Snow and Ice Network

NIWA has established a network of high elevation electronic weather stations to provide a solid basis to understand seasonal patterns and long-term changes to seasonal snow and ice in alpine regions of New Zealand.

These sites are known as the NIWA Snow and Ice Network (SIN). The SIN sites are located throughout the alpine regions of New Zealand and collect information on snowfall, snow storage and snow melt as well as alpine climate. Seasonal snow and ice dynamics affect alpine hazards, recreation, tourism, stream ecology, hydro-electric generation, and water abstraction. Along with model simulations and remotely sensed images of snow, SIN information is essential to understand, predict, and manage the snow resources and hazards across New Zealand.   

As well as climate information, each SIN site measures snow depth, while 6 sites additionally collect information on the total water content of the snowpack (frozen and liquid), otherwise known as snow water equivalent (SWE). 

Snow and Ice Network - electronic weather stations in the South Island, New Zealand. [NIWA]

Information on current snow depth relative to historical records is provided for the following key sites. Note that the plots are updated weekly from raw data that has not undergone any manual quality assurance / quality control.

Mt Philistine Mahanga
Ivory Glacier Upper Rakaia
Mueller Hut Mt Potts
Albert Burn Castle Mount
Murchison Mountains
Mt Larkins

 

The approach

This project supports the semi-continuous analysis and quality control of the snow information from SIN sites. Raw information is available at each site in near-real time and a weekly semi-automated quality control is carried out during the winter. At the end of the snow season, the snow information undergoes a formal quality control process. Climate information is archived in the New Zealand climate database (CLidB) and snow information is archived in the National hydrology archives ensuring information is accessible for future use. To access the data please get in touch with one of the key contacts below.

End users

The work carried out in this project serves a range of users including the Mountain Safety Council avalanche advisory, Department of Conservation National Parks weather service, seasonal river flow outlook, hydro-electricity generators, land managers, local authorities and researchers in New Zealand and the world. The SIN network provides them with the information to better understand and plan for water use, river flood hazard, recreational hazards (e.g. avalanches).

The remote location of the SIN stations also provides a unique opportunity to New Zealand research community to develop benchmarking testing sites for modelled and remotely sensed snow products. Each site was selected to represent a specific weather pattern in New Zealand.

The project is funded through the Strategic Science Investment Fund from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. It supports work currently carried out as part of: New Zealand's international obligation through the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) such as Global Cryosphere Watch (GCW) or the Solid Precipitation Intercomparison Experiment (SPICE); national projects such as the Deep South National Science Challenge - Impact and Implication Programme - Frozen water and Hydrology projects, and NIWA-led project the New Zealand Water Model - Hydrology; downstream impact of climate change project; near real time state of the snow resource; development of river flow forecasting tools, as well as verification of NIWA Numerical Weather Prediction models at high elevation.

Citizen science observations of snow

Information collected through this project is complemented by citizen science observations of snow depth. For details of how to participate or download the app visit How deep is the snow at your place?

Related news stories

In the snow: new tool to advise New Zealanders of snow conditions | NIWA news article

Know your snow | NIWA feature article 

Field technicians greeted by thigh deep snow | NIWA news

NIWA Contacts

Hydrologist
Hydrological Forecasting Scientist
Environmental Monitoring Technician
Page last updated: 
28 June 2022