SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 22 (UPI) — University of Utah scientists say they’ve developed an easier way for meteorologists to predict snowfall amounts and density.
The method is based on a study of 457 winter storms during eight years at 9,644 feet in the Wasatch Range of Utah’s Alta Ski Area. Professor Jim Steenburgh, chairman of atmospheric sciences at the university, said the method has been adopted by the National Weather Service for use across Utah — and it could be adjusted for use anywhere.
The method was created after researchers determined forecasters could predict snowfall density most accurately using only two variables: temperatures and wind speeds at mountain crest level.
“We’ve developed a formula that predicts the water content of snow as a function of temperature and wind speed,” Steenburgh, said. “This is about improving snowfall amount forecasts — how much snow is going to fall. As a nice side benefit for the ski community, this will tell you whether you’re going to get powder or concrete when it snows.
The new method is also helpful to avalanche forecasters, said doctoral student Trevor Alcott, the study’s first author. “We’re forecasting snow density, which is related to the stability of freshly fallen snow.”
The study appears in the journal Weather and Forecasting.
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