NASA’s SnowEx campaign digs deep in 2021

NASA's SnowEx campaign digs deep in 2021

Measuring snow may seem simple, but each environment presents unique challenges for the instruments. For example, snowfall in forests gets caught in the branches or falls under the canopy of trees, making it more difficult to measure from a distance than snow falling on an open landscape. To dig into these differences, SnowEx measures snow both from the ground and from the air. Credit: NASA / Jessica Merzdorf

Whether the first snowflakes of winter fill you with joy or make you moan, winter snowfall is a crucial source of water for drinking, agriculture and hydropower for more more than a billion people in the world.

To plan for water management and disaster preparedness for the rest of the year, hydrologists and resource managers need to know how much water each winter’s snowpack can hold. Currently, ground or aerial observations of this measure – called snow-water equivalents, or SWE (pronounced “swee”) – are only collected from a very limited number of places in the world. However, NASA hopes in the future to launch a global satellite mission to track this precious resource from space.

Design a mission capable of measuring all the characteristics of the snow that make up SWE, …

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