Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2012MT276B

Student Research Fellowship: The Effect of Physiographic Parameters on the Spatial Distribution of Snow Water Equivalent: an Analysis of the Representativeness of the Lone Mountain SNOTEL Site

Institute: Montana
Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-03-01 End Date: 2013-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $1,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $440

Principal Investigators: Karl Wetlaufer

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to utilize fieldwork and GIS analysis to evaluate how well the Lone Mountain SNOTEL site near Big Sky Montana represents the total SWE in the West Fork of the Gallatin watershed. SNOTEL sites are automated meteorological stations distributed throughout the Western U.S. with their primary purpose being to measure SWE for use in water supply forecasting. The result of this study will be an improved understanding of how snow water is distributed throughout the landscape. The first step of the process will be an in depth GIS analysis of the study site. This will primarily consist of terrain analysis of the area using a digital elevation model (DEM) comprised of very high resolution (1 meter) Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) data. Based on the results of terrain analysis a sampling plan will be developed. Once an effective sampling plan has been established field data will be collected throughout the basin. The field data will be collected as close to April 1st as possible. This will consist of snow water equivalent and snow depth measurements collected with mapping grade (sub-meter accuracy post processed) GPS units. SWE distribution will be quantified both as a total depth and a percent of the measured SWE at the SNOTEL site. This model will then enable the assessment to be made regarding the representativeness of the Lone Mountain SNOTEL site with respect to basin wide characteristics and total SWE.