Snow Density Observations in the Washington Cascades

TitleSnow Density Observations in the Washington Cascades
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2006
AuthorsKay, J. E.
Conference Name74th Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 74th Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedApril 2006
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationLas Cruces, NM
KeywordsSnow density, Washington Cascades, SWE, snow modeling, SNOTEL, density profile, elevation

Density is a fundamental physical property of snow. Both the meteorological conditions during snowfall and snow pack processes affect snow density. As a result, field observations of snow density vary from 10 to 500 kgm-3. Yet, conversion between snow water equivalence (SWE) and snow depth and modeling of snow processes is often accomplished using a fixed snow density of 100 kgm-3. I use snow telemetry (SNOTEL) snow depth and snow water equivalent measurements to estimate snow density in the Washington Cascades, a maritime, temperature-driven snow pack. Spot field measurements are used to validate the seasonal evolution of densities estimated from SNOTEL observations and to understand the vertical profile of snow density. Then, using visual inspection and principal components analysis (PCA), I document and compare the seasonal evolution and regional coherency of SWE and snow density. Specifically, I address: Can SNOTEL observations reveal seasonal and spatial patterns in snow density?, What is the regional coherency of SWE and snow density on seasonal timescales?, and How is snow density influenced by elevation and location in a cross barrier flow?