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Mountains of Wyoming, and throughout the western United States, are “water towers” for downstream rivers and aquifers. Snow in mountain ecosystems is the major source of water to more than 60 million people in the western US and Canada. Most water delivered to major river systems in Wyoming results from spring runoff of large snowfields above 8,000’ elevation, which are distant from water users. Wyoming’s topography includes portions of the snow-dominated and humid Rocky Mountains interspersed among extensive high plains and river basins that are predominantly semi-arid. Small changes to these systems can have disproportionately large and unforeseen impacts on people and ecosystems.
The snow hydrology team will tackle a number of research questions, using a variety of methods. These include: What are the effects of forest canopy on snow accumulation and snowmelt processes? How does snowmelt partition between subsurface (soil and groundwater) flow and streamflow? How can we accurately characterize snow redistribution processes? Research methods will include meteorological data, snow-water equivalent measurements using LiDAR, GPR and remote sensing, and numerical modeling.
Figure: A meteorological station in the Snowy Range.