Snow

   

Snowflake Network

GoNorth! has partnered with NASA to bring you the Snowflake Network. Track storms, identify snowflakes, post your data and be part of real-life science!

Note: you will be visiting the NASA website.

Enter your data here:

Collection Zone

Watch the NASA movie 'how to collect snow flakes'

Snowflake Protocol

   

Make a Flake

Get out some pipecleaners and make some flakes. No two snow flakes are alike!

       
   

Frizion

Coolest colorful arts from our GoNorth! Cool Scientist Dr. Wasilewski

   

Cryoz-know-it

Where the world is frozen... that is the cryosphere.

   

Snow-It-All

Got snowy questions? Get to snow it all...

   

Cryosphere at a Glance

Near real-time daily imaging of the global ice cover and snow extent

       
       


Got snow? It may seems like it doesn't matter much if we have snow -- besides that it would mean no snowmen... Well, except for snowmen made of fake snow! However, real snow - the white fluffy stuff that falls from the sky - is an important resource to us humans and all of earth.

Snows that accumulate (known as snowpack) are the natural water towers of the world.

For example in the western United States, winter snowfall in the mountains provides 50 to 80 percent of the water supply.

And what type of snow matters too. Heavy snow provide more water than will dry powder snow. To figure how much water a snowpack will yield when it melts, scientist use snow water equivalent values. Snow water equivalent can be thought of as the depth of water that would theoretically result if you melted the entire snowpack instaneously. Say there is a swimming pool that is filled with 36 inches of new powdery snow at 10% snow water density. If you could turn all the snow into water magically, you would be left with a pool of water 3.6 inches deep. In this case, the SWE of your snowpack would equal 36" x 0.10 = 3.6 inches.

Understanding seasonal delivery and distribution of snow, a snowpack's storage and water release potential, and the effects of climate and climate change on such processes is very significant.


(left) GoNorth! Expedition Leader taking snow water equivalent samples in the small Alaskan community of Circle during the GoNorth! ANWR 2006 expedition. The data and snow crystals are then shipped to Goddard Space Flight Center for a research effort in collaboration with Dr. James Foster at NASA.

Snow distribution is extremely variable in time and space. Climatic patterns dictate snow distribution at the regional scale, while physical terrain features such as mountain ranges control distribution at the local scale.

The variability of snow distribution has a large impact on water resource management decisions. Reservoirs, dams, and other water retention structures need to be managed to maximize water storage for agriculture, hydropower generation, and municipal water consumption. Water managers must also maintain adequate storage capacity to accommodate excess water during floods. In the United States alone a shortage can result in billion dollar losses and opposite if supply exceeds storage capacity flooding can cause tremendous losses.

Variability of snow distribution also can affect seasonal weather patterns. For example, the distribution of snow affects the regional and global climate by reflecting solar radiation. This enhanced reflectance has been shown to result in a weakening of monsoon circulation and flow of moisture into New Mexico during the subsequent summer season.