Climatological Characterization of Snowfall and Snowdrift in Minnesota

Principal Investigator(s):

Mark Seeley, Professor, Soil, Water & Climate

Project summary:

An evaluation of snow control strategies for the mitigation of snow drifting problems which disrupt transportation requires a historical and spatial analysis of snowfall climatology, especially in the context of landscape features and changing land use. Previous work from other states has highlighted methods to examine the frequencies of snowfall deposition events, snow water equivalence and density changes, total snow transport as affected by winds and associated interactions with topography, vegetation, and road cuts. These types of analyses have been used as a database to evaluate snow control designs and methods for specific sections of highways in other states. Areal extrapolation of point specific data sources, though problematic, can be accomplished using kriging techniques coupled with landscape information maintained in a GIS mode. Application of this approach to evaluating snow control strategies for Minnesota highways and roads has been prohibited by the lack of adequate historical snowfall data. The first phase of this project will complete the digitization of historical snowfall data which can be used to provide a snowfall climatology for each MnDOT district in the state. The second phase of the project will characterize the snow accumulation season, snow deposition frequencies, snow density, snow transport, and snow storage using similar methods to those of a Wyoming study (Tabler, 1997). In addition, snowdrift melting rates will be estimated to examine the effects on farm fields where either structural or living snow fences may be used for snow control. The database used will include all digitized snowfall data for the state held by the State Climatology Office. Phase three of the project will include the development of an interactive web site which will host the snow climatology database and products derived from the analyses. This information will be accessible to MnDOT engineers and managers who wish to optimize snow control practices fo

Project details:

  • Project number: 1999023
  • Start date: 05/1999
  • Project status: Completed
  • Research area: Environment and Energy
  • Topics: Snow and ice control