Serreze, M., M. Clark, R. Armstrong, D. McGinnis, and R. Pulwarty, 1999: Characteristics of western U.S. snowpack telemetry (SNOTEL) data. Water Resour. Res., 35, 2145-2160.


Daily station data from U.S. Department of Agriculture snowpack telemetry (SNOTEL) archives through the 1995/1996 season are used to examine the climatic characteristics of snow water equivalent (SWE) for the mountainous western United States and linkages with precipitation (PRE) and temperature. Quality control procedures were developed to screen outliers in each variable. SWE for April 1 at the SNOTEL sites compares favorably with colocated snow course values. Regional differences in the seasonal cycle of SWE are discussed in terms of winter-half precipitation, temperature, and the corresponding SWE/PRE ratio. The percentage of annual precipitation represented by snowfall is highest for the Sierra Nevada (67%), northwestern Wyoming (64%), Colorado (63%), and Idaho/western Montana (62%) sectors, manifesting high SWE/PRE ratios and winter-half precipitation maxima. Lower percentages for the Pacific Northwest (50%) and Arizona/New Mexico (39%) reflect lower ratios and, especially for the latter region, a larger fraction of PRE falling outside of the accumulation season. Interannual variability in SWE in the colder inland regions is primarily controlled by available precipitation. For the warmed Pacific coast regions and Arizona/New Mexico the more important factor is the SWE/PRE ratio, illustrating the sensitivity of these areas to climate change.