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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Northwest Watershed Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #334698

Research Project: Understanding Snow and Hydrologic Processes in Mountainous Terrain with a Changing Climate

Location: Northwest Watershed Research Center

Title: Technical report: The design and evaluation of a basin-scale wireless sensor network for mountain hydrology

item ZHANG, ZIRAN - University Of California
item GLASER, STEVE - University Of California
item BALES, ROGER - University Of California
item CONKLIN, MARTHA - University Of California
item RICE, ROBERT - University Of California
item Marks, Daniel

Submitted to: Water Resources Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/18/2017
Publication Date: 5/15/2017
Citation: Zhang, Z., Glaser, S., Bales, R., Conklin, M., Rice, R., Marks, D.G. 2017. Technical report: The design and evaluation of a basin-scale wireless sensor network for mountain hydrology. Water Resources Research. 53:4487-4498.

Interpretive Summary: This paper describes the development and implementation of a watershed-scale instrument deployed over the 5500 km2 American River (AMR) basin above Sacramento, California in the Sierra Nevada. The AMR provides water supplies for both central valley agriculture and for domestic use, as well as electrical power for both. We use the first full year of data from the 14 wireless sensor networks distributed across the AMR basin to illustrate the value of this large-scale monitoring effort and potential for both science and resource management of the approach. This project represents the next generation of ground-based water resources monitoring.

Technical Abstract: A Wireless sensor network (WSN), as an example of a basin scale instrument, was developed and deployed for long-term hydrologic monitoring in the upper, seasonally snow-covered part of the American River, primarily to measure temperature, relative humidity and snow depth in the 2000 km2 basin that is above 1500 m elevation. The WSNs consist of 14 sensor clusters spread over the basin, each with 10 measurement nodes that are strategically placed to measure temperature, relative humidity and snow depth across different elevations, aspects, slopes and vegetation densities. Considerable variability exists in the within-cluster measurements compared to basin variability, reflecting the importance of aspect and forest density on ground-level temperature and precipitation, snow accumulation and melt, and atmospheric water vapor content. Results showed notable differences between spatially averaged WSN measurements within a cluster, as compared to single-point measurements at a met station or snow pillow, or to spatial estimates of snow accumulation and melt derived from operational data. Coherently, WSN data characterized variability in aforementioned variables within the basin. Dew point temperature data were used to develop a rain/snow transition profile for the upper basin. Network statistics during the first year of operation, demonstrated that the WSN was robust for cold, wet and windy conditions in the basin. The technology used in the WSN reduced adverse effects, such as multipath-fading of signal and clock drifting, seen in previous studies.