Historic Data Collection
Drawing conclusions about natural processes is impossible without long-term datasets. With over 65 years of accumulated meteorology, snowpack and stream data, Sagehen possesses one of the longest running datasets in the country. The associated Central Sierra Snow Laboratory has the longest snow pack dataset in the western US. With every passing year, all this data grows more useful and valuable across disciplines and geography, making it easier to ask questions, get answers, and create tools.
Sagehen continues to be a node in the National Atmospheric Deposition Program’s National Trends Network, as well as a US Geological Survey Hydrologic Benchmark stream. The Natural Resource Conservation Service maintains a SNOTEL site at the top of Sagehen basin on Carpenter Ridge, and has run snow transects in the basin since the 1930’s.
Currently, there are 12 radio-linked meteorological towers in the Sagehen basin, as well as 2 in the North Fork of the American River Research and Conservation Agreement area. This network was originally installed under the UCB Keck Hydrowatch project, with substantial additional contributions, including maintenance, from Desert Research Institute (DRI), the environmental research arm of the Nevada system of higher education.
With contributions from UC Natural Reserve System NSF grants, our network includes wifi penetration around the field station riparian area via a series of portable towers designed to facilitate field data collection, including citizen science on the iNaturalist platform arising from our developing cadre of California Naturalists.
By 2010, Sagehen operations, research and data collection were hampered by expensive, but slow and unreliable internet communications.
In 2014, Sagehen partnered with the University of Nevada-Reno, Desert Research Institute, and the US Forest Service to provide more robust bandwidth and reliability to Sagehen’s data collection and research efforts. The Forest Service hosts a microwave antenna, gets wifi and a high-resolution fire cam at a fire-lookout; UNR and DRI get a digital upgrade to their radio network, and reliable data access to the Sagehen basin; Sagehen gets a reliable internet backbone and a high-resolution fire cam at Tower #5. This camera network actually detected a significant fire in the basin in 2016, allowing firefighters to get it under control early.
Since 2015, University of Nevada – Reno researcher Adrian Harpold and his team, along with James Kirchner of ETH in Switzerland, have been heavily investing in instrumentation to better understand and predict water and energy budgets at Sagehen.
Major partners: University of Nevada – Reno (UNR), Desert Research Institute (DRI), UC Natural Reserve System (UCNRS), Western Region Climate Center (WRCC), James Kirchner (ETH).