Submitted to: American Geophysical Union
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/5/2004
Publication Date: 9/5/2004
Citation: Schaffer, G., Marks, D. 2004. Toward a Continental-Scale Mesonet: The USDA National Resources Conservation Service SCAN-SNOTEL System, EOS Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, Vol 85 (47): F801 (CD-ROM Abstract)
Technical Abstract: Since 1978 snow deposition and SWE in the inter-mountain western US have been monitored by the NRCS SNOTEL (SNOwpack TELemetry) system. This revolutionary network utilizes Meteorburst technology to telemeter data back to a central location in near real-time. With a pilot program starting in 1991, NRCS introduced SCAN (Soil Climate and Analysis Network) adding a focus on soil moisture and climate in regions outside the intermountain west. In the mid-1990's SNOTEL sites began to be augmented to match the full climate instrumentation (air temperature, humidity, solar radiation, wind, and soil moisture and temperature in addition to precipitation, snow depth and SWE) of the SCAN system. At present there are nearly 700 SNOTEL sites in 12 states in the western US and Alaska, and over 100 SCAN sites in 40 states, Puerto Rico, and several foreign countries. Though SNOTEL was originally a western snow-monitoring network, differences between SCAN and SNOTEL have largely disappeared. The combined SNOTEL/SCAN system provides a continental-scale mesonet to support river basin to continental scale hydro-climatic analysis. The system is flexible and based on off-the-shelf data recording technology, allowing instrumentation, sampling and averaging intervals to be specified by site conditions, issues, or scientific questions. Because of the NRCS data management structure, all sites have active telemetery and provide near real-time access to data through the internet. An ongoing research program is directed to improved instrumentation for measuring precipitation, snow depth and SWE, and soil moisture and temperature. Future directions include expansion of the network to be more comprehensive, and to develop focused monitoring efforts to more effectively observe elevational and regional gradients, and to capture high intensity hydro-climatic events such as potential flooding from convective storms and rain-on-snow.