Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring runoff: What is it and why does it matter?

When the weather gets warmer, snow in the mountains begins to melt. This is called spring runoff, and it’s crucial that researchers measure and understand it.

“Spring runoff is that big push of water that we get from snowmelt across the state,” says Dr. Ginger Paige, a professor in the department of Ecosystem Science and Management. What WyCEHG is trying to do is get better numbers on predicting the amount of spring runoff that may occur, by measuring snow water equivalent.”

The information that WyCEHG and other researchers collect is an essential resource to people across the state of Wyoming.

“We need that information for watershed planning, for allocation of water in our basins,” says Dr. Paige. “It’s also important in terms of potential flooding. All of the emergency management offices across the state are looking at this information for mitigating flood damages. The information is also valuable for agriculture, for farmers and ranchers and irrigators who need to know how much water is available.”

All of the information collected by researchers is available to anyone who is interested. The National Resources Conservation Service SNOTEL (short for Snow Telemetry) website shows information about snow water equivalents and spring runoff all across the state of Wyoming. You can also find hydrologic information for Wyoming at the NOAA hydrology website

By Robin Rasmussen

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