How will changing snow patterns affect Vermont? UVM research aims to find out

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 4:50 PM EST
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WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Studying snow and its relationship to the state-- that’s the goal of a UVM research team. And with snow Friday and next week, they’ll have plenty of powder to research.

“We’ve only been out about four times, it’s definitely been a limited winter,” said Nathan Waite of di Stefano Landscaping.

A mild start to winter this year has Waite waiting for snowfall.

“We would definitely like more snow,” he said. “It’s a great way to keep the crew engaged, keep them getting out, getting hours.”

Some plows paid by the storm feel the warm winter blues. Di Stefano accounts sign on typically in three-year cycles, so lack of snow isn’t too much of a financial hit, but they miss the engagement with customers.

“Being able to provide value to our clients, where we want them to see the value that we bring and provide,” Waite said.

Value based on the quantity and quality of snow. Friday’s snow was heavy and wet, good snowball snow. UVM researchers will be taking note of that, as well as data from all snow events this season and using it to learn more about Vermont winters.

“Generally the snowpack in Vermont and the Northeast is understudied and definitely under-monitored,” said Kate Hale, a UVM researcher.

UVM’s Summit-to-Shore project is looking to cut into that lack of data and gain a better understanding of Vermont’s snow complexity. They’re looking at snow plates and stations scattered from the summit of Mount Mansfield down to the shores of Lake Champlain.

“Monitor not only snow depth but also the snowpack and the snow-water equivalent,” Hale said.

Researchers like Hale believe Vermont is experiencing changes in snow patterns. This research is meant to track that and gain an understanding of those changes and their long-term impacts.

“How is the snowpack impacting water resources in Vermont?” Hale said.

Snow pattern changes impact outdoor recreation, that’s well-documented. But Hale also says pattern changes could impact water as a natural resource.

“I would assume and have an inkling that water resources in terms of the amount, in terms of the quality and in terms of the timing would change,” she said.

Hale says they need the data they are collecting to best understand and track those changes and how they impact Vermonters in ways like flooding or access to water.

While UVM waits for it to stack up, plowers like Waite just hope we keep getting it, so they can keep moving it.

“We are hoping that it picks up,” Waite said. “It provides a lot of hours for our crew.”