Central Sierra Snow Lab

CSSL buildings in snow


Located at Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada, the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory (CSSL) is a research field station specializing in snow physics, snow hydrology, meteorology, climatology, and instrument design.  CSSL is one of the best instrumented snow study sites in the world with consistent observations of a wide range of atmospheric and snowpack variables. It is a research and teaching facility of the University of California, Berkeley’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research.

Built in 1946 by the U.S. Weather Bureau and Army Corps of Engineers, the snow lab has been a fundamental scientificsnow plow facility for developing an understanding of snow processes for over 75 years. CSSL has a long and continuous record of hydrometeorological observations including currently maintaining one of the longest manual snow depth records in the world from 1879 to present.

CSSL is staffed year-round and hosts instrumentation and research projects from a wide range of collaborators and partners including a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) site and instrumentation from the Desert Research Institute (DRI) Western Regional Climate Center (WRCC). The snow lab is also a primary collaborator and partner of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) participating in the Cooperative Snow Surveys program, testing new instrumentation and infrastructure, and taking an active role in the DWR Data Acquisition Round Table (DART) program that focuses on bridging gaps from research to operations and standardizing snowpack measurements in California.

The snow lab is part of a larger regional consortium of research stations and field sites known as the Central Sierra Field Stations that include:

Staff contact
Mailing address

(Mailing) P.O. Box 810, Soda Springs, CA 95728,

In News

Predicting Flooding From Rain Falling on Sierra Snowpack

Research conducted at UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Laboratory (CSSL) is providing a much-needed tool for state water managers that could help them prepare for potential flooding during rain-on-snow events in the Sierra Nevada.

With Climate Change, Berkeley Snow Lab’s Mission Remains Critical

The lab has an unparalleled record, going back more than 75 years, of daily or even hourly temperature, snowfall and snowpack measurements. While there are several hundred automated snow and precipitation stations throughout the Sierra Nevada, only CSSL has a snow scientist on site to cross-check measurements — there are four different instruments in Schwartz’s backyard that measure precipitation — and provide a measure of the water content in the snow every two to three days.