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SnowEx mission by NASA

Date: 30 December 2019 Tags: Miscellaneous


NASA has launched a seasonal campaign called SnowEx, for a better understanding of how much water is contained in each winter’s snowfall and how much will be available when it melts in the spring.



Snow is a vital source of water for drinking, agriculture, and electrical power in the western United States and other locations around the world. To know how much water will be available the following spring, water resource managers and hydrologists need to know where snow has fallen, how much there is and how is characteristics change as it melts.



  • The geographical focus of SnowEx is North America and NASA’s overall target is optimal strategies for mapping global snow water equivalent (SWE) with remote sensing and models leading to a Decadal Survey “Earth System Explorer” mission.

  • Tracking snow-water equivalent (SWE) across the season helps hydrologists and water resource managers know what water will be available when it melts in the spring, as well as plan for possible floods or droughts.

  • Within its geographic range, SnowEx assesses where snow has fallen, how much there is and how its characteristics change as it melts.

  • It uses airborne measurements, ground measurements and computer modelling. The airborne campaign will fly RADAR and LIDAR (light detection and ranging) to measure snow depth, microwave radar and radiometers to measure SWE, optical cameras to photograph the surface, infrared radiometers to measure surface temperature, and hyperspectral imagers for snow cover and composition.

  • Ground teams will measure snow depth, density, accumulation layers, temperature, wetness and snow grain size, the size of a typical particle. This year, real-time computer modelling will be integrated into the campaign as well.

  • NASA currently has no global satellite mission to track and study SWE. It acknowledges any future snow satellite mission will require observations from an international collection of satellites.

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