Thursday, January 04, 2007

Lake Tahoe Site Of Snow Sampling School

DAVIS, Calif. — Scientists, engineers, and technicians from 12 Western states will convene in Tahoe City's Granlibakken Conference Center from January 7-12. They will receive training in snow sampling, avalanche recognition, outdoor survival and emergency care. The training also includes an overnight snow bivouac when each of the 60 participants are required to build a habitable snow hut and spend the night in it.

"Accurate snow sampling sometimes needs to be done in some pretty remote locations," says school coordinator Tony Tolsdorf. "It is rare, but occasionally snow samplers get caught in the elements and have to hole in and wait for help. It's a possibility we must recognize and prepare for."

The snow school is part of a cooperative effort to predict water supplies based on snow pack, precipitation, observed streamflow, soil moisture, and other climatic data. The school is conducted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. NRCS also heads the national Cooperative Snow Survey and water supply forecasting program in the 12 Western states, except for California, where the state's Department of Water Resources heads the program.

Scientific snow sampling in the Western United States began in Lake Tahoe's Mt. Rose in 1906, through the efforts of Dr. James Church of the University of Nevada. Modern forecasts complement Church's manual methods with over 700 automated SNOTEL (snow pack telemetry forecast) stations throughout the West. These stations monitor precipitation data and make it available on a daily basis to those who model stream flow and forecast water availability.

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