Environmental Protection Agency: Climate Change Indicators - Snowpack

This indicator measures trends in mountain snowpack in the western United States.

This indicator uses a measurement called snow water equivalent to determine trends in snowpack. Snow water equivalent is the amount of water contained within the snowpack at a particular location. It can be thought of as the depth of water that would result if the entire snowpack were to melt.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and other collaborators have measured snowpack since the early 1900s. In the early years of data collection, researchers measured snow water equivalent manually, but since 1980, measurements at some locations have been collected with automated instruments. This indicator is based on data from approximately 700 permanent measurement sites in the western United States. The indicator shows long-term rates of change for April 1, the most frequent observation date, because it could reflect changes in snowfall, and it is extensively used for spring streamflow forecasting.

Science Topics
Climate Change, Hydrology, Meteorology
Middle School
6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade

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