The NWAC Data Network
— Mark Moore, Founding Director of the Northwest Avalanche Center, May 2017
Weather data is real, it's not a fake.
It creates the snowpack like layers of a cake.
Whether the cake is solid—and stable when stressed…
Or fails and slides when put to a test.
It's all how those sensors tell what they know,
And whether the snowpack is a friend or a foe.
When lacking a forecast during the off-seasons,
The data is there for many good reasons.
You can reconstruct how layers came together,
And how weak layers settle as a result of the weather.
So the data network and sensors it comprises,
Are part of the info that helps limit surprises.
So help it out as best you are able,
To help keep you on top when snow is unstable.
Suffice to say that the NWAC data network is a living, breathing entity, taking the pulse of the mountains with every storm.
The weather stations have become a very important source of real information; your eyes, ears and senses for mountain reality. It’s essential both for you, the users who track storms and powder, and for those who rely upon it for forecast production and verification.
The network has almost taken on a life of its own, and has been the life blood for many a forecaster, certainly myself included. Yet, it didn’t used to be so comprehensive, timely, accurate or expensive either. Believe it or not, back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s NWAC started out with one station.
One of the earliest real time data sites we had was at Stevens Pass, and to get the data from the pass to Seattle for the forecasters to use, we had to lease land lines from the pass to the office over at the old NWS Lake Union Building. This involved sending voltages over the line to paper chart recorders at our desk leading to many red ink spills and smudged data to infer what the sensors really meant.
At that time, automated snow depth sensors were relegated to the realm of science fiction, and we relied on notification of pass closures through the clacking of the teletype or via actual voice exchanges with key ski area or highway department personnel.
Now you have multiple weather stations in multiple areas at many elevation – how exciting to have your very own insight into current mountain weather conditions.
So what I’m saying is that you have it really good now data-wise, and you should try to pitch in and help to keep the network not only alive but the best it can be and this means even more reliable. With all of the intense storms due in next year (hopefully El Niño may even be back), and all the plotting and manipulation you can do with the data, it’s definitely worthwhile. Very geeky yet very cool at the same time (is that possible?).