We are primarily focused on the processes controlling hydrologic fluxes in cold regions and within the greater Earth system. Improved understanding of these processes is essential for sustainable management of natural resources and for making informed environmental policy decisions. Our research projects use ground-based observations, remote sensing, and computational modeling to obtain comprehensive understanding of hydrological processes: in particular the distribution of snow.

Additional projects aim at developing techniques for scaling hydrological processes and for designing ground-based observation networks tailored for integration with remote sensing and modeling. Studies relating fluxes of water, carbon, and nitrogen are also a focus of our current projects: in particular the feedbacks between water availability and carbon cycling in montane forests.

Photo of Noah Molotch

Noah Molotch

Photo of Keith Musselman

Keith Musselman

Photo of Karl Rittger

Karl Rittger

Sebastien Lenard

Sebastien Lenard
Research Associate

Photo of Leanne Lestak

Leanne Lestak
Research staff

Emma Tyrrell

Emma Tyrrell
Research staff

Ross Palomaki

Ross Palomaki

Photo of John Knowles

John Knowles
INSTAAR affiliate

Photo of Ryan Webb

Ryan W. Webb
INSTAAR affiliate

Photo of Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy
Grad student

Photo of Patrick Saylor

Patrick Saylor
Grad student

Photo of Millie Spencer

Millie Spencer
Grad student

  • Kate Hale, PhD 2022
  • Kehan Yang, PhD 2021
  • Siobhan (Nani) Ciafone, Undergraduate Researcher
  • Connor Chen, Undergraduate Researcher
  • Adam Wlostowski, Water Resources Scientist, Lynker Technologies
  • Oliver Wigmore, Research Associate
  • Keith Jennings, PhD, 2018
  • Qinghuan Zhang, PhD, 2018
  • Alice Hill, Postdoctoral Research Associate
  • David M. Barnard, Former BcCZO Postdoctoral Fellow; Now at USGS FRESC
  • Theo Barnhart, PhD 2018, Geography
  • Adrian Harpold, Director, Nevada Mountain Ecohydrology Lab, Reno, NV
  • Emily Baker, MA 2015 in Geography; Now at USGS Alaska Science Center
  • Leah Meromy, MA 2012 in Geography; Now Hydrologist with SSP&A
  • Taylor Winchell, MA 2016 in Engineering; Now Hydrologist at ICEM
  • Danielle Perrot, MA 2012 in Geography; Now Water Resources Admin in Greeley CO
  • Ernesto Trujillo-Gomez, INSTAAR Affiliate
  • Dominik Schneider, PhD 2017
  • Alana Wilson, Alumna - PhD 2017 in Geography

Contact & services

Noah Molotch     Phone: 303 492-6151


 Near-real-time spatial estimates of SWE (Snow Water Equivalent)

Our research product provides near-real-time estimates of snow-water equivalent (SWE) at a spatial resolution of 500 m. We create reports for specific regions approximately every two weeks from mid-winter through the end of the melt season. The reports are released within a week of satellite image data acquisition and are distributed to water managers and forecasters. For more information on reporting or to discuss reporting for your area please contact Leanne Lestak.

​ Snow Today website

Snow Today is a website at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) with daily images and monthly scientific analyses (in season) of snow conditions across the Western United States, synthesizing satellite data and surface observations. New regions will be added this year, expanding to global over the next few years. For more info, contact Karl Rittger.

Who we are

Poster for the Mountain Hydrology Lab stating that we believe science is real, love is love, black lives matter, feminism is for everyone, snow is cool, and immigrants are vital

Modified from sammykatta.com/diversity


Screengrab of a Zoom meeting for the Mountain Hydrology Group, showing team members

Group members. Click to zoom


Blog headlines

  • Noah Molotch awarded an Art+Science fellowship in partnership with artist Hannah Taylor.
  • Welcome two new group members: Millie Spencer and Patrick Saylor.
  • Congratulations to Dr. Katherine Hale on her PhD defense.

See our blog >


Research components

NSF - 578,464 PI-Webb: Extending the vadose zone: characterizing the role of snow for liquid water storage and transmission in streamflow generation (2018-2021).

NASA - $510,000 PI-Molotch: Characterization of the spatio-temporal variability of snow properties to support active and passive microwave remote sensing of snow (2017 – 2022).

NASA - $515,000 Co-PI (M. Durand PI): Characterizing accuracy of an advanced snow water equivalent retrieval algorithm applied to airborne microwave remote sensing measurements (Molotch portion ~$50,000; 2017 – 2022).

NASA - $1.5M PI-Molotch: Analysis of Agricultural Water Supply-Demand Imbalance During the Unprecedented California Drought Using NASA Satellite Data (2017-2020)

CWI - $50,000 PI-Knowles: Colorado Water Institute. Bark beetle impacts on remotely sensed evapotranspiration in the Colorado Rocky Mountains (2017-2018).

NASA - $90,000 PI-Molotch: Assessing the climate sensitivity of mountain snowpacks using the Airborne Snow Observatory and a distributed snowpack model (2016 – 2019); Fellowship for K. Jennings.

NSF - $6.8M Co-PI (K. Suding PI): NWT LTER VII: Long-term research on the dynamics of high-elevation ecosystems – a framework for understanding ecological responsiveness to climate change (Molotch portion ~$500,000; 2016 – 2021).

NOAA - $3.5M Co-PI (L. Dilling PI): Western Water Assessment: Building Climate Resilience By Design (2015 – 2020); ~$300,000 Molotch portion.

NSF EAR - $5M Co-PI (S. Anderson PI): Boulder Creek CZO II: Evolution, Form, Function, and Future of the Critical Zone, (2013 – 2018); ~$325,000 Molotch portion.

State of WY - $70,000 PI-Molotch: A 13-year analysis of snow water equivalent in the North Platte and Tongue River basins, Wyoming (2016 - 2017).

NSF - $151,000 PI-Molotch (w/ S. Anderson): Hydrologic partitioning across the CZO network: transforming knowledge of water and energy fluxes through Earth’s living skin (supplement to Boulder Cr. CZO; 2016 – 2017).

CU - $44,000 PI-Molotch: Multi-Scale Modeling and Measurement of Ecosystem Sensitivity to Water and Energy Availability (2016 – 2017).

NASA - $96,000 PI-Molotch: Field work planning for NASA SnowEx Campaign (2015 - 2016).

NASA - $90,000 PI-Molotch: Combining a MODIS-based snow water equivalent product and statistical interpolation methods to estimate snowpack conditions in the Colorado headwaters (2014 – 2017); Fellowship for D. Schneider.

USDA/NSF - $1.4M PI-Molotch: Snowpack and Ecosystem Dynamics: The Sustainability of Inter-basin Water Transfers under a Changing Climate (2012 - 2016).

NSF EAR - $256,625 PI-Molotch: Climatic controls on snow-vegetation interactions across an elevational gradient (2012 – 2016).

NASA - $1.4M Co-PI (J. Dozier PI): Error analysis of MODIS fraction snow-covered area and snow albedo in mountainous regions (2011 – 2016); $385,386 Molotch portion.

Join our team!

Want to chat? Reach out to Mountain Hydrology Group members.
Looking for application guidance? Visit INSTAAR's unique and exceptional Graduate Application Assistance Program (GAAP)


Two hydrology researchers, with snow-covered hair and backs, take snow samples from the sidewall of a snow pit