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Mountain peaks covered in snow

Mountain peaks covered in snow

Forecasting Water Supplies Based on Snowmelt

In 2015, California faced one of the most severe droughts on record. Snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada is a key water source for California's agricultural industry, as well as other urban uses. Standard methods for estimating water supply from snow pack do not reflect current drought data and critical management information.

ARS scientists developed a solution. In collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA/JPL), the team developed the iSnobal model, a new technology for forecasting water supply derived from melting snow. NASA/JPL and the Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) program used remote sensing to provide snow cover distribution measurements across the Sierra Nevada, while ARS scientists generated sophisticated snow density estimates for the same region. Combining these precise data resulted in highly accurate estimates of snowpack water content, significantly improving critical water resource management.

Related Information

ARS Research Project: Spatial Snow Density Estimates in Support of ASO
ARS Research Project: Improving Water Management During the California Drought: Snow Model and Airborne LiDAR
Website: NASA Airborne Snow Observatory