stories in the snow

Stories in the Snow

Where every snowflake tells a story

About Stories in the Snow

DRI is pioneering an exciting and unique approach to the science of snow. The Stories in the Snow project engages community members as "citizen scientists" in real data collection and research throughout the Sierra Nevada.

Kit white2

Every snowflake is unique, and the shape of the freshly-fallen crystals can tell us about real-time atmospheric conditions. Using smartphone technology, you can help track the path a snowflake has taken through the atmosphere. The science of snowflakes is nearly as intricate as the shapes of the snowflakes themselves.


Project Vision and Goals

Our vision: Community members become citizen scientists as they collect important snow science data in real-time.

Our goals:

  • To engage citizen scientists in the Sierra Nevada in inquiry-based learning on the basics of climate science and snow science
  • To employ an innovative approach to citizen science for STEM education
  • To increase situational awareness and awareness of winter natural hazards
  • To increase direct participation in science processes by involving citizen scientists in helping to collect important scientific data


snow crystal capture card

How will data be collected?

  • Citizen scientists use snow crystal capture cards to collect snowflakes. They capture in-focus snowflake photos using the cell phone magnifier lens with location services enabled.
  • Photos are uploaded into the Citizen Science Tahoe App to be shared with the scientists.


The Science Underlying Stories in the Snow  

Citizen scientists’ ground observations of snow crystals will be collected and analyzed by researchers to match the image data with temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and visibility (customized for each location), location, time and date.

Barker Pass 12.15.2015 098A frosty anemometer to measure wind speed at Barker Pass

Researchers will use the observations to better understand cloud layers containing a lot of moisture and associations between crystal morphologies and weather patterns.

Benefits of this project

This program will involve citizen scientists across the region in real scientific research. It will improve their understanding of the weather and climate phenomena that affect us every day. Direct engagement in inquiry-based learning will open doors for STEM in the future, and we hope that this curiosity and engagement will also result in lifelong stewardship of the land and the important resources on which we depend.

Morphology diagram - Source: PBS.orgMorphology diagram - Source:

Scientifically, this project establishes precedents for the uniqueness of its approach to data collection. “Crowd-sourcing” ground observations of snow crystals are not being done anywhere else in the world.  Snow initiation is a weak area of atmospheric research, and this may provide insights to help fill these knowledge gaps in snow science.

To find out more, contact Meghan Collins, Assistant Research Scientist - STEM Education at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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