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A Comparison of Snow Telemetry and Snow Course Measurements in the Colorado River Basin

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  • 1 Penn State Institutes of the Environment, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
  • | 2 Watershed Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
  • | 3 School of Engineering, University of California, Merced, Merced, California
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Abstract

Temporal and spatial differences in snow-water equivalent (SWE) at 240 snow telemetry (SNOTEL) and at 500 snow course sites and a subset of 93 collocated sites were evaluated by examining the correlation of site values over the snow season, interpolating point measurements to basin volumes using hypsometry and a maximum snow extent mask, and variogram analysis. The lowest correlation at a point (r = 0.79) and largest interpolated volume differences (as much as 150 mm of SWE over the Gunnison basin) occurred during wet years (e.g., 1993). Interpolation SWE values based on SNOTEL versus snow course sites were not consistently higher or lower relative to each other. Interpolation rmse was comparable for both datasets, increasing later in the snow season. Snow courses correlate over larger distances and have less short-scale variability than SNOTEL sites, making them more regionally representative. Using both datasets in hydrologic models will provide a range of predicted streamflow, which is potentially useful for water resources management.

Corresponding author address: Kevin A. Dressler, The Pennsylvania State University, 129 Land and Water Research Building, University Park, PA 16802. Email: kxd13@psu.edu

Abstract

Temporal and spatial differences in snow-water equivalent (SWE) at 240 snow telemetry (SNOTEL) and at 500 snow course sites and a subset of 93 collocated sites were evaluated by examining the correlation of site values over the snow season, interpolating point measurements to basin volumes using hypsometry and a maximum snow extent mask, and variogram analysis. The lowest correlation at a point (r = 0.79) and largest interpolated volume differences (as much as 150 mm of SWE over the Gunnison basin) occurred during wet years (e.g., 1993). Interpolation SWE values based on SNOTEL versus snow course sites were not consistently higher or lower relative to each other. Interpolation rmse was comparable for both datasets, increasing later in the snow season. Snow courses correlate over larger distances and have less short-scale variability than SNOTEL sites, making them more regionally representative. Using both datasets in hydrologic models will provide a range of predicted streamflow, which is potentially useful for water resources management.

Corresponding author address: Kevin A. Dressler, The Pennsylvania State University, 129 Land and Water Research Building, University Park, PA 16802. Email: kxd13@psu.edu

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