and USGS),              Atlas are geospatial datasets,
         Information System (NIDIS).
                                          regional climate centers and       articles and dynamic maps
         One of NIDIS’ charters is to
                                          state climatologists.              that tell the stories behind the
         develop a “drought early warn-
                                                                             data, page-sized download-
         ing system” for the U.S. As
                                          National Climate Assess-           able maps and traditional wall
         part of its implementation,
                                          ment (NCA). The NCA is part        maps.
         NIDIS hosts a website called     of the U.S. Global Change

                                          Was today a record-breaker?
                                          On those days when you’re           The map on the left shows the
                                          experiencing a weather              record-setting high and low
                                          “extreme,” whether it’s tempera-    temperature, high minimum
                                          ture or precipitation, have you     temperatures, low maximum
                                          ever wondered if it’s a record-     temperatures, rainfall and snow-
                                          breaker?                            fall events for the continental
                                                                              US for the first week in January
                                 has a web
                                          presence devoted to tracking
                                          these events. The Records           Notice that many high tempera-
                                          page lets you see temperature,      ture records (red dots) were set
                                          rain and snow events in an          during this one-week period
                                          interactive map format. You can     over the western and central
                                          view today’s records or other       US. Florida, however, experi-
                                          records in a variety of prede-      enced many low temperature
                                          fined formats. Hover over the       events (purple dots) during this
                                          event to display more detailed      timeframe, and the mid-Atlantic
                                          information.                        states set snowfall records (light
                                                                              blue dots).

Page 6                                                                                             Spring 2012
                    Spotlight On…Rose Loehr
 Rose Loehr is known to many        Huffman was one of the coor-       After more than 20 years with
 as “Miss SNOTEL.” But, she         dinators and instructors that      the program, Rose is consid-
 started out life in sunny San      year. Rose remembers asking        ering retirement in the next
 Diego. It was growing up in        Don to share the bivouac with      year or so. She’s drawn to
 California she first learned to    her, thinking that Don would       Alaska, where the fishing and
 fish; a past-time she stills       do most of the “heavy lifting.”    camping are awesome. She
 loves.                             No such luck, though. Don          also wants to join a golf club
                                    simply said, “Pick a place.        and improve her game. And,
 Rose moved to Oregon along         Here’s your shovel.”               spending more time with fam-
 with her family when she was                                          ily and her three grandchildren
 15. She graduated from Port-       As the SNOTEL and SCAN             are high on the list.
 land Community College with        networks grew, Rose had the
 an Associate degree in com-        opportunity to travel to Puerto    When asked the question
 puter programming. While           Rico, Hawaii and Alaska to         “what will you miss and what
 attending PCC, she worked as       help bring new sites up or         won’t you miss about the
 a keypunch operator. Within a      perform maintenance. She           agency?” Rose is quick to
 few years, Rose was named          also participated in a field       respond. “Absolutely, number
 the supervisor of the entire       maintenance assignment             one...the people. I also love
 department.                        swapping out sensors on            the challenge of getting the
                                    SCAN stations. The task took       data in from problem sites and
 After about four years, Rose       the team from Maryland to          troubleshooting.”
 left PCC and entered work in       New York through Ohio, and
 the private sector for Pacific     ending in St. Louis. Rose re-      What won’t she miss? Rose
 Metal Company and North-           members seeing Niagara Falls       smiled and said, “Other duties
 west Marine Ironworks. It was      frozen during that two-week        as assigned.”
 here she gained experience in      trip.
 computer operations and in-
 formation technology. It was
 also during this time Rose
 took some time off to start a
 family.                                                                                                 Landing a red sockeye salmon
                                                                                                         while fishing on the Kenai River
 In 1985, Rose moved into a                                                                              in Alaska.
 contract position with the West
 National Technical Center in
 the “511 Building.” She
 worked for over four years as
 a contract employee in the
 computer operations area.

 A full-time job opened in the       Not afraid to get dirty, Rose was a member of the Pacific North-
 Water Supply Forecasting            west 4-Wheel Drive Association.
 group in 1989. Dave Johnson
 hired Rose as SNOTEL op-
 erations specialist. It was dur-    Download BC Aware, free SNOTEL iPhone app
 ing this time the program was
                                     Eleven Solutions has de-            The app currently displays
 migrating to UNIX computers,
                                     signed an iPhone® application       SNOTEL data for California,
 and Rose took this opportunity
                                     that displays SNOTEL data           Colorado, Idaho, Montana,
 to grow her skills as the cen-
                                     for several western states.         Washington and Wyoming.
 tral computer facility operator.
                                     The free app is called BC           To download, go to: http://
 As with all Center employees,
                                     Aware. It is designed for win-
 Rose was required to attend
                                     ter outdoor enthusiasts and         id480234928?mt=8 or http://
 Snow School, and complete
                                     gives quick access to impor-
 the overnight bivouac exer-
                                     tant information related to         index.php/apps
 cise. It was 1991 and Don
                                     snow in the back country.

SnowNews                                                                                                                        Page 7
          Spatial weather/climate data tools improve agricultural
          risk management
          Chris Daly, Oregon State Uni-       mum and mean temperature             such as “typical,” “dry,”
          versity, PRISM Climate Group        for the contiguous US at 800-        “unusually dry” or “unusually
          Crop insurance is a major           meter resolution. For each           wet.”
          industry in the US, sold and        variable, an initial map is pro-
                                                                                   A prototype, web-based spa-
          delivered by private insurance      duced within 24 hours of the
                                                                                   tial weather and climate portal
          companies in collaboration          end of the day. The daily map
                                                                                   is now online, and currently
          with the USDA Risk Manage-          is updated approximately four
                                                                                   available to RMA personnel.
          ment Agency (RMA). These            days later, then monthly for
                                                                                   The portal is designed to pro-
          programs help farmers insure        the next six months, as addi-
                                                                                   vide a simple, intuitive access
          against natural disasters, such     tional station data are added
                                                                                   point for these complex data
          as drought, excessive mois-         and QC is performed. At the
          ture, heat, cold and hail, which    same time, a historical time
          can partially or totally destroy    series of daily grids is devel-      Users can view an assess-
          crops. In 2011, Federal crop        oped to allow construction of        ment of current conditions or
          insurance programs covered          long-term climatologies.             data for a historical period,
          about $90 billion in crop value.                                         and determine how these
                                              Monthly time-step products
                                                                                   conditions relate to long-term,
          In an effort to improve the         are also being developed, and
                                                                                   climatic distributions. Users
          claims process and save tax-        are the initial focus for drought
                                                                                   can also ask for a dynamically
          payer money, RMA partnered          and excessive moisture
                                                                                   -produced report with text,
          with the PRISM Climate              claims. Historical data will
                                                                                   tables and figures describing
          Group to provide high-quality       provide an important long-
                                                                                   conditions during a selected
          spatial weather and climate         term context, i.e., what is the
          data for use in substantiating      likelihood of a condition occur-
          weather events and producer         ring? Is it truly unusual, or well   The initial reporting focus is on
          claims. These data sets also        within the expected range of         claims of prevented planting
          help the RMA determine risk         events? This is done by rank-        due to excessive moisture.
          levels more accurately, im-         ing the value of a variable for
                                                                                   This project was a presenta-
          proving their underwriting          a given time period (e.g., a
                                                                                   tion topic at the American
          capability.                         day or month) within the 30-
                                                                                   Meteorological Society’s 19th
                                              year normal period, or within
          With RMA support, PRISM is                                               Conference on Applied Clima-
                                              the most recent ten years.
          now being operated on a daily                                            tology.
          basis, producing grids of pre-      A plain-English interpretation
          cipitation and minimum, maxi-       of the ranking is assigned,
                                                                                   Recorded Presentation

         Upcoming events
         Events of interest in the coming months.
                                                                 What: Western Snow Conference
                                                                 When: May 21-23, 2012
         What: U.S. Drought Monitor Forum
                                                                 Where: Anchorage, AK
         When: April 13-14, 2012
                                                                 How: Register at
         Where: George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
                                                                 Who: Jon Lea
         Meeting Details:
                                                                 What: American Association of State Climatolo-
         What: Tower Climbing Training                           gists (AASC) 37th Annual Meeting

         When: May 15-16, 2012                                   When: July 9-12, 2012
         Where: Boise, ID                                        Where: Miramar Beach, FL
         How: Contact Tony                                       How:
         Who: Tony Tolsdorf                              Who: Melissa Griffin

Page 8                                                                                                 Spring 2012
  Oh no! No snow at snow school
  Annual Snow Survey Training         This technique is often forgot-     January 13 – 18, 2013. For
  was held this January at the        ten by inexperienced samplers       more information contact Tony
  Granlibakken Lodge in Tahoe         even though it is faster and        Tolsdorf
  City, CA. This marked the 10th      easier than the standard sam-
  time the school had been held       pling method. The 2012 class
  there.                              went home
                                      with bulk
  Over the years snow condi-
  tions at Tahoe City have been
                                      firmly im-
  extremely variable, making it
  challenging to do outdoor
  exercises.                          During the
                                      bivouac                                                                         “The Annual Snow Sur-
  But this year was the first time
                                      many stu-
  (in Tahoe or anywhere else)                                                                                         vey School is required
                                      dents got
  that there was absolutely no
                                      extremely                                                                       training for current and
  snow for snow school. Even
                                      creative at
  the highest passes around the                                                                                       new NRCS employees
                                      their shelter
  Tahoe Basin were bare.                                                                                               and cooperators. The
  Lack of snow meant outdoor          Snow usu-                                                                      course is an intense week
  instruction had to be particu-      ally would
  larly creative.                     be used for                                                                    of training in data collec-
                                      construction          Two participants using inclinometers to measure           tion, safety and outdoor
  Avalanche instruction hap-                                slope to gauge for avalanche conditions.
                                      material, but
  pened on a little ski hill that                                                                                            survival.”
                                      this year
  had some old, manmade
                                      that was not
  snow which had morphed into
                                      an option. The lack of snow
  a sheet of ice resembling an
                                      made available a huge quan-
  ice rink tilted at an angle. Stu-
                                      tity of forest debris that nor-
  dents learned to probe
                                      mally would be covered up.
  through the ice to search for
                                      Shelters ranged from simple
  buried victims.
                                      tarps strung over a rope, to
  For snow sampling instruction,      complex and extremely func-
  the resort ran their snow mak-      tional shelters with pole
  ing equipment each night to         beams and thatched roofs.
  build up a few small piles of       One shelter was constructed
  fresh snow for the students to      completely from natural forest
  practice sampling snow              debris made of sticks, tree
  deeper than 2 inches. Most of       bows and bark.
  the sampling field instruction
                                      The 2013 school is tentatively
  focused on bulk sampling, a
                                      scheduled to be held at Crys-
  snow sampling technique
                                      tal Mountain, Washington,
  used when snow is shallow.                                            William Gardiner’s bivouac used natural forest debris.

           Snow school quick facts
           The Annual Snow Survey              Course work is about 50%            renowned experts in their
           School is required training for       classroom lecture and 50%           fields.
           current and new NRCS em-              field exercises.
           ployees and cooperators that                                             The training has been held
           perform snow survey duties as       Most instructors are NRCS           nearly every year since 1950.
           part of their jobs. It is an in-      personnel who work directly
                                                                                    This year’s school had 37
           tense week of training in data        in the snow survey program.
                                                                                     students from 12 western
           collection, safety and outdoor        Instructors in avalanche and
           survival.                             outdoor survival are world-

SnowNews                                                                                                                             Page 9
          SCAN continues to grow
          The Soil Climate Analysis Net-        trained to do maintenance on          Upper Missouri Basin
          work (SCAN) is a comprehen-           new and existing sites.               (Montana, N. Dakota, S, Da-
          sive, nationwide soil moisture                                              kota, Nebraska). Working with
                                                New Hampshire. Six sites
          and climate information system                                              basin liaison to define require-
                                                planned for this year; part of a
          designed to provide data to                                                 ments.
                                                university grant.
          support natural resource as-
                                                                                      For more information on
          sessments and conservation            Texas. Five new sites under-
                                                                                      SCAN, contact Tony Tolsdorf
          activities.                           way; working with the State of
                                                Texas and cooperators.
          The SCAN network is currently
          comprised of 184 active sta-
          tions. Plus there’s a lot of activ-
          ity to build new stations across
          the country.

          Here’s a quick rundown on new
          sites planned for or already
          under construction:

          California. Five “reimbursable”
          sites constructed in November
          2011. Four new sites to be
          constructed in 2012.

          Missouri. New sites are
          planned; local employees being         States where new SCAN sites are planned or under construction.

          Getting to know you.                                                     Win a gift certificate!
           Everyone has interesting or                            Match the fact to the person
           unusual things that have hap-
           pened in their lives. We decided
                                                1. Weighed a healthy 35 lbs. at six      A. Cara McCarthy
           to share some “fun facts” about
                                                months of age (photo at left).
           us, and let you guess who
           they’re about.                       2. Plays the bagpipes.                   B. Lucas Zukiewicz

           Here’s how it works. You match
           the fact to the person, and sub-     3. On day born, Cleveland set the        C. Jan Curtis
           mit your guess to                    coldest day on record (-19ºF).
          4. Worked in coal mine while in          D. Ron Abramovich
           All the correct guesses will go
           into a hat. Each issue Mike will     5. Skied the Grand Teton on 21st         E. Jacquie Workman
           award a $25 restaurant gift          birthday
           certificate to the name drawn.
                                                  Watch for the winner and more facts in the next issue of SnowNews.
           Good luck and have fun!

                                  Answers from last issue:

                                  1.   Completed sprint triathlon = B. Dino DiSimone
                                  2.   Ping pong champ = D. Don Huffman
                                  3.   Dog Stella R. Dendrite = A. Lucas Zukiewicz
                                  4.   Giant shark school bus = E. Daniel Fisher
                                  5.   First snow survey with father = C. Randy Julander

                                  And the gift certificate goes to … Ron Abramovich !

Page 10                                                                                                   Spring 2012
 58 years later: A peek into snow survey activities,1954
 Don Huffman recently found the
 first issue of a newsletter de-
 voted to snow survey activities in
 1954. The author, R.A. Work, is
 well known as a key figure in the
 expansion of the snow survey
 program in the early- and mid-
 20th century.

 The newsletter is a unique look
 into forecasting, field, equipment
 and training activities of the time.

 Those familiar with the history of
 the program will recognize other
 early surveyors, such as Homer
 Stockwell and Jack Frost.

 Page 2 talks about how surplus
 materials from WWII fighter
 planes were being “re-used” to
 build over-snow machines and
 equip communications facilities.

 Here’s a link to the complete

 To learn more about the pro-
 gram, check out The History of
 Snow Survey and Water Supply
 Forecasting, Interviews with
 USDA Pioneers (2008).
                                                               Click here to open the newsletter

 Third annual Missouri Basin Forecaster’s Meeting
 NRCS Missouri Basin Senior             souri River Basin from local,       The presentation concluded
 Forecast Hydrologist Cara              regional and national offices of    with an assessment of the
 McCarthy traveled to Kansas            the Army Corps of Engineers,        current mountain snowpack
 City in January to participate         the National Weather Service,       and the streamflow forecasts
 in the third annual Missouri           the U.S. Geological Survey,         for the upper Missouri River
 Basin Forecaster’s Meeting.            the Bureau of Reclamation           Basin.
                                        and NRCS.
 The purpose of the meeting
 was to discuss improvements            Cara presented a summary of
                                                                               See related article on page 2.
 in streamflow forecasting,             the weather and streamflow
 communication and data shar-           conditions of last year and
 ing, to better serve the Ameri-        explained how conditions de-
 can public. The record floods          veloped in the late spring of
 on the Missouri in 2011 pro-           2011 into a record-breaking
 vided heightened interest in           snowpack during May and
 these goals.                           June. The history of the 2011
                                        streamflow forecasts and the
 The meeting was attended by
                                        difficulty in predicting the re-
 those with interest in support-
                                        cord streamflows were re-
 ing management of the Mis-
                                        viewed and noted.

SnowNews                                                                                                        Page 11
                            Water Supply Outlook page redesigned
                            With the help Rose Loehr and        forecasts available over           improved Water Supply Out-
                            Rashawn Tama from the               previous years.                    look web page is: http://
                            NWCC staff and Ray Hen-                                      
                                                                The link to the new and
                            nings from Portland State                                              west_fcst.html .
                            University, the center’s West-
                            ern United States Water Sup-
                            ply Outlook web page has
                            been updated to use official
                            Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC)
                            designations for forecast point

                            The goal was to provide a
                            friendlier interface for custom-
                            ers to find forecasts of interest
                            and to expand the number of

                            DCO News
                            Streamflow Adjustment Calculator, phase 2 released
                            DCOs and forecast hydrolo-          known sites in the AWDB            Phase 2 adds the data man-
                            gists have a new tool at their      database.                          ager capability and integrated
                            disposal.                                                              online help to the application.
                                                                The data manager lets users
                            The Streamflow Adjustment           edit and enter component           Phase 3 is currently under
                            Calculator is a streamflow          data, and calculate and save       development and will add
                            modeling and data manage-           the adjusted streamflow data.      multiple station capabilities to
                            ment tool. It consists of an        It displays data in tabular and    the calculator.
                            equation editor and a data          graphical formats, with
                                                                                                   DCOs can contact Gus Good-
                            manager.                            monthly/semimonthly and
                                                                                                   body for more information or a
                                                                daily views.
  Streamflow Adjustment     The equation editor lets users                                         demonstration of the tool.
  Calculator data manager   create, edit and run equations      Phase 1 introduced the equa-
                            which adjust streamflow at          tion editor.

                               NWCC highlights
                            Dipesh Patel, lead program-         Stine discussed compliance         Jean Hao, programmer, Team
                            mer, Team Vistronix, became         related to policy and directives   Vistronix, received a Vistronix
                            a U.S. citizen on January 12.       with Puerto Rico staff.            Standard of Excellence award
                                                                                                   for the January – March 2012
                            Mike Strobel, NWCC director,        While there, Mike visited a
                                                                                                   period. Jean was recognized
                            represented SSRA at the Car-        number of SCAN sites and
                                                                                                   for her work prototyping a
                            ibbean Area Quality Assur-          had the opportunity to discuss
                                                                                                   common user interface using
                            ance Compliance Review in           data uses and needs with
                                                                                                   map-based features live with
                            Puerto Rico in early February.      university researchers at a
                                                                                                   zoom and pan for selected
                                                                number of experimental sta-
                                                                                                   SNOTEL sites.
                            The review consisted of staff       tions, as well as observe a
                            interviews where Mike,              number of different land uses
                            Maxine Levin, Cameron Lo-           and agricultural practices.
                            erch, Javier Ruiz and Linda

Page 12                                                                                                                Spring 2012
                                                         Photo of the month

 Jan Curtis, NWCC applied climatologist, captured this lightning strike from his home near Santa Fe,
 New Mexico last September. Note the rain pillar surrounding the strike.

 Products and resources on the web
 Pisces is a tool developed by       ity, optimize resource use and      The Community, Collaborative
 the Pacific Northwest Region        reduce environmental impact.        Rain, Hail and Snow
 of the Bureau of Reclamation.                                           (CoCoRaHS) Climate Re-
                                     AWN is comprised of 137
 It’s a desktop application that                                         sources for Master Gardener’s
                                     automated weather stations
 graphs and analyzes time                                                Guide introduces elements of
 series data. Pisces organizes,      located mostly in irrigated         climate which are important to
 graphs and analyzes natural         regions of eastern Washington       gardeners. It includes an over-
 resource data that vary with        state. Since installing the first   view of climate patterns and
 time: gauge height, river flow,     station in 1988, the network        differences and links to local
 water temperature, etc.             has expanded into western           climate information. Topics
                                     Washington as well as in the        include: Climate and Garden-
 Pisces lets you perform trend       dry land regions of the state.      ing, Sunshine, Temperature,
 analyses, monthly summaries                                             Humidity and Dew Point, Pre-
 and simple correlations.                                                cipitation, Wind and Climate
                                     NOAA’s Office of Program
                                     Planning and Integration pro-
 Pisces can also import data
                                     vides a variety of social and
 directly from the SNOTEL
                                     economic data that policy           AgWeb provides agronomic,
                                     makers can use to better man-       weather news and planting
                                     age the coasts and oceans.          advice in a convenient, one-
 AgWeatherNet (AWN) pro-                                                 stop location. They also have
 vides current and historical                                            a mobile application available
                                     The Dynamic Drought Index
 weather data from Washington                                            for download.
                                     for basins in North and South
 State University's automated
                                     Carolina is a web-based, spa-
 weather station network. The
                                     tial decision support system        Texas Drought Conditions is a
 weather data, advisories,
                                     for water resource planning         web resource for customized
 products and decision support
                                     and management. The prod-           drought products, including
 systems can help improve
                                     uct uses customized weighted        monthly societal impact re-
 production and product qual-
                                     drought indices.                    ports.

SnowNews                                                                                                   Page 13
                                Westwide Spring forecast (cont from pg 3)
                                In Montana, the driest region     Colorado’s Front Range, the         water supply conditions would
                                is the headwaters of the Jef-     snowpack varies significantly       deteriorate further.
                                ferson with forecasts at 65-      from point to point, but overall,
                                70% of average runoff. How-       forecasts in the upper South        Upper Colorado Basin: A
                                ever, the snowpack increases      Platte call for just below aver-    below average water supply
                                downstream, and overall fore-     age runoff. To the south and        outlook for the Upper Colo-
                                casts in the Upper Missouri       into northern New Mexico,           rado River Basin continues
                                range from below to near av-      summer runoff forecasts in the      despite above average pre-
                                erage. The Upper Yellowstone      lower South Platte, Arkansas        cipitation across much of the
                                River is expected to produce      and Canadian Rivers remain          basin in February. The
                                near average streamflow.          below average.                      Yampa and Little Snake Ba-
                                                                                                      sins saw the greatest increase
                                                                  Colorado River/Rio Grande           (~10% of average) whereas
                                                                  Basins                              most other basins showed
                                                                  Gus Goodbody                        some improvement in water
                                                                                                      supply conditions. As a
                                                                  Rio Grande Basin: February
                                                                                                      whole, the water supply out-
                                                                  brought near- to above-normal
                                                                                                      look for the basin bumped up
                                                                  precipitation across the Rio
                                                                                                      marginally to 67% of the 1971-
                                                                  Grande Basin in Colorado and
                                                                                                      2000 average inflow into Lake
                                                                  northern New Mexico. This
                                                                                                      Powell. This equals a 3% of
                                                                  resulted in only minor changes
                                                                                                      average increase projected for
                                                                  to the water supply outlook
                                                                                                      the basin from February 1.
                                                                  across the region with the Rio
                                                                  Grande Headwaters in Colo-
                                                                  rado pushing closer to aver-        Lower Colorado River Ba-
                                                                  age, and most other forecast        sin: Conditions across the
                                                                  basins to the south remaining       Lower Colorado River Basin
                                                                  below to slightly below aver-       continue to worsen with well
                                                                  age.                                below average precipitation
                                                                                                      measured across the region in
                                                                  Long range weather forecasts        February.
                                                                  for the remainder of the accu-
                                                                  mulation season continue to                      Continued pg 15
                                                                  paint a dry and warm picture
                                                                  for this region, in which case

          March 1 Westwide Spring and Summer streamflow
          forecasts mimic conditions of snowpack map in many

                                The North Platte in Colorado
                                is another dry region, with the
                                streamflow forecast at only
                                65% of average. Again, mov-
                                ing downstream into Wyo-
                                ming, the increased snowpack
                                in the Laramie Mountains
                                south of Casper significantly
                                boosts the forecast for the
                                lower North Platte, with an
                                inflow prediction of 85% of
                                average flow into Glendo Res-
                                ervoir.                                Fish Lake area in south-central Utah. Photo by Randy
                                Along the northern half of

Page 14                                                                                                                 Spring 2012
 Westwide Spring forecast (cont from pg 14)
 Most rivers across the region      The National Weather Service        some cases, too much snow,
 are forecast to flow less than     (NWS) and California Depart-        affecting travel and causing
 50% of median runoff this          ment of Water Resources             other disruptions. The fore-
 spring. A dry outlook for the      (DWR) forecast in the Central       casts for Alaska range from
 remainder of the runoff sea-       Valley of California range from     93% to 140% of average.
 son indicates low probability of   32% of average in the Feather
 significant short-term relief      River Basin to 68% of average       More information
 from the very dry conditions.      in the McCloud River Basin.         Here’s the link to the March 1
                                    Alaska: Alaska is a bright          Westwide mountain snowpack
 Great Basin/California/
                                    spot in terms of snow accumu-       map: http://
                                    lation this year. The snow in
 Jolyne Lea
                                    much of Alaska is at very high      support/water/westwide/
 Great Basin: It has been a         to near-record conditions.          snowpack/wy2012/
 very dry winter across the                                             snow1203.gif                      “Alaska is a bright
 Great Basin region. The Sierra
 Nevada have received scant
                                                                                                           spot in terms of
 precipitation this year and
 remain the driest area of the
                                                                                                         snow accumulation
 West, with some stations re-
 porting a record low snowpack
                                                                                                         this year. The snow
 for this time of year.

 Precipitation since October 1                                                                           in much of Alaska is
 is also well behind, and dry
 conditions are spread across                                                                            at very high to near
 the states of California, Ne-
 vada and into Utah. NRCS                                                                                record conditions.”
 forecasts on the eastside of
 the Sierra Nevada range from
 11% to 45% of average.

 The snowpack in the Wasatch
 Mountains of western Utah
 had a fairly good February
 with some basin snowpacks
 and forecasts improving from
 the February 1 values.

 The Great Basin snowpack
 ranges from less than 25% of
 average in the lower Humboldt
 Basin to near average in the
 upper Sevier Basin.
                                      Rain erosion on top of snow on an island in Prince William
 California Central Valley:           Sound, en route to the Tatitlek SNOTEL site in Alaska.
 Well below-average accumu-           Photo by Daniel Fisher.
 lated precipitation and snow in
 the Sacramento and San Joa-                                            Here’s the link to the March 1
 quin Basins of the central         The snowpack ranges from a          Westwide streamflow forecast
 valley of California are nega-     high of above 150% of aver-         map: http://
 tively affecting the forecasts.    age in southern and southeast
                                    Alaska, to near average in the      support/water/westwide/
 A number of storms have sup-       northern areas. Storms              streamflow/wy2012/
 plied California with a small      throughout the fall and winter      strm1203.gif
 amount of precipitation to         have tracked well to the north,
 prevent a further decline that     producing abundant, and in
 affects water supplies.

SnowNews                                                                                                                 Page 15
                                          Helping People Help the Land.
   National Water & Climate Center
Natural Resources Conservation Service    Our mission is: "To lead the development and transfer of water and climate
     US Department of Agriculture             information and technology which support natural resource conservation."

        1201 NE Lloyd Blvd.
                                                                                                           With a vision of the future as:
             Suite 802
        Portland, OR 97232
                                                                                                           "A globally-recognized source
       Phone: 503-414-3038                                                                                 for a top quality
                                                                                                           spatial snow, water,
                                                                                                           climate, and hydrologic

    For issues of SnowNews go to:                                                                          network of information and

                                         From the Director’s desk
                                                                             be valid today. These are           investing in new technology,
                                                                             interesting and exciting times      both in our field operations
                                                                             to be working in the field of       and in our forecasting and IT
                                                                             hydrology.                          areas that will make us more
                                                                                                                 efficient, reduce costs and
                                                                              We also have been facing the
                                                                                                                 improve our data delivery.
                                                                             challenges of meeting our
                                                                             obligations and priorities while    So, while some see the reality
                                                                             working with declining budg-        of reduced budgets and de-
                                                                             ets, less personnel and travel      clining personnel as only
                                                                             restrictions. Although some         negative, I feel it provides us
                                                                             may feel these challenges are       an opportunity to excel in ad-

                                         S    pring is coming and so is
                                         the busy period for data col-
                                                                             frustrating, I feel that such
                                                                             challenges require us to be
                                                                             innovative and to embrace
                                                                                                                 vancing the program in new
                                                                                                                 ways, making us stronger and
                                         lection and forecasting.            new ways of doing business.
                                                                                                                 It was Plato around 400 BC
                                         April 1 is the standard for          We now have Video Telecon-         who said “Necessity, who is
                                         assessing the water supplies        ferencing (VTC) equipment in        the mother of invention” and
                                         that will come from snow-           our conference room here in         really spoke for the ages. The
                                         melt, although many places          Portland and in many of the         reality is that reduced budgets
                                         are seeing the peak and             State and Field Offices. This       and personnel will actually
                                         initial meltout earlier than that   will enable us to participate in    push us to move toward
                                         date in recent years. This          meetings without spending           changes and improvements
                                         snow season has been inter-         time traveling, thus saving         we have proposed and dis-
                                         esting, as pointed out in           time and money.                     cussed for many years.
                                         some of the articles in this        We are evaluating our pro-          Like with the changing climate
                                         and earlier editions of             grams and looking for work          conditions I mentioned in the
                                         SnowNews. It really empha-          elements that can be either         first paragraph, these are in-
                                         sizes the concept of nonsta-        contracted out to others or         teresting and exciting times for
                                         tionarity, where climate is in      eliminated partially or entirely,   our program.
   USDA NRCS is an equal opportunity     flux, and trends and drivers        thus cutting costs and re-
   employer and provider
                                         we saw in the past may not                                              Mike
                                                                             quired personnel. And we are

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