Student Activities

Exploring Climate Science: Snowpack

Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade

In this “Exploring Climate Science (Snowpack)” activity, students will define snow water equivalent and make predictions on the effects warming climates could have on snowpack.


The students will be able to:
1.   Define the snow water equivalent (SWE)
2.  Make two predictions about the affects warming climates could have on snowpack


Step 1
Review climate. Discuss the local climate. What happens in the winter versus the summer time? Is there snow in the winter?

Step 2
1. Pre-teach vocabulary: snow water equivalent and snowpack.
2. Lecture: Snow is an extremely valuable resource because it stores water in a frozen state (snowpack) releasing it slowly in the spring time. The release of this water allows us to capture more of it to use for drinking and irrigation. For many states, the key water reservoir is snowpack. The important thing to study with snowpack is the water content. Sometimes snow that falls can have very little water (light fluffy snow) and other times it can have a high water content (heavy thick snow). It is important to scientists to measure the amount of water in snow (snow water equivalent) because that's how we know how much water will be released in the springtime. If the snow water equivalent and snowpack is low, cities may have to in force stricter water conservation regulations for that year. How do scientists measure snow water equivalent?

Step 3
3. Display video— Department of Water Resources snow survey video and discuss learning.

Video Ca Dept of Water Resources Snow Surveying [Note: wmv format]


1. How can climate change influence snowpack? If more precipitation falls as rain instead of snow, what will happen to animals like the weasel that go through a morphological change in the winter to have a white coat instead of brown? Show students example summer and winter pelts of weasel.
2. Exit ticket question: What is snow water equivalent? How can climate change affect snowpack? 



Download Snowpack vocabulary worksheet

Last updated: October 23, 2015