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Snowfall along Red Run

December 7, 2011

The large sloping banks of the Red Run pick up lots of snow.

The effect of snowmelt on potential flooding is a real concern for many in Michigan.
Besides flooding, rapid snowmelt can trigger landslides and debris flows along river banks.
Annual springtime flood events are common as rain falls on existing snowpacks.
Heavy snowfall followed by a sudden thaw and heavy rain also causes flood events.
Ice blocks carried by the floodwaters increase the damage done by winters’ thaw.

Winter Snowflakes

Winter Snowflakes

Gauges such as a “weight precipitation gauge” measure the liquid equivalent of snowfall.
A standard snow gauge suffers from the same problem as that of the rain gauge
— when conditions are windy the snow may be blown across gauge funnel
resulting in the amount of snow fallen to be under-reported.
The water equivalent of a given amount of snow, is the depth of a layer of water,
having the same mass and upper area.

New snow commonly has a density of around 8% of water.
This means that (13 in) of new snow melts down to (1 in) of water.
Once the snow is on the ground, it will settle under its own weight
until its density is approximately 30% of water.
By late spring, snow densities typically reach a maximum of 50% of water,
occuring primarily by melting/refreezing and by direct solar radiation.

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