An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Kimberly L. '21

Junior Kimberly L. reflects on her experience with the Lakeside Summer Research Institute (LSRI). For more information on the LSRI, see teacher Michael Town’s introductory blog.

For the past three weeks at LSRI, I have been able to expand my knowledge of both the research process and topics related to snow and avalanches. Mr. Town has been a huge help in guiding us toward good ideas and questions, and has been giving us advice on the next steps in our projects. He enhanced our learning experience through field trips, like one to the University of Washington to meet with current climate and glaciology students and teachers, and by providing curated and relevant learning resources in the classroom. 

I have been spending my time at LSRI researching temperature data from an iButton, a small, cheap, and accurate temperature sensor, buried 2 centimeters deep at Lakeside from December 2018 to March 2019. My goal was to automatically determine if there is or is not snow based on temperature data. To accomplish this, I created a Python program that would identify days with snow cover, based on temperature data and unique characteristics of snow cover. When there is snow, the ground temperature is consistently around 0 degrees Celsius because snow is a good insulator.

The program produces three different, but similar, graphs of snow cover. First, the program eliminates temperatures above 2 degrees Celsius. Then each graph is calculated with different criteria: stable temperatures, a daily deviation of less than two from the average temperature, and days that fit both of the previous requirements. 

Through these graphs, I determined that there was snow on the south field lawn of Lakeside Upper School campus during early-mid February 2019, which correlates with the low stable temperatures in February we see in the temperature graph. Our next step is sharing our research in a poster, which will be the culmination of our time here in LSRI. I hope that my work can later be used by future LSRI students to analyze the data from the Mount Baker iButtons.

This is the temperature vs. time graph for buried iButton data taken from January 2019 to March 2019. The black boxes, around early to mid-February 2019, represent time periods with temperatures of less than 2 degrees Celsius and a daily standard deviation of less than two.