Snowpack analysis

David Marchetti
Western State College of Colorado
Author Profile

  1. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

    This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

    • Scientific Accuracy
    • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
    • Pedagogic Effectiveness
    • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
    • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

    For more information about the peer review process itself, please see

  2. This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see

This page first made public: Apr 30, 2008


Measurement and analysis of snowpack density and SWE. Students collect field data on the snowpack, analyse and interpret the data, and present their results.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



Undergraduate course in geomorphology and a water science course in environmental studies.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Determination of earth material properties - in this case snow (weighing, measuring, etc), observational skills (grain sizes, hardness), very basic math and dimensional anaysis

How the activity is situated in the course

as a stand alone exercise or lab activity


Content/concepts goals for this activity

collecting field data through measurement and observation
and determining the water equivalent of the snowpack from that data

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

relating their collected data on the snowpack to an eventual spring-time water source of subsurface and overland flow

spatial extrapolation of their point data to the entire drainage basin

estimates of uncertainty in their data collection

Other skills goals for this activity

presentation of their snow stratigraphy using a computer graphing/drawing program

working in a group

Description of the activity/assignment

Students collect data on the winter snowpack and using their observations they determine the water equivalent of the pack. Students need to prepare and assemble equipment for winter fieldwork, collect meaningful field data, interpret their data, assess the uncertainty of their measurements, and evaluate the usefulness of extrapolating their point data to the entire watershed.
Designed for a geomorphology course
Uses geomorphology to solve problems in other fields

Determining whether students have met the goals

Their completed lab assignments and my observations in the field.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Full disclosure: this lab is based on a few different exercises I found on-line three years ago.

New TTE Logo Small

Teaching in the Field resources from across Teach the Earth »

Key Resources:

Join the Community: or Search

Geomorphology resources from across Teach the Earth »

Key Resources:

Join the Community:

or Search