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It is snowing a ton in the Cascades and we are preparing for another set of snow surveys at our ForEST network sites. While it may seem like the snowpack is above normal, in fact we are at normal level for snow water equivalent (and slightly above normal for total precipitation). It seems like an unusually snowy winter simply because the past two years have been so dismal.

Here’s a plot from the McKenzie NRCS SNOTEL site:


The dark blue line is this year’s snow water equivalent and the light blue line is the historical average snow water equivalent for that site.

It’s still snowing (raining in Corvallis) so let’s hope for continued increases in the Cascades snowpack.

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NW Climate Science Conference

Posted by: | November 5, 2015 | No Comment |

On Nov. 4th, Nolin attended the NW Climate Science Conference in Coeur d’Alene, ID where she presented new results from the “No Snow/Low Flow” NSF-funded Rapid Research Response Project. Her talk was entitled “Seeing the Future? Hydrologic Impacts of a Record Warm Winter and Dry Spring in the Oregon Cascades”.

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Mountain Studies Workshop at OSU!

Posted by: | November 5, 2015 | No Comment |

On Nov. 2 we held an all-day Mountain Studies workshop aimed at developing a Mountain Studies initiative. We had a strong turnout of over 40 faculty and students from six colleges — and several faculty from the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend. The morning presentations started with a broad overview of mountain characteristics from the biophysical to the socio-cultural/economic. Sarah Halvorson described the development and specific aspects of the Mountain Studies program at the University of Montana. She reviewed the requirements of their Minor in Mountain Studies, describing the 3 categories of coursework,  core courses, field courses, and international coursework options.

The “Lightning Talks” were GREAT and helped us see the diverse interests and expertise in mountain-related research. They covered snow hydrology, rivers, dams, rural energy systems, volcanology, wildfire, climate change, rangelands, social-ecological systems, agriculture, surface-atmosphere energy exchanges, and much more.

As part of an exercise meant to help us envision our mountain community, workshop participants were asked to place themselves along two axes: 1) a continuum along a biophysical-social sciences axis; 2) disciplinary-interdisciplinary-transdisciplinary. It’s clear that we have great strength in the biophysical side of things but adequate representation in the social sciences (though this might be an area where we’d want to expand). Participants aligned themselves with interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research — no one was strictly disciplinary in their work.

The working lunch and breakout groups focused on three areas: fostering interdisciplinary research in mountain studies, developing graduate and undergraduate education opportunities, and exploring programmatic options for a Mountain Studies initiative. We decided to move forward with exploring the idea of developing a Minor in Mountain Studies.

We will continue continue these “catalyzing conversations” at monthly coffee gatherings for the rest of the academic. Stay tuned for more mountain greatness!

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Cool animation of Earth and Moon

Posted by: | October 28, 2015 | No Comment |

Cool new view of our planet:


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Nolin attended the annual meeting of the Mountain Research Initiative’s Science Leadership Council. This year, the focus was on providing guidance for the next proposal to support MRI activities.

MRI helps coordinate and facilitate mountain research around the Earth. More on MRI and their activities here:


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Nolin attended the Perth III: Mountains of our Future Earth in Perth, Scotland. This conference, held every 5 years brings together mountain scientists from around the world.


Nolin presented a talk entitled “Water Scarcity in a Water Rich Region Results from the Envision Model for the Willamette River Basin, USA” describing some of the interesting paradoxes involving mountain-valley water distributions in the Pacific Northwest. This work is funded by the NSF Water Sustainability and Climate program.

Nolin also met with colleagues involved the Mountain Sentinels network, an NSF-funded Research Coordination Network (RCN) focused on transdisciplinary mountain sustainability. DSC00230

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Nolin presented the kickoff lecture in the Breathroughs in Hydrology lecture series at the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan.

Her lecture, entitled “Advances in measuring, modeling, and understanding the consequences of climate change on snow hydrology” covered innovations in remote sensing of snow, hybrid approaches for snow modeling/remote sensing, and the role of snow hydrology in social-ecological systems modeling.

Thanks to Dr. Jeff McDonnell and everyone at the GIWS for serving as gracious hosts.

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Numerous fires are burning across Oregon, Washington, and Idaho this summer. In Oregon and Washington alone there are currently 38 active fires and fires have burned over 1,000,000 acres. Smoke from these fires has been blanketing the region creating hazardous air quality conditions. Here’s a view of some of the fires and their smoke plumes from NASA’s Aqua satellite (NW-wildfires-aqua-satellite 8-23-15the red dots are the fires).

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As part of NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) Nolin and colleagues from U. Washington, and U. Alaska-Fairbanks  have been funded for their project entitled “Assessing alpine ecosystem vulnerability to environmental change using Dall sheep as an iconic indicator species”. This is a 4-year project starting this fall. The project will focus on snow, grazing habitat, and Dall sheep in the Wrangell-St.Elias National Park, Alaska.

ABoVE website:




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