An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Sol P.

This was it. I was given past student’s work on the SNOWPACK and Weather and Research Forecasting (WRF) model. The SNOWPACK and WRF model project focuses on the structure of land surfaces, such as snow and soil, and hence is useful for avalanche forecasting. As I was looking through their work (summarized by Olivia’s and Zelia’s 2020 blogs), I remember feeling confused and lost; reading through vocabulary I never heard of and looking through code from the command line that I have never seen before. The next day, I was in charge of being able to run SNOWPACK and understanding it’s visualizations, while my partner Advik was in charge of making WRF data into readable input files for SNOWPACK. I realized there was a mountain-load of work ahead of me. 

SNOWPACK is a Swiss land and surface model for snow and soil. It outputs a lot of data, including a cross-section of what the snow or soil consists of. In order to run SNOWPACK, I first had to learn how to work the command line. The command line is an interface where one types commands to run a computer program, rather than clicking to add a file to a folder, or to run an application. Learning the command line was the first rock of the mountain I climbed. Afterwards, I faced many different errors, each being a rock of their own, and another rock that I had to climb. I was exhausted, but I was able to see the clouds, and above the clouds, the peak. This continued until one fateful day, SNOWPACK ran with no errors, outputting all the necessary data.

I was ecstatic. I was at the peak. Or so I thought. I looked up again then realized that although I made a lot of progress, I was far from being done. I had to learn how to visualize the output using an application called NiViz and also be able to interpret the data. Luckily, there was a legend that I was able to look at on the left column to interpret the colors on the page of the cross-section, but the large rock I had to climb was when I had to learn all the vocabulary on the legend. Eventually, I was able to fully interpret the visualization from NiViz and all that was left ahead of me was to present my work, comparing the different cross-sections across altitudes.

I had a flashback from when I was first introduced to the SNOWPACK and WRF model project. I remembered being lost, scared, and facing the mountain-load of work ahead of me. But here I was, far above the sky, on the peak of the mountain, doing work that I thought was almost impossible to do. I hope future LSRI student’s and anyone reading this realizes that even if a task seems almost impossible to accomplish, as long as it is broken down into smaller, doable pieces, that massive mountain is just a pile of rocks, ready to be climbed.