Remote Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) Station Proposed for Olympic National Park

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Date: September 10, 2007
Contact: Barb Maynes, 360-565-3005

An environmental assessment (EA) analyzing the proposed installation of a Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) site on Buckinghorse Ridge in the upper Elwha watershed was released today by Olympic National Park. 

The proposed SNOTEL site would be used to gather important information about mountain snowpack, weather patterns and climate change.  This proposal has been developed in partnership with the North Olympic Peninsula Resource Conservation & Development Council (RC&DC) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“A SNOTEL site high within the Elwha watershed would provide a number of important benefits, both to park staff and to regional weather and water supply forecasters,” said park Superintendent Bill Laitner.  “We invite interested members of the public to read the EA and provide their comments about it to us.”

Snow pack and other climate information are critical to community and watershed planning and provide important indicators about global climate change.  The NRCS (formerly the Soil Conservation Service) has collected such data since the 1930s to help forecast summer water supplies for urban and rural communities and provide critical information for agriculture and fisheries management. 

Snow pack monitoring in the Olympics is currently limited to the eastern slopes of the range, while snowfall and precipitation estimates in the interior and western Olympics are based exclusively on computer models.  These models are fraught with inaccuracies, due primarily to the rugged and complex landscape and steep precipitation gradient. As a result, the snow conditions at high elevations on the west side and interior of the park are largely unknown. 

Since the 1980s, automated SNOTEL stations have become the most reliable method for collecting snow pack and climate data.  Over 700 SNOTEL sites throughout the western United States measure snow depth, air temperature, and the amount of water contained in the snow pack. The data is then transmitted to a central computer facility and made available online.

Snow pack monitoring began on the outer eastern slopes of the Olympics (Deer Park, Cox Valley and Hurricane Ridge) in the late 1940s. The Waterhole SNOTEL site near Hurricane Ridge is operated by the NRCS and provides hourly updates that are available online by visiting the Current Weather Conditions page of the Olympic National Park website.

This project would be funded through the NRCS and the North Olympic Peninsula RC&D, which has recently received a grant to use remote sensing and meteorological data to provide daily estimates of snow pack and water supply. 

The SNOTEL EA may be reviewed and public comment submitted online by selecting Olympic National Park at the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website, https://parkplanning.nps.gov, or sent to the following address.  All comments must be received by October 11, 2007.

Superintendent – SNOTEL EA
Olympic National Park
600 East Park Avenue
Port Angeles, WA 98362

Commentors should be aware that their entire comment – including personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time.  While commentors can ask that their personal identifying information be withheld from public review, the NPS cannot guarantee that this will be possible.

For more information about this project, visit the National Park Service’s Planning Environment and Public Comment website at https://parkplanning.nps.gov or call the park at 360-565-3004.



Last updated: February 28, 2015

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