The snowpack is the accumulation of snow over the winter season which contributes to runoff in the spring and summer thus being available for storage or use. In areas such as Colorado or California dependent on annual runoff for water supplies the amount of snowpack and its water content is regularly monitored and is a matter of public concern. Snowpack measurements facilitate prediction of the amount of available water for agriculture and other uses and can be used for planning regarding what crops to plant and how water should be managed.[1]

The basic technique for measuring runoff by sampling the snowpack was invented in 1908 by James E. Church who first used it to predict the runoff from a basin draining into Lake Tahoe. His technique of taking samples with hollow tubes was widely adapted for use in making annual forecasts of runoff.[1]

Impact of climate changeEdit

Projections of the impact of climate change show that some basins will have insufficient water in the future due to diminished snowpacks.[2][3]

Airborne Snow ObservatoryEdit

The Airborne Snow Observatory an airplane which will measure and monitor snowpack using an imaging spectrometer and a laser system known as lidar was reported in 2013 to be under development by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "In California, Reading the Snow to Tell the Future for the Water Supply" article by Norimitsu Onishi in The New York Times February 7, 2013
  2. "The potential for snow to supply human water demand in the present and future" article by Justin S Mankin, Daniel Viviroli, Deepti Singh, Arjen Y Hoekstra. and Noah S Diffenbaugh in Environmental Research Letters 10 (2015) 114016 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/10/11/114016 12 November 2015
  3. "Billions of People Depend on Water From Shrinking Snowpacks" article by Sindya N. Bhanoo in The New York Times November 17, 2015
  4. "Melting Snows: The Threatened Lifeblood of the Western US" The von Kármán Lecture Series: 2012 June 21, 22, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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