Geology Class Takes Advantage of Heavy Snowfall

A Geology class at Treasure Valley Community College calculated the density of the snow on the ground in February, 2017, in Ontario, and estimated the volume of snow within city limits.

Using a real-world situation as an opportunity for learning, Geology 202, under the direction of Sammy Castonguay, estimated that within the City of Ontario, there is approximately 700,000 tons of snow. "From my perspective, ice is a mineral, and the analogies are endless – virtually – to use snow mechanics or deposition to relate to geologic processes.

"One of my labs includes calculating the density of minerals and some rocks, and I decided to do this with snow as well. So we tailored some lab equipment to measure the volume and mass of snow, measure the local snow depth and looked up NOAA records for snow fallen in this region." Castonguay said with this information, the students were able to begin calculating the density of the snow, the conversion to water, and eventually the volume of snow moved by each student at their respective homes. To accomplish the last, the students each mapped the area in meters squared from which they have consistently moved snow all winter. By applying the density of the snow to the square meters from which it was removed, students calculated the mass of snow they removed.

Castonguay said his calculations showed that he moved 78 US tons of snow at his home, while some of the students calculated they had moved as much as 270 tons of snow.

After concluding the City of Ontario had received nearly 700,000 tons of snow, the class then calculated the volume of water at 184 million gallons, or enough water to fill more than 250 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Ontario’s snow load is equal to less than 1 percent of the Owyhee Reservoir’s capacity.

 GEO 202

GEO 202