USDA and University of Nevada, Reno Celebrate 100 Years of Studying Snow and
100th Anniversary of J. E. Church's Snow Sampling Technique
On May 2, 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and University of Nevada, Reno
celebrated 100 years of studying snow and forecasting stream flow by honoring
the contributions of Dr. James E. Church, a Nevada classics professor. Church
pioneered the techniques the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others now use
to measure snow and forecast seasonal water supplies for millions of producers
and residents in the Western and Central United States.
USDA presented the University with a centennial plaque
to recognize Church’s contributions toward snow surveying in general and USDA’s
Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program in particular. In addition,
Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Merlyn Carlson of Natural Resources and
Environment sampled snow on Mt. Rose, within sight of the mountaintop where
Church conducted most of his snow sampling research. Natural Resources
Conservation Service (NRCS) snow survey experts were available to discuss snowpack results and streamflow forecasts for May.
The following documents require
Media Advisory - Snow Survey
Centennial (DOC: 37.5 KB)
E. Church and Snow Science in Nevada (Fact Sheet) (DOC: 34.5 KB)
and UNR Plaque Presentation and Reception Flyer (PDF: 1.92 MB)
The Snow Survey Centennial Celebration with Deputy
Under Secretary Merlyn Carlson was a huge success. The Associated Press news
service, 30 U.S. newspapers in 17 States, Forbes, MSNBC and WJLA News
(Washington, D.C.) online published or broadcasted stories on the centennial
celebration of snow and streamflow forecasting. In addition to these stories, we
had an article in the Reno Gazette-Journal, the Las Vegas Review
Journal, and Reno TV channel’s 2, 4, and 8 that aired May 2 and 3.
Stories highlighted James Church, the "father of snow surveying," who developed
a method of measuring water content in snow that allows water supply specialists
to estimate the amount of water that will be available in runoff later in the
year. Dan Greenlee continues Dr. Church's work today, and after 12 1/2
years as the snow survey program manager in Nevada, he still "can't believe he
gets paid to do it."
100 years of snow surveys marked
Two men groaned and gasped Tuesday as they pulled a long, hollow metal pole from
the snow near the 10,880-foot summit of Mount Rose, 20 miles southwest of Reno.
While a couple dozen people watched, one of the men measured the depth of the
snow, weighed the sample that was pulled up inside the pole and then consulted
"It's looking good," said Dan Greenlee, the snow survey program manager for
the Reno office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "Seventy-two
inches of water. Fifteen feet of snow. I would consider this a drought-buster.
Lake Tahoe is going to come close to filling."
Church Exhibition Open to the Public
at the University's Getchell Library Special Collection Department
The University Libraries’ Special Collection Department is participating
in the centennial celebration by displaying an exhibit on Church and his
work. The exhibit, located in Getchell Library room 291, includes an
extensive manuscript collection of Church’s letters, drawings, maps and
other publications. Additionally, snow surveying artifacts and the 1942 oil
painting of Church by artist Hans Meyer-Kassel are on display.
The exhibit is available for viewing from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday
through Friday and 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday through the end of the
Church arrived at the University 1892 as a young professor of the
classics and art history. He was an enthusiastic mountaineer fascinated with
the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In June 1906 Church climbed to the 10,800-foot
summit of Mt. Rose beginning his life’s most rewarding work. It is because
of his interest in the relationship between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and
its snow for which he became known as the ‘Father of Snow Surveying.’ Church
retired from the University in 1939. He died in 1959.
Church developed the ‘Mt. Rose Snow Sampler’ to accurately measure the
water content of the snow allowing him to make predictions about the quality
of snow-melt runoff available for irrigation during the coming season.
In 1906, Church established one of America’s first high-altitude,
meteorological observatories, the Mt. Rose Weather Observatory. The
observatory was later established as a department at the University of
Nevada, Reno and its Agriculture Experiment Station.
USDA and University Celebrate Snow Survey Centennial
From left to right: Jeff Underwood, Nevada state climatologist
and University professor, Joe Crowley, interim president, Ken Church, great
grandson of James E. Church and Merlyn Carlson, USDA deputy undersecretary of
natural resources and environment, hold a plaque commemorating the life and work
of James E. Church, the "Father of Snow Science." (Photo by: Jean Dixon)
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