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Utah Travel Headlines

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Scientists Develop Better Way To Predict Utah Snow Conditions

Utah is famous for its snow - long called the "greatest snow on earth" by those who love skiing, boarding and other snow sports.

Now University of Utah scientists have devised a more accurate way to predict snowfall amounts and density - whether the snow will be dry powder or wet slush. The National Weather Service has started using the model for Utah forecasts, and may use it in other areas.

Having better snowfall predictions will enhance safety and enjoyment in many ways. Those charged with plowing roads and grooming runs will be able to make better decisions about allocating resources. Snow density is also a key factor in avalanche safety. Better forecasts will help managers know when and where to do avalanche control work and when to close backcountry areas.

The enhanced forecasts may also help people know where to ski to find ultimate powder.

Science Daily has this news report about the new forecast method. Below are excerpts.

"We've developed a formula that predicts the water content of snow as a function of temperature and wind speed," says the study's senior author, Jim Steenburgh, professor and chair of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah.

"This is about improving snowfall amount forecasts -- how much snow is going to fall," says Steenburgh. "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. We are working on incorporating this into the UtahSkiWeather.com website" run by the university.

The new method "is also helpful to avalanche forecasters," says the study's first author, Trevor Alcott, a doctoral student in atmospheric sciences. "We're forecasting snow density, which is related to the stability of freshly fallen snow."

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