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What is Orographic Precipitation?

Hello everyone. My name is John Ceryanek. I am a rising senior at Colgate University studying Environmental Geography. Home for me is in Massachusetts where I live with my parents and my older sister. I have a dog and a cat and I love to golf and ski in my free time. I really enjoy studying about the environment and working with other people. 


I found out about this internship through my school. When I read more about the Henry’s Fork Foundation, I found it to be fascinating. I talked to some of my Professors, and some of them told me that they wrote recommendations for this internship before and that the students came back with only positive things to say. I love to travel and I love being out west, so this opportunity seemed great for me. I was extremely happy when I got the spot and I was very excited to start my work. Here at HFF, I am the communications and outreach intern, so I work a lot with getting the information out there, such as helping out with the website, taking lots of photos and videos, setting up flyers weekly, and other things that need to be done. I love working/talking with people, which this position entails, so I really enjoy it. I will sometimes help with work in the field as well as a variety of other tasks as needed.


Since coming to Idaho, I have been amazed at how many mountains that there are, compared to back east. These mountains (such as the Tetons) have prompted me to learn about orographic precipitation, which has been a term that has greatly interested me since being here.


Orographic precipitation refers to the increase in precipitation that occurs when moist air is forced to ascend and cool over a mountain range, leading to the condensation of water vapor and subsequent rainfall or snowfall on the windward side of the mountain. In the upper Snake River basin, orographic precipitation plays a critical role in supplying water to the region, supporting agriculture, ecosystems, and water resources. The precipitation from orographic lifting contributes significantly to the overall water balance in the basin, making it a vital feature of the local climate.


(Image description of orographic precipitation)


Orographic precipitation is more common in the western United States, including Idaho, due to the presence of mountain ranges such as the Rockies and the Cascades. In contrast, the eastern United States, including Massachusetts, is generally flatter and lacks significant mountain ranges to cause significant orographic lifting and precipitation. Orographic precipitation can impact the Henry's Fork River by increasing its water flow and contributing to higher water levels due to the additional runoff caused by the heavy rainfall or snowfall. This can lead to flooding, changes in water quality, and alterations in aquatic habitats along the river.


Learning about hydrology and water management as well as seeing how the Henry’s Fork Foundation works collaboratively with a variety of water users to ensure everyone’s needs are met has been extremely educating. I am looking forward to taking this knowledge with me as I finish up my degree and applying it to my future goals and interests.


These next upcoming weeks, I will be helping with events, such as the Fourth of July and a Watershed festival that we have coming up in a couple weeks. I have learned a lot here at the Henry’s Fork Foundation, and I can’t wait to learn more!


(Here's a photo from recent field work)


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I love your explanation of orographic precipitation, JP!

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