History of Snow Survey

1906-2006 – Snow Surveying was first invented in the late 1800’s in several different locales and it is difficult to ascertain exactly who was first. In the United States a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nevada, Reno named Dr. James E. Church brought the fledgling technology from Russia, Germany and Switzerland in 1906 to the Lake Tahoe region to solve a vexing problem – the prediction and hence the wise management of a very limited and often fought over regional Water Supply. Dr. Church connected the dots between seasonal runoff and snowpack. Being able to systematically measure snow across a watershed would yield the ability to predict seasonal water supply. Hence, the birth of Snow Surveys.

Conference History

As with all good things, the Western Snow Conference began as an activity of another group, the American Geophysical Union. In the Section of Hydrology of the AGU, a permanent committee was formed on Hydrology of Snow. It is through the annual reports of the Section of Hydrology and activities of the Committee on Snow, as published in the Proceedings of the American Geophysical Union, that snow surveyors can trace much that is of importance, not only to the history of snow surveying, but to all phases of snow research.
In 1932 Dr. Church, as chairman of the Committee on Hydrology of Snow, recommended that a Conference be held to highlight the advances associated with snow surveys, snow hydrology and water supply forecasting. The first conference was held in Reno, Nevada. At the conclusion of the 1933 conference, it was voted that the Conference should be made an annual meeting to be designated as the Western Interstate Snow Survey Conference, forerunner of the present Western Snow Conference.

Conference Founders

Personal representatives from Utah, California, and Nevada met at the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station, the pioneer in western snow surveying, on February 18, 1933, as guests of the University of Nevada. There was a registration of 30 from Nevada, 8 from California, and 2 from Utah. Representatives from southern California were blocked from attending by snow.
Paget, Greisser, Church, Clyde, Lowdermilk and Stafford are but a few of the leading forefathers.
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