Mark W. Williams

Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research

Department of Geography

University of Colorado at Boulder

SYLLABUS: SNOW HYDROLOGY (Geog 4321/5321) Spring 2016

Instuctor: Mark Williams

Telephone: 492-8830
Office Hours:by appointment
Where: Gugg 203
web site:

Teaching Assistant:Qinghuan Zhang

Students should take this course who are interested in the various processes related to snow in mid-latitude and polar areas. Students will learn the physics and chemistry that underlie processes such as snow metamporphism, and apply this knowledge to real situations, including calculation of basin storage of water, runoff rates, acid snow, avalanche dynamics, and most important of all, the physics of skiing. The course will cover snow formation in the atmosphere, snow accumulation and distribution, snow metamorphism, avalanche dynamics, snowmelt and runoff, remote sensing of snow properties, and case studies in the Rockies, Sierra Nevada, and China. Prerequisites for Snow Hydrology are a physical geography course or equivalent, and a parametric statistics course. Students who do not have this background may be accepted into the course but will have to obtain the necessary remedial work on their own.

The course is primarily lectures, supplemented with slides, videos, and other media. The emphasis of the course will be on material presented in class. Regular attendance is therefore suggested, since much of the material presented in class is not covered in the text or in supplemental material.

Exams will emphasize understanding, quantitative analysis, and critical thinking, that is the ability to apply knowledge in a new context. The exam format will consist of quantitative problems, short answer, and essay questions. Homework assignments are a large component of your grade; no credit will be given for late homework.


Homework 40% There will be 11 homework assignments, each worth 4% of your grade. One grade will be dropped. So, homeworks are worth 40% of your grade
Midterm 40% There will be two midterms, each worth 20%.
Class participation 20% Participation includes attending field trips and presenting a required class reading to our class
Final 0% There is no final.

**GRADUATE STUDENTS**. All graduate students are required to write a paper for submittal as a conference talk or journal publication. Please see me after class.

The first laboratory meets the week of Jan 21.

Disabilities, Honor Code, etc

If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to me a letter from Disability Services in a timely manner so that your needs may be addressed. Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities. Contact: 303-492-8671, Willard 322, and http://www.Colorado.EDU/disabilityservices

Campus policy regarding religious observances requires that faculty make every effort to reasonably and fairly deal with all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments or required attendance. See full details at

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Those who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline. Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, culture, religion, politics, sexual orientation, gender, gender variance, and nationalities. Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student's legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records. See polices at and at

The University of Colorado at Boulder policy on Discrimination and Harassment, the University of Colorado policy on Sexual Harassment and the University of Colorado policy on Amorous Relationships apply to all students, staff and faculty. Any student, staff or faculty member who believes s/he has been the subject of discrimination or harassment based upon race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status should contact the Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH) at 303-492-2127 or the Office of Judicial Affairs at 303-492-5550. Information about the ODH, the above referenced policies and the campus resources available to assist individuals regarding discrimination or harassment can be obtained at

All students of the University of Colorado at Boulder are responsible for knowing and adhering to the academic integrity policy of this institution. Violations of this policy may include: cheating, plagiarism, aid of academic dishonesty, fabrication, lying, bribery, and threatening behavior. All incidents of academic misconduct shall be reported to the Honor Code Council (; 303-725-2273). Students who are found to be in violation of the academic integrity policy will be subject to both academic sanctions from the faculty member and non-academic sanctions (including but not limited to university probation, suspension, or expulsion). Other information on the Honor Code can be found at and at


Suggested readings: Principles of Snow Hydrology by David DeWalle and Albert Rango

SUGGESTED READINGS include: (you are on your own to get these).





1/16 Introduction Web material
avy pdf
get psyched!
1/18 Ice physics text 13-16
Book Chapter
1/23 Phases text 17-18
Book Chapter
1/25 Snow in the atmosphere text 20-29
Book Chapter
AH 17-27; 37-43
1/23 Field trip to Niwot Ridge: placeholder, we'll discuss in class Felipe's images
Movie of bus rescue
Evan's images
1/30 Snow measurement techniques text 76-117 (Chap 4)
2/1 Mountain Snowpack text 48-57
Book Chapter
AH 49-63
2/6 Mountain Snowpack same as above
2/8 Snow metamporphism text 48-57
AH 53-72
2/13 Blowing snow text 29-45
AH 32-34, 203-205, 307-309
2/15 Avalanches text 383-385
AH Chapters 4, 5
2/20 Physics of Skiing Overview of skiing
2/22-27 Energy Balance text chapter 6
EB Overview
Turbulent fluxes ppt
Noah ppt
3/1 Thermal Conductivity lecture notes only
3/5 review, catchup in class review
3/8 MIDTERM I bring calculator
Daniell's study guide
3/12-14 Remote Sensing of Snow text chapter 5
RS ppt
3/19 Spatial Distribution emphasis on variograms
geostats ppt
3/21 catch-up study hard
3/25-29 Spring break Independent head plants
4/3 Meltwater flow through snow Read chapter 9
Jen's ppt
4/5 Snowmelt Hydrograph Read chapter 9
4/10 Snow chemistry Read chapter 8
4/12 Snow chemistry Read chapter 8
4/17 Isotopes and mixing models
Read chapter 8
Isotope ppt
Rory ppt
4/19 Future snow conditions
Modeling future climate
Future climate ppt
4/24 Future snow conditions
Modeling future snow
Future snow ppt
4/26 modeling Modeling future snow
Overview of modeling
Snow modeling types ppt
5/1 review
5/3 Midterm II

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Department of Geography and

Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research

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URL: - Last modified 2-January-2009

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