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Colorado man's 50-year snowfall tracking in Rockies garners praise from scientists

Parker of Colorado, the mascot of the Loveland Ski Area, was captured on video taking in the stunning views and sunset on Steamboat Lake while out with his owner.

Four miles from the nearest plowed road high in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, a 73-year-old man with a billowing gray beard and two replaced hips trudged through his front yard to measure fresh snow that fell during one mid-March day.

Billy Barr first began recording snow and weather data more than 50 years ago as a freshly minted Rutgers University environmental science graduate in Gothic, Colorado, near part of the Colorado River’s headwaters.

Bored and looking to keep busy, he had rigged rudimentary equipment and each day had jotted the inches of fresh snow, just as he had logged gas station brands as a child on family road trips.


Unpaid but driven by compulsive curiosity and a preference for spending more than half the year on skis rather than on foot, Barr stayed here and kept measuring snowfall day after day, winter after winter.

Billy Barr holds his canister with newly fallen snow on March 13, 2024, in Gothic, Colorado. So-called "citizen scientists" like Barr have long played important roles in gathering data to help researchers better understand the environment. His once hand-recorded measurements have informed numerous scientific papers and helped calibrate aerial snow sensing tools. (AP Photo/Brittany Peterson)

His faithful measurements revealed something he never expected long ago: snow is arriving later and disappearing earlier as the world warms. That’s a concerning sign for millions of people in the drought-stricken Southwest who rely on mountain snowpack to slowly