Taxonomy term


Water weight and surface rebound trigger small quakes in California

On average, a cubic meter of snow weighs less than 100 kilograms, but heavy, compacted snow can weigh more than 500 kilograms per cubic meter, with glacial ice approaching 900 kilograms per cubic meter. In California, as elsewhere, the weight of winter snow and spring runoff pushes down on the landscape, affecting stresses on fault systems, which may trigger small quakes. As the snow melts and the runoff makes its way downstream, land rebounds, setting off more small earthquakes.

12 Oct 2017

Slipping point: Snow scientists dig in to decipher avalanche triggers

Scientists are studying avalanche triggers to understand how, where and when avalanches may occur. They’re starting to get a handle on the structure of packed snow and how avalanches fail and propagate.

15 Feb 2016

Shrinking snowpack projected in western U.S. as rain-snow boundary climbs higher

Gauging the impacts of climate change on future precipitation is challenging, especially in the western U.S., a region with highly variable temperatures, precipitation patterns and terrain. But understanding such impacts in the West — and, in particular, how much precipitation will fall as snow versus rain in the future — is important given the region’s dependence on wintertime snowfall as a freshwater resource. Now, a new study forecasts a broad shift from snow to rain for much of the West — a projection that will require attention from land and water resource managers planning for the future.

24 Apr 2015

A front-row seat at a fire-and-ice show

Many of the world’s volcanoes are high enough and cold enough to sport seasonal snow, and some even boast year-round glaciers. But what happens when those volcanoes erupt and molten lava hits snow and ice? Observing such extreme interactions of hot and cold is often dangerous in the field, but a slow-moving basaltic eruption in Russia in 2012 provided the right conditions to give scientists a close-up view on one fire-meets-ice display.

13 Apr 2015

Snow triggers quakes on Mount Rainier

A new study indicates that more than 150,000 low-frequency earthquakes that occurred on Mount Rainier over the past decade were caused by snowfall that triggered stick-slip sliding of glaciers.

25 Dec 2014

Down to Earth With: Snow Hydrologist Jeff Dozier

It’s mid-January. Snow hydrologist Jeff Dozier relaxes at his sister’s cabin near Lake Tahoe, his bare feet resting on a coffee table. His teenage son, who spent the day competing in a ski race, lounges on the couch beside his father, listening to music. Snacking on cheese and crackers, the two look utterly content.

13 Jun 2012

Voices: If global warming is real, why is it snowing in DC?

Over the last week, I’ve heard a lot of people say, “If global warming is real, why is it still snowing in Washington, D.C.?”

Well, I have a response: It’s weather, not climate.

11 Feb 2010

Can snowstorms be categorized like hurricanes or other hazards?

On Dec. 18, 2009, a winter storm deposited two feet of snow in a swath from the North Carolina mountains to Baltimore, Md., shutting down airports for days. Eight days later, a Christmas blizzard ripped through the Midwest, stranding holiday travelers in Nebraska and the Dakotas under almost a foot of snow. But which storm was worse? It’s a difficult call to make, because unlike other natural disasters, snowstorms have no categorization system. But researchers at NOAA are changing that: They are creating a unique ranking system to show how winter storms impact society.

04 Feb 2010

AGU: Colorado ski industry owes Great Salt Lake thank you note

SAN FRANCISCO — Colorado skiers have long suspected that snowfall is fluffiest when winds blow salt and dust eastward from the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Now that wisdom is confirmed by science.

After measuring cloud particles from plane flights over Colorado, atmospheric chemist Kim Prather of Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla and colleagues determined that nascent snow largely formed as a result of suspended Utah salt.

In order for snow and rain droplets to form, water needs a particle base on which to accumulate. This process is called nucleation.

20 Dec 2008