Teton Conservation District is engaged in snowpack chemistry monitoring in Teton County, Wyoming. Through sampling at different high-elevation sites in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah over the past 25 years, this USGS project aims to obtain a composite sample of the chemistry of annual precipitation at high elevations.
Rocky Mountain Regional Snowpack Chemistry
Snowpacks collect atmospheric deposition throughout the snowfall season and offer a unique opportunity to obtain a composite sample of the chemistry of most of the annual precipitation at high elevations. This USGS project was created to sample the full snowpack at over 50 sites in the Rocky Mountains—including five in Teton County— to determine sources of acid deposition to sensitive mountain watersheds. Since 1993, the project has become the most expansive and comprehensive snowpack-chemical monitoring network of its kind. Teton Conservation District contributes funding and technical assistance to this USGS program.
Through this program, long-term trends are being developed in snowpack chemistry that enable estimation of normal or background levels, and identification of elevated chemical concentrations at locations where atmospheric deposition of acidic compounds is a concern. The project primarily monitors federally-managed lands in including several protected wilderness areas in National Forests and Parks. Applications of this work include identifying regional trends in chemical concentration and deposition, as well as monitoring subregional or local effects including power-plant emissions in Colorado or snowmobile usage in Yellowstone and other areas.
Snotel data collection network
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) installs, operates, and maintains an automated system to collect snowpack and related climate data called SNOTEL (which stands for SNOwpack TELemetry). The system evolved from NRCS's Congressional mandate in the mid-1930's "to measure snowpack in the mountains of the West and forecast the water supply." The programs began with manual measurements of snow courses; since 1980, SNOTEL has reliably and efficiently collected the data needed to produce water supply forecasts and to support the resource management activities of NRCS and others.
Climate studies, air and water quality investigations, and resource management concerns are all served by the modern SNOTEL network. The high-elevation watershed locations and the broad coverage of the network provide important data collection opportunities to researchers, water managers, and emergency managers for natural disasters such as floods.