How do the experts measure Utah’s snowpack?

How do the experts measure Utah’s snowpack?

Utah’s current snowpack is on the cusp of reaching historic levels, as the latest data reveals that the water content within the snowpack has surpassed all previous March measurements since the late 1970s when data collection commenced.

A total of 138 Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) sites are currently operational throughout the state of Utah.

According to Troy Brosten, a hydrologist from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, “In general, a snowpack comprising 20 inches of precipitation is deemed as a good year. However, the current situation is twice as much as that, which is an outstanding accomplishment.”

Brosten specifically points to measurements taken from the Atwater SNOTEL site, located near the Alta ski area, as demonstrating some of the most impressive numbers in Utah.

“Currently, we have a snow depth of 150 inches here,” Brosten states. “That is equivalent to 12-and-a-half feet, an extraordinary feat.”

The snow present at the Atwater site is so compact and deep that hydrologists encountered difficulties in pressing their measuring equipment down to the ground. Consequently, they hike and snowshoe to every SNOTEL site to manually measure the snowpack, ensuring the accuracy of the automated readings.

The numbers collected are vital for water managers, as they examine the data and then plan the summer allotments of water. They aim to estimate the amount of water that will enter the reservoirs.

If Utah continues to receive snowfall in the early spring, it could break the all-time record for snow water equivalent set during the winter of 1982-83. The state’s reservoirs desperately require this water.

“At the conclusion of this runoff period, there will be a considerable number of reservoirs in a favorable position,” Brosten says. “For the upcoming summer and agricultural activities, the situation appears to be promising.”

However, Brosten reminds us that one above-average winter is insufficient to resolve the long-term effects of the drought.

“You must consider Lake Powell and Lake Mead. It will take a decade of above-snowpack seasons for those reservoirs to recover.”