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Welcome to iRON

About the Program

The interactive Roaring Fork Observation Network (iRON) is a research and outreach program managed by AGCI. Using the Roaring Fork Watershed in the Colorado Rockies as a case study, our observation network seeks to improve understanding of mountain ecosystems and hydrology in the context of a changing climate. Our stations measure soil moisture, soil temperature, air temperature, and rain at 9 stations, across the watershed. Our goal is to help land managers, local residents, and scientific researchers to better understand the relationship between warming air temperatures and the systems that support natural and human communities.

Learn more about iRON


Download iRON Data Learn About the Stations Our Changing Watershed



The Roaring Fork Valley

The Roaring Fork Valley is a 1,451 square mile (3,760 square km) watershed located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Our stations span the ecozones of this watershed from the scrub oak-dominated confluence of the Roaring Fork River and the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs to the delicate high alpine habitat above 12,000 feet (3,660m) on Independence Pass. Over 26,000 people live in the Roaring Fork Watershed, and as a headwaters for the Colorado River, the basin serves as a water source for nearly 40 million more people downstream. From the ecological perspective, recreation forms a key staple of the economy, along with remaining legacies of farming, ranching, and mining. As the population in the area is projected to continue growing, relationships with the natural environment continue to be redefined over time. Questions of development, water availability, wildlife conflict, and use of parks and trails are being considered not only from a perspective of local pressures, but also in the context of how global climate change may impact the mountain economy and ecology. The iRON program forms a unique resource for helping to understand the climate, hydrology, and ecology components of these complex watershed dynamics.


Why soil moisture?

Soil moisture is critical in shaping ecosystems, helping to determine which plants will survive in a given location. It also acts as a middle man in the water cycle, playing a role in water allocations between vegetation uptake, evaporation, and run-off. Consequently, the relationships between snowmelt or rain and changes in streamflow are also tied to soil moisture levels. As climate changes occur in our valley, soil moisture is likely to change also, but how those changes will occur and their likely impacts will only be revealed if long-term observations can offer a record of conditions over time. iRON will help to provide a valuable record of this kind. It is hoped that the data collected by the iRON will benefit every local land managers, local water managers, and the international research community.


Visit the International Soil Moisture Network Website Learn More About Soil Moisture


AGCI's iRON monitoring network and website were created with support and funding from:

iRON Funders and Partners

  • Pitkin County Open Space and Trails
  • Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams
  • Environment Foundation
  • New Belgium Brewing
  • Aspen Community Foundation
  • The Aspen Field Biology Laboratory
  • City of Glenwood Springs
  • The John Denver Aspenglow Fund
  • Aspen Center for Environmental Studies
  • City of Aspen

iRON Project Advisors

  • Jeffrey Deems, National Snow and Ice Data Center
  • Linda Joyce, US Forest Service
  • David Lawrence, NCAR
  • Delia Malone, Colorado Mountain College
  • Gerald Meehl, NCAR
  • Jeffrey Morisette, North Central Climate Science Center
  • Jeffrey Taylor, Nova Scotia Community College
  • Michael Ryan, Colorado State University
  • Todd Sanford, University of Colorado
  • Dave Schimel, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Michael SanClements, National Ecological Observatory Network
  • Diana Six, University of Montana
  • Alan Townsend, Colorado College

Thank you!