Snow Water Equivalent

SNOTEL Site: Ebbetts Pass, CA
Site Number: 462
Latitude: 38 deg; 33min N
Longitude: 119 deg; 48 min W
Elevation: 8765 feet

 

Snow is natures way of storing water during the winter, slowly to be release as the temperature warms, supplying natural systems with much needed water in the dry summer months.

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Thirty-one consecutive years of snowpack measurements recorded at Ebbetts Pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains are embedded in the form of this cabinet, from 1980 through 2010. Sourcing data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the carved plywood form is a sinuous, three-dimensional graph of snowpack measurements by year, with 1980 at the bottom and 2010 at the top. The height of each drawer correlates to the total annual precipitation - the less water available in the snowpack, the less space available in the drawer. 


SNOTEL stands for SNOwpack TELemetry. Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) is the amount of water contained within the snowpack. It can be thought of as the depth of water that would theoretically result if you melted the entire snowpack instantaneously. The formula is a function of snow density and depth.