Snow accumulation and distribution in an Alpine Watershed


  • Kelly Elder,

  • Jeff Dozier,

  • Joel Michaelsen


Distribution of snow water equivalence (SWE) was measured in the Emerald Lake watershed located in Sequoia National Park, California, by taking hundreds of depth measurements and density profiles at six locations during the 1986, 1987 and 1988 water years. A stratified sampling scheme was evaluated by identifying and mapping zones of similar snow properties on the basis of topographic parameters that account for variations in both accumulation and ablation. Elevation, slope, and radiation values calculated from a digital elevation model were used to determine the zones. Of the variables studied, net radiation was of primary importance. Field measurements of SWE were combined with the physical attributes of the watershed and clustered to identify similar classes of SWE. The entire basin was then partitioned into zones for each survey date. Statistical analysis showed that partitioning the watershed on the basis of topographic and radiation variables does produce superior results over a simple random sample.