During spring 2004, the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service collected and analyzed snowpack samples for 65 sites in the Rocky Mountain region from New Mexico to Montana. Snowpacks were sampled from late February through early April and generally had well-below-average- to near-average snow-water equivalent. Regionally, on April 1, snow-water equivalent ranged from 50 to 89 percent.
At most regional sites monitored during 1993-2004, snowpack ammonium, nitrate, and sulfate concentrations for 2004 were lower than the 12-year averages. Snowpack ammonium concentrations in the region were lower than average concentrations for the period at 61 percent of sites in the region, but showed a new pattern compared to previous years with three of the four highest 2004 concentrations observed in northern Colorado. Nitrate concentrations in 2004 were lower than the 12-year average for the year at 53 percent of regional sites, and typically occurred at sites in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana where powerplants and large industrial areas were limited. A regional decrease in sulfate concentrations across most of the Rocky Mountains (with concentrations lower than the 12-year average at 84 percent of snowpack sites) was consistent with other monitoring of atmospheric deposition in the Western United States. Total mercury concentrations, although data are only available for the past 3 years, decreased slightly for the region as a whole in 2004 relative to 2003. Ratios of stable sulfur isotopes indicated a similar regional pattern as observed in recent years with sulfur-34 (d34S) values generally increasing northward from northern New Mexico and southern Colorado to northern Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.