Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies

Swamp Angel Study Site
Swamp Angel Study Plot (subalpine)

Senator Beck Study Site
Senator Beck Study Plot (alpine)

Putney Study Site
Putney Study Plot (summit)

Senator Beck Basin Stream Gauge
Basin Stream Gauge

St Paul Basestation
St. Paul RF Base Station

The Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies serves the mountain science community and regional resource managers by hosting & conducting interdisciplinary research and conducting integrative 24/7/365 monitoring that captures weather, snowpack, radiation, soils, plant community and hydrologic signals of regional climate trends.

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The Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies and our Senator Beck Basin Study Area serve the mountain science community and regional resource managers by hosting and conducting interdisciplinary research and sustaining integrative 24/7/365 monitoring that captures weather, snowpack, radiation, soils, plant community and hydrologic signals of regional climate trends. Senator Beck Basin is also the home of the Colorado Dust-on-Snow Program. The slide show above illustrates some of the research teams we've hosted, and we invite additional researchers to utilize Senator Beck Basin facilities and data. For more, see the CSAS Fact Sheet.


  • November 9: Join CSAS in welcoming our new Executive Director to Silverton! Snacks and refreshments will be provided. Starts at 5pm on Friday, November 13th. Free and open to the public. Contact for more information.
  • October 5: CSAS's Summer 2015 data is now available, as Excel workbooks, on our Archived Data webpage. The datasets span June 21, 2015 through September 30, 2015. Our comprehensive workbook contains several worksheets for various time intervals, including 1-hour, 3-hour, and 24-hour summary data. Also presented are updated Metadata for Swamp Angel, Senator Beck, and Putney Study Plots. The complete, integrative Senator Beck Basin dataset revealed compelling details and insight on the highly unusual “Water Year” (October 2014 through 2015) throughout Colorado.

  • September 1: The Arizona Republic recently ran an extended series of articles describing stresses on the Colorado River system and its water users, with a focus on Colorado snow. CSAS's Chris Landry spent a day with the reporting team in April and the article features visits to several of our Colorado Dust-on-Snow program field sites, along with quotes from Landry and extracts from the CODOS Water Year 2015 Season Summary. View the complete Arizona Republic article by clicking here.

  • June 25: CSAS Executive Director Chris Landry presented a review of "what has the science taught us ..." about dust-on-snow at the 40th annual Colorado Water Workshop in Gunnison on June 24. The workshop has a long and storied history of presenting new science and "all responsible positions" on water issues, and this panel discussion included a review of climate change science as well. Neither dust-on-snow nor climate change were on the agenda at the first Water Workshop, 40 years ago. Landry's first presentation about dust-on-snow at the Water Workshop was in summer 2006.

  • June 24: CSAS's Winter 2014/2015 Senator Beck Basin data have been QC'd and are now posted, as Excel workbooks, on our Archived Data webpage. Winter 2014/2015 data began October 1, 2014 and run through June 20, 2015. Each Excel workbook - for the Swamp Angel, Senator Beck, and Putney Study Plots - contains several worksheets for various time intervals, including 1-hour, 3-hour, and 24-hour summary data. Also presented are updated Metadata for each study plot, a "Sensor Status" workbook showing instrument height above the snow surface and other data, a compilation of all of the Winter 2014/2015 snow profiles performed in Senator Beck Basin, and a snow profile metadata document describing our methods. This was a highly unusual winter throughout Colorado and the complete, integrative Senator Beck Basin dataset captured the details, perhaps as well as any location in Colorado.

  • June 9: See our report on the recent rain event and streamflow effects

  • May 31: May 2015 precipitation was exceptional at Senator Beck Basin, and in the Red Mountain Pass locale. Our Noah II precipitation gauge at the Swamp Angel Study Plot recorded 201 mm (7.91") of water equivalent, almost all in the form of snow (only 8 mm as rain). That exceeded the May 2011 total of 190 mm as well as the 1995 total of 7.60" (193 mm) at the nearby Red Mountain Pass Snotel, the largest May in that Snotel site's 30-year period of record. We recorded at least 1 mm of precipitation on 27 of the 31 days in May 2015. See our precipitation data graphs. More details to follow ...

  • April 6: CODOS Update issued title "WY 2015 Unfolding"

  • April 3: CODOS Update issued title “CODOS Dust Alert-Event D1-WY 2015

  • April 2: CODOS was featured in the High Country News recent blog post “Colorado’s snow is dust-free for the first time in a decade” on Colorado's dust-on-snow "dust free" March. To view the article, visit High Country News website. As it happened, CSAS and our Colorado Dust-on-Snow monitoring program logged it's first dust-on-snow event at Senator Beck Basin just a couple days into April, and other locales also reported dust from that storm.  See our CODOS Program website at

  • April 2: A snow hydrology research team led by Karl Lapo, at the University of Washington, have recently presented a new peer reviewed paper in the prestigious journal Water Resources Research titled "Impact of errors in the downwelling irradiances on simulations of snow water equivalent, snow surface temperature, and the snow energy balance".  They utilized radiation measurements and other data from the Senator Beck Basin Swamp Angel Study Plot for this analysis.  The abstract for the paper is available here

  • March 23: CODOS Update issued title "Dust-free Snowmelt Underway"

  • March 1: CODOS Update issued title "March 1 SWE Conditions"

  • Feb 16: CODOS Update issued title "Dry Spell, Early Snowpack Warming "
  • Feb 11-13: This year's CSAS Snow School for Water Professionals benefited from warm, dry, and sunny days here in the San Juan Mountains.  Participants Rob Phillips from the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, Nathan Elder from Denver Water, Brenna Mefford from the Wyoming State Engineer's office, and Marta Nelson from Radiometrics Corporation in Boulder came to the session with four quite different job duties and perspectives. 


    From left to right, Nathan (back to camera), Rob, Brenna, and Marta got hands-on snow observing experience in the field each day, following morning indoor sessions focusing on snow climatology, snowpack formation, snowmelt energy budgets, and snow data sources and interpretation issues.

  • Jan 29-30: Chris Landry attended the Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention in Denver, attended by some 500 stakeholders in Colorado water policy and management.  Highlights included panel discussions regarding climate change impacts on Colorado water supplies (where the impacts of dust-on-snow were also mentioned) and 'worst case' drought planning activities among the Upper Colorado River Basin states.  All of our CODOS program supporters and users were present at the meeting, and our former director Eric Kuhn participated, as always, in several of the panels and plenary sessions. 

  • Jan 21: CODOS Update issued title "No Dust-on-Snow So Far, Looking Ahead Using CODOS Experience"

  • Dec 23: We’re very pleased that Senator Beck Basin data are supporting an expanding group of mountain researchers.  Our downwelling longwave radiation and other data were analyzed by Yonghua Chen (Columbia University) and her colleagues in a recent peer-reviewed journal article in Environmental Research Letters.  Mark Raleigh and his colleagues also utilized our data, along with data from comparable study areas, to test snow model sensitivities to errors in “forcing data”.  Still other papers now in review also utilize Senator Beck Basin data … stay tuned.  Also, several presentations at the just-concluded American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting utilized Senator Beck Basin data including two about snowcover modeling, by Mark Raleigh (National Center for Atmospheric Research) and Michael Follum (Army Corps of Engineers).

  • Oct 23: Jay Welz, a graduate student just wrapping up his snow hydrology MSc at Montana State University, came on board as the CSAS field operations manager-in-training.  Jay brings an extensive background in managing field science programs with the US Forest Service and a wealth of snow experience.  More about Jay later this season …

  • September 29 – October 3: CSAS attended the International Snow Science Workshop in Banff, Alberta, and Chris Landry presented a poster and paper on “Desert Dust and Snow Stability”.

    Japanese ISSW participants and others found the CSAS “Desert Dust and Snow Stability” of interest, vis-à-vis there own experiences with dust-on-snow.

  • August 19: CSAS conducted a field tour to the Swamp Angel Study Plot and Senator Beck Stream Gauge for a class of 24 Colorado State University undergraduate and graduate students during their Watershed Practicum in the San Juan Mountains.  Their faculty advisor Dr. Steven Fassnacht is at the far left, pointing toward the tower.  Chris Landry gave the class a talk on dust-on-snow later that day.

  • July 25:  CODOS WY 2014 Summary

  • July 19-27: Third survey of Senator Beck Basin vascular plant community completed: in a marathon effort from July 19-27, botanists Peggy Lyon, Sara Simonson, and Renee Rondeau (left to right in the July 20, 2014 photo to the right) completed our third comprehensive inventory of the Senator Beck Basin plant community.  Gordon Rodda also assisted.   Species and coverage were documented in a total of 230 plots of 0.1 m2 along 23 established transects at three different elevation bands, in the sub-alpine, at treeline, and across alpine tundra.  This dataset complements the original July 2004 baseline data and the July 2009 first repeat study. Comparative analyses will follow.

  • July 17: Senator Beck Basin data presented at the international Global Fair and Workshop on Mountain Observatories, Reno, NV: on behalf of the authors of our recent Water Resources Research article, co-author Dr. Mark Raleigh, from NCAR, presented the 7-year Senator Beck Basin dataset to the “Observing the Mountain Water Cycle” session on July 17, 2014.  Some 180 mountain scientists, from several continents, attended the conference.  Mark's talk was titled: "High elevation headwaters hydrology and snow monitoring at Senator Beck Basin, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, USA: a 7 year dataset"
  • More News

Contact Us:

Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies
1428 Greene Street, #103, PO Box 190
Silverton, CO 81433 USA
Phone: 970.387.5080; Fax: 970.387.5082