Weather Monitoring Systems
Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) is an automated system of snowpack and related climate sensors operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the United States Department of Agriculture in the western United States. The sites are generally located in remote high-mountain watersheds where access is often difficult or restricted. Access for maintenance by the NRCS includes various modes from hiking and skiing to helicopters.
All SNOTEL sites measure snow water content, accumulated precipitation, and air temperature. Some sites also measure snow depth, wind speed, solar radiation, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. These data are used to forecast yearly water supplies, predict floods, and for general climate research.
Sites are designed to operate unattended and without maintenance for a year. They are battery powered with solar cell recharge. The condition of each site is monitored daily when it reports on eight operational functions. Serious problems or deteriorating performance trigger a response from the NRCS electronic technicians located in Data Collection Offices. The SNOTEL sites are polled by 2 master stations operated by NRCS in Boise, Idaho, and Ogden, Utah. A central computer at NRCS’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) in Portland, Oregon controls system operations and receives the data collected by the SNOTEL network.
Basic SNOTEL sites have a pressure sensing snow pillow, storage precipitation gage, and air temperature sensor. On-site microprocessors provide functions such as computing daily maximum, minimum, and average temperature information. Generally, sensor data is recorded every 15 minutes and reported out in a daily poll of all sites. Special polls are conducted more frequently in response to specific needs.
In Yellowstone, there are eleven SNOTEL stations: West Yellowstone (Madison Plateau), Canyon, Parker Peak, Two-Ocean Plateau, Thumb Divide, Lewis Lake Divide, Snake River, Sylvan Road, Sylvan Lake, Northeast Entrance, and Grassy Lake. The West Yellowstone, Grassy Lake, and Northeast Entrance stations are located just outside the boundaries of the Park.
Additionally, there are six “snow course” sites in Yellowstone: Old Faithful, Lake, Lewis Lake Divide, Norris, Lupine Creek, and Sylvan Road (located in the South Fork of the Shoshone River watershed near the eastern boundary of the Park). A snow course is a permanent site where manual measurements of snow depth and snow water equivalent are taken by trained observers. Measurements are usually taken around the first of the month during the winter and spring. Generally, the courses are about 1,000 feet long and are situated in small meadows protected from the wind.
There are four Climate Monitoring Stations in Yellowstone operated by the National Weather Service: Lake, Old Faithful, Tower Fall, and Mammoth. The Lake Station uses telephone circuits to provide information while the remainder use radio telemetry. When you see the “Current Conditions” from these locations in the park, these stations are the source of the statistical information.
There are six permanent RAWS [PDF] (Remote Automated Weather Stations) in the park: Quadrant, Tower Fall, Soda Butte, Cabin Creek, Thorofare, and Bechler [photo]. The park’s fire management program uses the RAWS system to determine seasonal fire conditions and potential strategies related to fuels and fire management. RAWS use satellites to transmit data. Each station has a GPS unit for receiving data but not used to transfer data. Data is transmitted ten minutes prior to each hour.
The RAWS antennas are 6 feet high, with a tubing mast up to 20 feet in height. The platform is 4 x 4 x 4 feet. They usually require at least one annual maintenance visit. Temporary stations primarily service wildland fire needs, but also serve requests from park resource management for research and monitoring. The antennas for these are 3 feet off the ground and the mast is 5 feet tall. They are typically set up on a temporary basis associated with a wildland fire or prescribed fire project.
|Sta ID*||Station Name||Current||Photo|
|MCID||Moose Creek, ID||Activity||Photo|
|LKW||Lake Yellowstone, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YDC||Denny Creek, YNP, MT||Activity||Photo|
|YFT||Old Faithful, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YHB||Horse Butte, YNP, MT||Activity||Photo|
|YHH||Holmes Hill, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YJC||Joseph’s Coat, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YLA||Lake Butte, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YLT||Little West Thumb, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YMC||Maple Creek, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YML||Mary Lake, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YMP||Mirror Lake Plateau. YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YMR||Madison River, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YMV||Mammoth Hot Sprgs, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YNR||Norris Junction, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YPK||Parker Peak, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YPP||Pitchstone Plateau, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YSB||Soda Butte, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YTP||The Promentory, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|YUF||Upper Falls, YNP, WY||Activity||Photo|
|* Clicking on Station ID will provide a map showing location of station.|
In addition to the seismic monitors, there are six strainmeters installed in Yellowstone.
|B205||East of Norris Junction at the end of the waste
water treatment plant service road
|B206||Southwest of the Canyon Junction||N/A|
|B207||Southeast of Madison Junction (off the Mesa
|B208||Near Lake (off a dirt road running northwest out
of the Government Complex)
|B944||South of West Thumb, north of Grant Village||Photo|
|B945||One mile WSW of Chickadee Lake (NW of West Thumb)||Photo|
There are 15 GPS ground deformation monitoring stations in YNP as well.
|HVWY||Southwest Hayden Valley||Photo|
|LKWY||Near Lake, off a dirt road running northwest out of the Government Complex (colo w/ B208)||Photo|
|MAWY||Lower Mammoth area, east of the school over an in-ground vault (Near athletic field).||Photo|
|NRWY||East of Norris Junction at the end of the waste water treatment plant service road (colo w/ B205)||Photo|
|OFW2||Near the cell tower, south of the Government Complex||Photo|
|WLWY||Southwest of White Lake||Photo|
|P680||South of West Yellowstone, approximately 2 miles west of the YNP border||Photo|
|P709||Promentory Point @ Lake Yellowstone||Photo|
|P710||Grassy Lake Area, four miles east of the lake||Photo|
|P711||South of Madison Junction just east of the water tank south of N junction of Firehole Canyon Road||Photo|
|P712||West of US191, 5 miles south of YNP boundary at the end of Road FS310||Photo|
|P713||Grant Village east of the Marina Junction||N/A|
|P716||Southwest of Canyon Junction (colo w/ B206)||Photo|
|P720||Just east of the Slough Creek Campground||N/A|
|P721||Just south of Northeast Entrance Road, at Northeast Entrance Station.||Photo|
All of the systems above use repeaters/relays located on Purple Mountain and Mt. Washburn to transmit data back to the Plate Boundary Observatory.
Twelve stream gages are located within Yellowstone National Park to measure the flow of river water and, in some cases, its temperature. Such information is used by biologists and climatologists as well as geologists. YNP supports the network through its geothermal monitoring program.
YNP also coordinates a chloride-flux program that combines the stream-gage measurements with chemical analysis of the waters to determine the amounts of volcanogenic materials dissolved in river waters. There are currently no sensors installed to provide continuous data on any aspect of water chemistry. Other studies of Yellowstone waters are undertaken by individual researchers with collection permits who sample waters, usually on an annual basis.
|G1||Boiling River @ Mammoth near N Entrance||Data||Photo|
|G2||Gardner River @ North Entrance||Data||Photo|
|G3||Soda Butte Creek @ NE Entrance||Data||Photo|
|G4||Soda Butte Creek near Lamar Ranger Station||Data||Photo|
|G5||Lamar River NE of Tower Junction||Data||Photo|
|G6||Tantalus Creek @ Norris Junction||Data||Photo|
|G7||Madison River near West Entrance||Data||Photo|
|G8||Gibbon River south of Madison Junction||Data||Photo|
|G9||Firehole River south of Firehole Falls||Data||Photo|
|G10||Yellowstone River @ Lake Outlet||Data||Photo|
|G11||Firehole River @ OF. NE of Lodge||Data||Photo|
|G12||Snake River @ Flagg Ranch||Data||Photo|
Sources: National Park Service, NRCS, National Weather Service, USGS, YVO
Environmental Monitoring Systems
There are four environmental monitoring stations within the park, largely used to monitor compliance with federal air quality and other environmental guidelines. For example, there’s a deposition monitor at Tower (near the ranger station), carbon monoxide and ambient air quality monitoring systems at the West Entrance Station and Old Faithful, and an ozone, fine particulate and sulfur dioxide monitoring system at Lake (in the government maintenance area near the water tank).
The air quality monitoring station at Old Faithful is located in a shelter southeast of the Old Faithful Lodge, and monitors air quality in the winter use parking areas next to the Visitor Center and Warming Hut. There’s a web cam on the shelter, the images from which are available to the general public.
The air quality monitoring station at the West Entrance is monitored and maintained by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and is located on the outbound lane across the road from the station.