During spring 2002, the chemical composition of annual snowpacks in the Rocky Mountain region of the Western United States was analyzed. Snow samples were collected at 75 geographically distributed sites extending from New Mexico to Montana. Near the end of the 2002 snowfall season, the snow-water equivalent (SWE) in annual snowpacks sampled generally was below average in most of the region. Regional patterns in the concentrations of major ions (including ammonium, nitrate, and sulfate), mercury, and stable sulfur isotope ratios are presented.
The 2002 snowpack chemistry in the region differed from the previous year. Snowpack ammonium concentrations were higher at 66 percent of sites in Montana compared to concentrations in the 2001 snowpack but were lower at 74 percent of sites in Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Nitrate was lower at all Montana sites and lower at all but one Wyoming site; nitrate was higher at all but two Colorado sites and higher at all New Mexico sites. Sulfate was lower across the region at 77 percent of sites. The range of mercury concentrations for the region was similar to those of 2001 but showed more variability than ammonium, nitrate, and sulfate concentrations. Concentrations of stable sulfur isotope ratios exhibited a strong regional pattern with values increasing northward from southern Colorado to northern Colorado and Wyoming.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Rocky Mountain Snowpack Chemistry at Selected Sites, 2002