Posts for Tag: water

Visualizing California’s Water Storage – Reservoirs and Snowpack

Posted In: Environment | Water

How much water is stored in California’s snowpack and reservoirs?

Check out the California reservoir dashboard, California snow pack visualizer and the California precipitation visualizer

California’s snow pack is essentially another “reservoir” that is able to store water in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Graphing these things together can give a better picture of the state of California’s water and drought.

The historical median (i.e. 50th percentile) for snow pack water content is stacked on top of the median for reservoirs storage (shown in two shades of blue).  The current water year reservoirs is shown in orange and the current year’s snow pack measurement is stacked on top in green.  What is interesting is that the typical peak snow pack (around April 1) holds almost as much water (about 2/3 as much) as the reservoirs typically do.  However, the reservoirs can store these volumes for much of the year while the snow pack is very seasonal and only does so for a short period of time.

Snowpack is measured at 125 different snow sensor sites throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains. The reservoir value is the total of 50 of the largest reservoirs in California.  In both cases, the median is derived from calculating the median values for each day of the year from historical data from these locations from 1970 to 2021.

I’ve been slowly building out the water tracking visualizations tools/dashboards on this site. And with the recent rains (January 2023), there has been quite a bit of interest in these visualizations.  One data visualization that I’ve wanted to create is to combine the precipitation and reservoir data into one overarching figure.

Creating the graph

I recently saw one such figure on Twitter by Mike Dettinger, a researcher who studies water/climate issues. The graph shows the current reservoir and snowpack water content overlaid on the historic levels.  It is a great graph that conveys quite a bit of info and I thought I would create an interactive version of these while utilizing the automated data processing that’d I’d already created to make my other graphs/dashboards.

The challenge was to convert inches of snow water equivalent into a total volume of water in the snowpack, which I asked Mike about. He pointed me to a paper by Margulis et al 2016 that estimates the total volume of water in the Sierra snowpack for 31 years.  Since I already had downloaded data on historical snow water equivalents for these same years, I could correlate the estimated peak snow water volume (in cubic km) to the inches of water at these 120 or so Sierra snow sensor sites.  I ran a linear regression on these 30 data points. This allowed me to estimate a scaling factor that converts the inches of water equivalent to a volume of liquid water (and convert to thousands of acre feet, which is the same unit as reservoirs are measured in).

California Snow Visualization

This scaling factor allows me to then graph the snowpack water volume with the reservoir volumes.

See my snowpack visualization/post to see more about snow water equivalents.

My numbers may differ slightly from the numbers reported on the state’s website. The historical percentiles that I calculated are from 1970 until 2020 while I notice the state’s average is between 1990 and 2020.

You can hover (or click) on the graph to audit the data a little more clearly.

Sources and Tools

Data is downloaded from the California Data Exchange Center website of the California Department of Water Resources using a python script. The data is processed in javascript and visualized here using HTML, CSS and javascript and the open source Plotly javascript graphing library.

California Snow Visualization

California Snowpack Levels Visualization

Posted In: Environment | Water
graph of snow levels in California

How does the current California snowpack compare with Historical Averages?

Check out the California reservoir dashboard and the California precipitation visualizer and combined reservoir and snowpack storage dashboard.

If you are looking at this it’s probably winter in California and hopefully the snowy in the mountains. In the winter, snow is one of the primary ways that water is stored in California and is on the same order of magnitude as the amount of water in reservoirs.

When I made this graph of California snowpack levels (Jan 2023) we’ve had quite a bit of rain and snow so far and so I wanted to visualize how this year compares with historical levels for this time of year. This graph will provide a constantly updated way to keep tabs on the water content in the Sierra snowpack.

Snow water content is just what it sounds like. It is an estimate of the water content of the snow. Since snow can have be relatively dry or moist, and can be fluffy or compacted, measuring snow depth is not as accurate as measuring the amount of water in the snow. There are multiple ways of measuring the water content of snow, including pads under the snow that measure the weight of the overlying snow, sensors that use sound waves and weighing snow cores.

I used data for California snow water content totals from the California Department of Water Resources. Other California water-related visualizations include reservoir levels in the state as well.

There are three sets of stations (and a state average) that are tracked in the data and these plots:

  • Northern Sierra/Trinity – (32 snow sensors)
  • Central Sierra – (57 snow sensors)
  • Southern Sierra – (36 snow sensors)
  • State-wide average – (125 snow sensors)

These stations are tracked because they provide important information about the state’s water supply (most of which originates from the Sierra Nevada Mountains). Winter and spring snowpack forms an important reservoir of water storage for the state as this melting snow will eventually flow into the state’s rivers and reservoirs to serve domestic and agricultural water needs.

The visualization consists of a graph that shows the range of historical values for snow water content as a function of the day of the year. This range is split into percentiles of snow, spreading out like a cone from the start of the water year (October 1) ramping up to the peak in April and then converging back to zero in summertime. You can see the current water year plotted on this in red to show how it compares to historical values.

My numbers may differ slightly from the numbers reported on the state’s website. The historical percentiles that I calculated are from 1970 until 2022 while I notice the state’s average is between 1990 and 2020.

You can hover (or click) on the graph to audit the data a little more clearly.

Sources and Tools

Data is downloaded from the California Data Exchange Center website of the California Department of Water Resources using a python script. The data is processed in javascript and visualized here using HTML, CSS and javascript and the open source Plotly javascript graphing library.

California Snow Visualization

Iceberger Remixed and Improved – Iceberg Simulator

Posted In: Fun | Water

The code has been updated to allow for multiple chunks of icebergs now, which can occur via melting if you draw an iceberg a certain way.

Draw (or choose) an iceberg and visualize how it will float and melt

I was so impressed with the interactive Iceberger tool that Josh Tauberer (@JoshData) made that I had to modify it and add some additional features. Click here to see the original. My additions allow you to conjure up pre-made “icebergs” to see how they float and also allow some interaction. Try “poking” the icebergs you make.

Josh and I were both inspired by a tweet by Megan Thompson-Munson (@GlacialMeg).

Instructions
You can choose between 3 different iceberg creation options:

  • Draw Iceberg – the original Iceberger option. Choose this option and draw any shape you want and see how it floats.
  • Select State – Choose this option and select from one of the states of the United States to see how it will float.
  • Select Shape = Choose this option and select from one of the premade shapes to see how it will float.

Once the iceberg has been created, you can also affect it in a couple of different ways:

  • Click on the Iceberg – This lets you push on the left side of the iceberg to induce some rotation and see if there are multiple stable orientations. Click it several times in a row if you want to flip the iceberg over. If you push on the right size it will rotate the iceberg clockwise and if you push on the left size, it will rotate counter clockwise. if you push in the middle third of the iceberg, it will push it straight down.
  • Melting – You can select between different options – No melting, slow medium and fast. This took awhile to code correctly. Previously, I’d just scale parts of the iceberg but this new code actually takes material away from the surface of the iceberg in a uniform way. It works more like you would expect melting ice to behave.
  • Changing the Sky – You can change the colors of the sky between sunrise, midday and sunset colors.
  • Showing forces – You can toggle whether to show the center of buoyancy (B) and center of gravity (B) of the iceberg.

Some Physics – no equations
The force of gravity (G) affects the entire body regardless of where it is or how it is oriented. If you show the forces, the red dot labeled G shows where the center of mass of the iceberg is. The blue dot labeled B shows where the center of buoyancy is. This is the center of mass of the part of the iceberg that is submerged. The force acting on the submerged part is equal to the volume of water displaced. If the center of buoyancy is below the center of gravity, then the forces will be equal and object will be in stable equilibrium. If the center of buoyancy is somewhere other than under the center of gravity, then the buoyant force will be pushing up on a different place than the gravity force and this will induce a rotation until they are directly over one another.

The code has been updated so that multiple icebergs are now allowed. Melting can separate a single piece of iceberg into multiple pieces, just as in real life. The melting process was a bit difficult to program because of the complexity of shapes that could be produced.

If you have additional suggestions for shapes or countries to add to the list or other improvements to make, let me know in the comments. Also if you are using this as a teaching tool, I’d love to hear how you are incorporating it into your curriculum.

Sources and Tools:
This visualization uses HTML/CSS/Javascript code from the Iceberger app to simulate the buoyancy of icebergs. Melting was accomplished with the help of code from the turf.js, polygon-offset and simplify.js javascript libraries. Additional elements of the UI and other features are also made using HTML, CSS and javascript.

Iceberger simulation

Where on Earth is all the water? From the solar system to living things

Posted In: Science | Water

Earth is known as the blue planet, because it’s covered with quite a bit of water. But do you know where all that water on Earth is located? This interactive visualization will show the various amounts of water in its many forms on Earth: Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, Ice, Groundwater, etc….

If you hover over a part of the circular, sunburst graph, it will show you the amount of water that is in each of the various forms shown. If the label for that form is bolded, you can click on it and see further subdivisions beyond that broad category. For example, if you click on Oceans, it will show you how the water in the oceans is distributed among the five main oceans on Earth. As you move towards more focused views on the graph, you can click on the center of the circle to move back out to larger categories and see the big picture again.

As you can see, most of the water on Earth is found in a salty form, and most of that is in the oceans. It can be hard to click through to see freshwater lakes and rivers, as you have to be very precise to expand the “Surface Water” wedge, when you are looking at all “Freshwater”.

Even smaller, on that same visualization, is the “Living things” wedge is basically invisible. You can further explore the details of the living things category by clicking on the button that appears on the freshwater graph.

Checking the Group Rivers and Lakes checkbox will group rivers by continent and lakes by major groups.

It is interesting to see how much water there is on Earth (about 1.4 billion cubic kilometers of water), but how little of it is non-salty, liquid freshwater at the surface (about 100,000 cubic kilometers, though that is still quite a lot) but it only makes up about 0.008% of all water on Earth. That means for every 10,000 gallons of water on Earth, only one of those gallons is freshwater in a lake or river that we can easily access.

It is also believed that there is more water deep in the Earth’s interior (i.e. the mantle) than on the surface or near-subsurface, but estimates of that are highly uncertain and are not included in this graph.

If you click out past Earth’s water to look at water in the solar system, the estimates shown in this visualization are only including liquid water and do not include estimates of ice (which I haven’t been able to find estimates of). The amount of water in living things is estimated assuming that the ratio of organic carbon to liquid water is more or less the same across all different types of living things (i.e. viruses, bacteria, fungi, plants, animals, etc.). This isn’t a great assumption but the estimates, which come from estimates of the dry carbon weight of these organisms, vary across many orders of magnitude so being off in liquid water weight/volume by a factor of two or so isn’t a huge problem.

Tools and Data Sources
The sunburst chart is made using the open source, javascript Plot.ly graphing library. Data on water distributions is primarily from Wikipedia – Distribution of WaterList of Rivers by DischargeList of Lakes Weight of Living BiomassExtra-terrestrial water estimates

water on earth