Snow Men; May 1998; Scientific American Magazine; by Gibbs; 2 Page(s)
March may tatter the white blanket of winter in most places, but for hydrologists Frank D. Gehrke and David M. Hart, it is the month when the snow really gets interesting. As the chief researchers overseeing California¿s snow surveys program, Gehrke and Hart must estimate the size of the great white lake draped over the mountains and alpine meadows that dominate the eastern flank of the state. Typically about 80 percent of the water that feeds California¿s inhabitants, farms and hydroelectric generators arrives in solid form and usually remains frozen until the start of the growing and air-conditioning season.
So, late each winter, the local TV camera crews strap on snowshoes and trudge out to observe Gehrke and Hart measure the snow and prognosticate on the prospects of a wet and bountiful summer. It is the West Coast version of Groundhog Day.