An article and video about a project to gauge California’s snowpack from a plane are featured on National Geographic Daily News.
Much of the water delivered to the state over the dry summer and fall has traditionally been stored in the form of Sierra Nevada snows.
For decades, scientists have measured the amount of water stored in the mountains by visiting a handful of reference sites on snowshoes or skis several times per winter. Their measurements of snow depth and moisture content are used to calculate the year’s available water supply.
Now, NASA scientists have developed a new way to estimate snowpack using lasers aimed at the ground to estimate snow depth and measures of ground reflectance to estimate water content. While developing the system, the scientists have been based at the NRS’s Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory. The researchers are currently testing the system in Yosemite National Park.