Elevational Differences in Snowpack Variability: A Case for Increased Monitoring In the Olympic Mountains

TitleElevational Differences in Snowpack Variability: A Case for Increased Monitoring In the Olympic Mountains
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2010
AuthorsMcDonald, S., and Barry D.
Conference Name78th Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 78th Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedApril 2010
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationLogan, UT
KeywordsDungeness Creek, snowpack variability, climate change, Olympic Mountains, rain on snow, streamflow modeling

Climate change projections indicate that snowpack could be most affected at mid-elevations due to an increase in rain-on-snow events. For the past three winters, we collected snow and meteorological data from eleven snow courses and six remote mini-meteorological stations in the Dungeness watershed of the Olympic Mountains in western Washington. We compared our mid-elevation snow and weather data with data collected from the Dungeness SNOTEL over the same period. Most of our snowpack data do not correlate well with SNOTEL data, and temperature and relative humidity readings from our stations suggest that there are additional site and elevational differences that suggest that the existing SNOTEL site does not capture the range of variability within the watershed. Our findings indicate that increased permanent monitoring (e.g., by new SNOTEL sites) of snowpack in the Dungeness watershed as well as throughout the rain-on-snow elevation areas of the Pacific Northwest would improve our understanding of potential climate change influences on snowpack at all elevations, improve spatially-explicit snowpack and streamflow modeling efforts, and support improvements in water resources forecasting and management.