Thursday 16 November 2023

BC's Snow Pillows

    All through the winter, snow piles up and accumulates on the tops of the mountains in British Columbia.  When it starts to warm up in the Spring, that huge amount of snow that piled up there begins to melt.  All of those rivers that run through BC, that were very low during the winter, suddenly, with all the mountain snow melt, begin to over flow and can cause flooding.

    To know what to expect, as far as possible flooding, BC had to figure out some way to measure and predict how much snow was up there on the mountains.  The six feet of snow that fell in one place, won’t contain the same amount of water in it as six feet of snow that fell in another place, because of compaction and maybe water inside it that has melted and froze.  

    The problem was solved by placing a mat on the ground with sensors in it that measured the weight of all the snow that accumulated on top of it.  The mat is called a “Snow Pillow”.  The measurement of the snow’s weight is automatically radioed to a station that keeps track of it.  

    I had never heard of a snow pillow until I started working at Forestry.  The snow pillow data can now be found on the internet, and it is very interesting to find out how much snow is accumulating in the mountains all around us.  Last year the snow accumulation around here was half of what normally falls and in the spring, the Fraser River didn’t overflow its banks like it normally does.

    After experiencing an extreme draught over the summer, with a lot of local people who depend on creeks for their water, became very concerned about loosing their water when the creek flows diminished or disappeared.  This winter everyone is hoping for at least a normal snowfall, if not an above normal one.

    Below is a photo of what a snow pillow site looks like during the summer.


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