Snowpack

Why would anyone care about snow? Isn’t it just a nuisance, needing to be cleaned from roads and cars, causing delays, and making winter difficult? Actually, snow is really important in Maine – and in many places. It creates habitat for some animals; it gives cues to others, like fish, about when to migrate. Snow’s meltwater provides us with drinking water, but can also be a cause for concern when it melts quickly and causes floods. Snow is an economic engine too, with tourists flocking to Maine for skiing, snowmobiling, and winter sightseeing, among other activities. And finally, the changing seasons create special types of physical and chemical environments that plants and animals need in order to flourish.

Our big research question in this project asks, how does the nature of snowpack and timing of snowmelt differ in the different climate divisions of the State of Maine? Students and teachers are partnered with scientists from the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute, US Geological Survey, Maine Sea Grant, and the National Weather Service to learn more about the snow system, and to create a network of snow monitoring sites that can help answer questions about the future of Maine’s snowpack, all across the state. Teacher and student partners are collecting data on:

  • The onset of snowpack
  • Snowpack depths throughout the winter
  • New snow amounts
  • Snow melt

These data are really valuable – they are not collected in many places in Maine, especially places across all climate zones, and where there are forests.

This project, The Future of Four Seasons in Maine: a Scientist-Teacher-Student Partnership to investigate climate change in seasonally snow-covered watersheds, is funded by a grant to the University of Maine and Schoodic Institute from NOAA’s B-WET program.