Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Mark Serreze

Second Advisor

Michael Dwyer

Third Advisor

Robert Anderson



Snowpack cold content (CCsnow) is the energy required to bring a snowpack to an isothermal temperature of 0.0°C. CCsnow is a snow characteristic that integrates the response of a snowpack to components of the snow-cover energy balance. An improved understanding of the spatiotemporal variability of CCsnow may provide insight into dynamics and sensitivity of the snowpack to climate change. In this study, snowpit observations of snow water equivalent (SWE), snow temperature (Tsnow) and snow density (⍴snow) from the United States Geologic Survey Rocky Mountain Snowpack Chemistry Program (USGS RMS) were used to evaluate vertical CCsnow profiles over a 16-year period in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Since 1993, USGS RMS has collected snowpack data throughout the Rocky Mountain region. Spatial grouping of locations based on similar CCsnow was evaluated, trend, and regression analyses were performed. No clear geographical patterns in the vertical profiles of Tsnow, ⍴snow or CCsnow is apparent; what stands out is the variability. At least in some cases, this variability can be related to differences in air temperature, precipitation, aspect, and elevation. In others, the causes appear to be more subtle.