Continentality and the snowpack density distribution in the western United States

TitleContinentality and the snowpack density distribution in the western United States
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference1995
AuthorsKosnik, K. E.
Conference Name63rd Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 63rd Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedApril 1995
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationSparks, Nevada
KeywordsClimate, Indices, Snow density

An index of continentality is used to evaluate the distribution of snowpack density in the western United States. Continentality describes the climatic differences arising from proximity to major water bodies and from the effects of a continental land mass. The ability of maritime air masses to penetrate inland and impart a moderating effect on surface air temperature is reflected by the continentality index. Close proximity to the Pacific Ocean has the effect of providing abundant moisture for precipitation and minimizing the annual range in temperatures. The continental interior experiences an increased temperature range and a dryer climate. The dependence of snowfall and, ultimately, snowpack density on atmospheric temperature and water vapor supply, suggests a link between continentality and snowpack density. The usefulness of a continentality index to capture climate conditions relevant to snow density is evaluated.