The amount of water that becomes available as snowpack melts is of critical importance in many regions where melting snow feeds rivers throughout the summer. But it’s not as easy to measure as you might think. Snow density varies, so accurately estimating the snow water equivalent (SWE) in an area can be quite labor-intensive.
NASA’s Snow-Ex program is seeking to improve satellite-based estimates of snow water equivalent. Colorado State University’s Dan McGrath is contributing to this effort with detailed on-the-ground measurements of snow in Colorado’s Cameron Pass, in order to compare them to data from airborne instruments. This site is on the edge of the record-setting 2020 Cameron Peak Fire, allowing the project to also study snow hydrology in a fresh wildfire burn scar.
UNAVCO has supported this project with repeat terrestrial laser scans at the field site, precisely measuring changes in the shape and height of the snow surface over time.
To see this in action and learn more about the project, check out our video below. You can find more resources like this on our YouTube page!